Utah drops case against polygamist sect leader


SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah prosecutors dropped charges Wednesday against polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas in a separate case.

Jeffs had been found guilty of rape by accomplice -- a 2007 conviction that was overturned last year by the Utah Supreme Court, which cited improper jury instructions by the trial judge.

"As a result of the conviction in Texas, we decided not to bring him back to Utah for a retrial," said Brian Filter, senior deputy attorney for Washington County.

Jeffs, 55, is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was sentenced to life in prison in August on charges of sexually assaulting two of his underage brides.

The Utah case charged Jeffs with arranging an underaged marriage involving Elissa Wall, who wrote a book about her experience. Jeffs had been accused of presiding over the marriage, and the two felony charges of rape by accomplice involving Jeffs were the result of sexual encounters with a husband she said she didn't want to marry.

Allen Steed pleaded guilty in February to solemnization of a prohibited marriage -- Wall was 14 at the time -- and is serving 36 months' probation, Filter said.

Jeffs faces no other charges in Utah.

The decision to drop the case was made with the consent of the victim and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Earlier this week in Texas, another high-ranking member of the church was convicted of presiding over Jeff's marriage to a 12-year-old girl.

Fredrick Merril Jessop, 75, received the maximum sentence from a jury. He was found guilty Monday of performing an illegal wedding ceremony.

 

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