ST. GEORGE, Utah — The traffic stop that led to the arrest of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was legally justified and evidence taken from the scene is admissible, a judge ruled.
The ruling Friday by 5th District Judge James Shumate means that evidence collected after Jeffs was detained during the traffic stop can be used in his trial, which is scheduled to begin in September.
Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is awaiting trial on charges of rape as an accomplice for his role in a 2001 spiritual marriage between a 14-year-old girl and 19-year-old cousin.
Defense attorneys argued that the evidence, which included disguises and $54,000 in cash, taken when the fugitive Jeffs was arrested last summer, should not be allowed as evidence because the stop outside of Las Vegas violated Nevada state law.
Shumate disagreed. He said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Eddie Dutchover had legal justification to stop the sport utility vehicle because it had an obscured temporary registration.
Under Nevada law, the trooper also had the right to get identifications from Isaac Jeffs, who was driving, and Warren Jeffs, who was a passenger, the judge said. Warren Jeffs initially rebuffed the trooper, and that alone was reason enough to arrest him, Shumate said.
After nearly two years on the run from charges in Utah and Arizona, Jeffs’ face was well-known to law enforcement officers and Dutchover identified Jeffs as a wanted fugitive within the one-hour window allowed under Nevada law, Shumate said.
Shumate heard arguments on whether the evidence should be allowed on June 13, but said he needed to study Nevada’s law before he could rule.
Jeffs is being held in the Washington County jail. The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.