Search legality challenged in polygamous sect case

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- The constitutionality of controversial April raids at a Texas ranch and the admissibility of evidence seized at the property is being litigated in the Arizona prosecution of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith has asked a judge in Kingman to reject the defense motion to preclude evidence gathered from the Yearning For Zion ranch.

The ranch is occupied by members of the Jeffs-led Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a group of polygamists whose congregation is headquartered along the Arizona-Utah border.

Defense attorney Michael Piccarreta argued the Texas search was illegal and that any evidence seized there should not be used in the Arizona prosecution of Jeffs.

Smith's response motion contends the Texas evidence is irrelevant to the Arizona case and that Jeffs, 52, has no standing to argue for suppression.

"As of the date of this filing, the State of Arizona has not charged the defendant with any crimes arising from evidence seized during the execution of the Search Warrants at the YFZ ranch," the response stated.

"This obviates standing to raise the issue that the defendant asserts in his motion."

Jeffs is charged in Arizona with two counts each of sexual conduct with a minor for separate instances in which he is alleged to have arranged spiritual unions resulting in illegal sex between two underage girls and their male adult relatives.

One of those relationships resulted in the convictions of Jeffs in Utah on rape-as-an-accomplice charges, and related prison sentences.

Smith's response argues Jeffs' Arizona cases were developed and filed long before the searches of the sect's Texas ranch.

"The defendant's current charges are independent of the Texas search warrants," his motion stated.

The suppression motion has not yet been scheduled for hearing.

Jeffs is held in Kingman without bail awaiting trial.