SAN ANGELO, Texas — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been extradited from Utah to Texas to face trial on bigamy and sexual assault charges, the Texas Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.
Jeffs, who is being held without bail in Texas, is set to make a court appearance Wednesday morning in San Angelo. Texas authorities have charged the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with felony bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault.
Attorney General’s Office spokesman Jerry Strickland said the 54-year-old Jeffs arrived Tuesday night at a West Texas jail, but declined to specify where he is being held. Jeffs’ Southern Utah-based church practices polygamy in arranged marriages that have involved underage girls.
Strickland said a Texas Ranger and an officer from the Attorney General’s Office went to Utah to pick up Jeffs and flew with him back to Texas. Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke said Wednesday that prison officials transported Jeffs to the Salt Lake City airport Tuesday afternoon and turned him over to Texas law enforcement personnel.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Jeffs was expected to have his rights and charges read to him, but was not expected to enter a plea, Strickland said.
The Utah Supreme Court on Nov. 23 ruled it would not block the transfer of Jeffs to Texas. In court papers, defense attorneys had argued that sending Jeffs to Texas before a long-running criminal case in Utah is resolved denies him the right to a speedy trial.
Jeffs’ lawyers also objected to the conditions of an extradition agreement signed by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Texas Gov. Rick Perry that would deny Jeffs bail in Texas.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office contended that Jeffs had no legal grounds to argue against extradition.
Prosecutors also said the question of bail is moot because the laws that govern extradition agreements permit judges in the “demanding state” — in this case Texas — to set or deny bail.
Jeffs’ Texas charges stem from evidence gathered during a raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado in April 2008.
Jeffs had been held at the Utah State Prison after his arrest, prosecution and conviction on two charges of rape as an accomplice for his role in the 2001 marriage of an underage follower — then 14 — to her 19-year-old cousin.
In July, the Utah Supreme overturned the 2007 convictions. Prosecutors there have yet to decide whether they’ll retry Jeffs.