KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Polygamous church prophet Warren Jeffs will not be prosecuted in Arizona.
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith was granted a motion Wednesday to dismiss charges against the leader of the Colorado City-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Jeffs, 54, has been awaiting trial while being held in the county jail in Kingman since February 2008, when he was charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor. He was accused of assigning underage girls to male adults in FLDS-sanctioned spiritual marriages.
The cases involved two 16-year-old girls: one allegedly assigned to a 19-year-old cousin, the other to her 51-year-old cousin.
Jeffs was not accused of any direct sexual misconduct. He was being prosecuted under the theory that the spiritual unions allowed the men to have illegal sexual relations with their underage "celestial brides."
Smith said that more than 1,000 man-hours had been invested in the investigation and prosecution of the case and that he would have liked to have had his day in court.
But he said Jeffs has had significant medical problems while jailed in Kingman. And he said he had to respect the wishes of the two victims, who no longer want the cases to move forward in Arizona.
Smith said the women understand that Jeffs already has served more jail time in Mohave County than could be imposed if he were convicted and given the maximum punishment.
"They're looking at the fact that they don't have anything to gain in terms of additional incarceration," he said. "They know that Mr. Jeffs is wanted very badly in Texas."
Smith said the women prefer that Jeffs be prosecuted in Texas, where he faces more serious charges and more severe punishment if convicted.
Jeffs was indicted in that state in 2008 on charges of sexual assault of a child and bigamy.
Roger Hoole, the Utah attorney who represents both women, agreed with Smith's analysis.
Hoole said his clients and some of the state's support witnesses in Arizona have been worn down.
"There's definitely a fatigue factor," Hoole said. "There's been a very aggressive defense, and I think some of the witnesses have felt that and just don't need it."
Michael Piccarreta, the Tucson-based lead attorney for Jeffs' defense team, applauded Smith for exercising what he said was his ethical and legal obligation to dismiss the charges. He said witness credibility problems tainted both of the Arizona cases.
"The bottom line is that there's no reasonable likelihood of convictions of Mr. Jeffs," Piccarreta said from his vacation home in Oregon.
He said Jeffs' rights have been violated in both Texas and Utah.
Before he was taken to Kingman for prosecution in Arizona, Jeffs was sentenced to consecutive five years-to-life sentences in Utah for convictions on two counts of rape as an accomplice.
Piccarreta said there might be new grounds for appeal in Utah.
"We uncovered evidence that complaining witnesses (in the Arizona cases) had falsified evidence involved in Mr. Jeffs' Utah trial," Piccarreta said.
He said he would have exposed that injustice had the cases been tried in Arizona.
Superior Court Judge Steve Conn granted the motion to dismiss Arizona charges late Wednesday afternoon. He ruled that Texas' efforts to extradite Jeffs are initially nullified because Jeffs was extradited to Kingman to stand trial on Arizona charges.
Conn ordered that Jeffs be returned to Utah and said Texas would have to lodge extradition efforts in that state.
"We are going to fight any extradition to Texas," Piccarreta said. "Texas has demonstrated, at best, religious intolerance toward the FLDS."
For more than a year, Piccarreta has questioned the spring 2008 raid and roundup of women and children at the FLDS-owned Yearning For Zion ranch in Texas and the subsequent court rulings as authorities in that state have brought charges against Jeffs and other church members.
Hoole said his clients greatly appreciate Arizona's efforts to protect girls he said have been victimized by the polygamous culture embraced by the FLDS.
He said many people forget that Mohave County moved first before Utah or Texas brought charges against Jeffs.
Hoole said that Smith had the courage to take cases to court and that special investigator Gary Engels had endured the wrath of many while investigating in the isolated and reclusive community of Colorado City and neighboring Hildale across the border in Utah.
"My clients are so grateful to Mohave County," Hoole said.
"Gary Engels is the bravest man they've ever met, being out there in the community in a hostile, hostile environment, basically by himself trying to help kids and try to lessen the impact that lifestyle has on children."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.