Sheriff probes false testimony claim in Jeffs case

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Court papers filed in an Arizona criminal case say a Utah sheriff's office is investigating allegations that false testimony was provided during the 2007 criminal trial of polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs.

The investigation began last month after Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap was told that Elissa Wall may have "lied" about her medical records, according to court records.

Wall's 2001 spiritual marriage -- when she was 14 -- to her 19-year-old cousin was the basis for the case. It is also the basis for one of two pending cases filed against Jeffs in Arizona.

Jeffs, the 53-year-old prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. He is serving two prison terms of five years to life.

In Mohave County Superior Court papers filed last week, Jeffs' Arizona defense attorney Michael Piccarreta asked a judge to order Wall's current husband, Lamont Barlow, deposed.

Piccarreta argues that Barlow told someone else about "false testimony given by his wife" and that information was given to Belnap. Wall's name is redacted from court papers and in a Washington County sheriff's office investigation report also filed with the court. However, there are several references to Barlow as "husband" and to "his wife" in the documents.

The Associated Press does not generally identify those who claim to have been sexually assaulted, but following the trial, Wall spoke publicly about her experiences and recounted them in a book, "Stolen Innocence."

According to court papers, Belnap was made aware of a possible problem with Wall's testimony by Shannon Price, executive director of the Diversity Foundation, a Utah nonprofit founded by former FLDS members.

According to Price, Barlow told her Wall's "medical records had all been created in one day to make it look like she had seen a caretaker on several different occasions," a report by Washington County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jake Schultz says.

The report says Price doesn't know what specific information may not be true, nor which medical records Barlow had referenced. Barlow did not disclose the source of his information to Price, according to Schultz' report.

On Tuesday, Belnap confirmed Price's report to him, but declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

At the trial, Wall said she had suffered several miscarriages during her marriage and a 2002 record showing she received medical care by a midwife in the FLDS community of Bountiful, British Columbia, was included as evidence by the prosecution during closing arguments.

Evidence that the records are false "will clearly be admissible to impeach (Wall) at the upcoming trial," Piccarreta's court filing states.

But Roger Hoole, an attorney who represents both Wall and Barlow, said Piccarreta is trying to make "something out of nothing."

"She never testified regarding her medical records at the trial," Hoole said.

Hoole said the only misrepresentation of the records came from Jeffs' defense attorney, Wally Bugden, who misread the records during his cross examination of the midwife. The prosecution noted the misunderstanding during the trial.

Hoole said Barlow is willing to be interviewed by Piccarreta, with some conditions.

"I'm not going to let them go on some fishing expedition," Hoole said. "I want them to point to what they think is the misrepresentation."

Price is set for a deposition on March 16 in Salt Lake City. Piccarreta has asked a judge to order Barlow to appear on the same day.

In a response to Piccarreta's filing, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith dismisses the allegation as "four layers of hearsay."

It's unclear whether the investigation could have any effect on the outcome of the 2007 case.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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