Brain injuries could affect FLDS leader's mental capacity, attorney says

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SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for Lyle Jeffs wants to postpone the Fundamentalist LDS Church leader's upcoming trial after learning he suffered head injuries years ago that could affect his mental abilities.

Public defender Kathryn Nester asked a federal judge Tuesday for more time to obtain Jeffs' medical records and hire experts to evaluate his mental and physical capacity in light of a construction accident and traffic accident.

"This is pertinent to the case since this is a specific intent crime and goes to defendant’s ability to understand his actions," Nester wrote.

Jeffs, 57, is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 18 on charges of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, money laundering and failure to appear. Nester is asking for a four-month delay. A final pre-trial hearing is set for Thursday.

Jeffs fell three stories, hitting his head on concrete and rocks, while working a construction job, according to court papers. No date was given for the accident. He was taken unconscious to Alta View Hospital and later transferred to the LDS Hospital trauma unit.

Doctors indicated he suffered a traumatic brain injury and would possibly have a change in personality, court papers say.

In 1998, Jeffs was ejected from his vehicle in a crash with another car. Police found him on his back unconscious and with severe lacerations to his head, according to court documents. He was treated at University Hospital for a traumatic brain injury and his therapy included "brain games" to regain function.

Jeffs was among 11 members of the FLDS Church arrested in February 2016 as part of an indictment alleging hundreds of thousands of dollars in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, fraud. Nine took plea deals, and prosecutors dropped charges against one

Jeffs spent a year on the run after fleeing home confinement in Salt Lake City by using olive oil to slip out of his ankle monitor. Authorities caught up to him in June in southeastern South Dakota after he pawned two Leatherman tools while apparently living out of his pickup truck.


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Dennis Romboy


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