Charges against Jeffs may dwindle

PHOENIX — An Arizona prosecutor has filed a motion to dismiss two of 10 charges against polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs because the alleged victim refuses to testify.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said Monday that he received a letter from Candi Shapley’s attorney explaining that she doesn’t want to take the stand against Jeffs.

“She does not want to have to deal with all the family and community pressures to be involved in this case,” Smith said. “And that’s her decision, and I’m going to respect it and have always respected it.”

Shapley’s attorney, Mik Jordhal, did not return a call for comment Monday.

Shapley was 16 when Jeffs presided over her marriage to Randolph Barlow, who is more than a decade older than her. Shapley had cooperated with authorities, but surprised prosecutors when she refused to testify against Barlow at his 2006 trial on sexual assault charges.

Her refusal in the Jeffs trial came as no surprise to Smith or defense attorneys.

“It is frustrating,” Smith said. “But when you see a pattern of this type of thing, you just have to realize that’s part of it and you just have to move on.”

Smith filed a motion on March 10 to dismiss one charge of sexual conduct with a minor and one of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in the Shapley case. Superior Court Judge Steven Conn is expected to rule on the motion this week.

Jeffs, 52, was named president, or prophet, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 2002. Members of the church live in the twin border towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

Jeffs, who was already prosecuted in Utah, is still charged in Arizona as an accomplice with four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor. He was indicted in 2007 on those charges, which stem from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives, one of whom was in his 50s.

Jeffs’ attorney, Mike Piccarreta, said he is writing motions to get the rest of the charges against his client dropped based on freedom of religion and the fact that he says Jeffs didn’t break the law by presiding over the marriages.

Asked about the sex charges against Jeffs, Piccarreta said it’s a real stretch to convict a religious leader for acts that occur subsequent to a marriage.

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