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Jeffs' attorneys seek to question Texas Rangers

Jeffs' attorneys seek to question Texas Rangers



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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Attorneys for polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs are asking a judge to order Texas Rangers to speak to them about the authorities' raid on the sect's ranch in Eldorado, Texas, earlier this year.

But prosecutors say they have no plans to use evidence seized from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' Yearning for Zion ranch in a pending case against Jeffs in Arizona and want the judge to deny the motion filed this week.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn said the parties can expect the motion to be granted if he finds the testimony of the Texas Rangers is material to the case.

Jeffs is awaiting trial in Arizona on four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor. Those charges stem from the marriages of two teenage girls and their adult male relatives.

Michael Piccarreta, an attorney for Jeffs, said Thursday that he has made repeated attempts by telephone and e-mail to interview the law enforcement officials without success. He filed a motion last month to suppress the evidence seized at the Texas ranch.

"I think it's sort of like when you lift up a rock and you see what's underneath it and shine a light on it, it's not pretty," Piccarreta said. "I think we're going to learn some things that they don't want us to learn of or else they would talk to us."

The Texas attorney general's office and Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

In court documents, Smith urged Conn to deny the motion. But he said he wouldn't oppose a renewal of the motion if prosecutors find some evidence from Texas that might be relevant in the case.

"Since the state is not planning on using any of the Texas evidence at either of the currently pending trials, this issue is not 'ripe' for adjudication at this time, and so depositions of the Texas law enforcement officers are unnecessary because they are not witnesses, material or otherwise at the current time," Smith said.

Piccarreta has questioned whether Arizona law enforcement officials have been "tainted" by exposure to evidence he says was illegally seized in the Texas raid.

Texas authorities raided the ranch in April after a report that a teenage girl had been physically and sexually abused. That call is now considered a hoax, but children were separated from their families for about two months while police and child welfare authorities investigated.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven. The Salt Lake City-based Mormon church -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

An estimated 37,000 self-described fundamentalist Mormons continue the practice across the intermountain West individually or as part of organized religious groups.

Jeffs' sect is based in the neighboring communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Felicia Fonseca Writer

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