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Sam Penrod ReportingPolygamist leader Warren Jeffs has new legal trouble tonight. Federal prosecutors are pursuing a new charge against him that could send him to federal prison.
It's clearly unusual to pursue this type of a case after a fugitive is already in custody, and it comes a day after Jeff's attorney asked for the rape case against him to be dismissed and at the very least that Jeffs' trial be moved to Salt Lake City.
Warren Jeffs remains in jail in St. George, facing felony charges of rape as an accomplice. But his months of running from the law caught up with him today as a grand jury indicted Jeffs, accusing him of fleeing from justice.
Brett Tolman, U.S. attorney for Utah: "I believe this is the very type of flight to avoid prosecution that is worthy of a federal indictment."
Jeffs spent months as one of the FBI's Most Wanted, after being charged in both Arizona and Utah for performing marriages of underage girls. It is not common to prosecute a fugitive on this specific charge after they are captured, but in this case prosecutors insist it's appropriate for Jeffs.
Brett Tolman, U.S. attorney for Utah: "With influence and ability to be on the run as he proved, it is one in which we are determined to bring to justice. If he were not prosecuted federally, then his acts in fleeing the state to avoid prosecution would have gone unpunished."
The indictment comes just a day after Jeffs' legal team filed motions arguing the rape as an accomplice case against him has no legal merits. Jeffs' lawyers also hired pollster Dan Jones, who found that 75 percent of Washington County residents he surveyed believe Jeffs is definitely or probably guilty.
Jeffs wants the case moved to Salt Lake City because he believes the jury pool may be more open-minded to his case, in a trial that is certain to get national attention.
The judge will hear Jeffs' arguments to move the trial during a hearing on March 27. The outcome of that could affect Jeffs' trial which for now is set to begin April 23 in St. George.