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Judge dismisses defense motion in Jeffs case

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Sex offense charges against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs were left intact Monday.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steve Conn rejected a motion by a defense attorney to remand two cases back to the grand jury for a new determination of probable cause.

Jeffs, 52, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was indicted in Kingman in spring 2007 on two counts of sexual conduct with a minor on allegations that he assigned underage girls to male adult relatives in spiritual marriages.

Sexual conduct in one of those unions led to rape-as-an-accomplice convictions in Utah where two five-years-to-life prison terms were imposed upon Jeffs.

Defense attorney Mike Piccarreta argued that Mohave County attorney Matt Smith misled members of the grand jury and gave them incorrect information.

Piccarreta also said Smith should have been more diligent in making certain that the grand jury members were not tainted by exposure to prejudicial publicity about Jeffs and the polygamous lifestyles of thousands of followers living in southern Utah, northern Arizona and elsewhere.

Smith countered that he went above and beyond his duty with repeated admonitions that panel members should recuse themselves from the proceedings if they felt bias clouded their deliberations.

In denying Piccarreta’s request, Conn ruled that the defendant was not denied any substantial procedural right. Conn said the transcripts reflect an involved and inquisitive panel.

“The questions asked by the grand jurors seem to indicate they wanted to understand the applicable law and that they were unwilling to act as the proverbial rubber stamp for the prosecution,” the ruling stated. “The prosecutor actually discouraged some areas of inquiry that would have been inappropriate, such as a question about brainwashing.”

Piccarreta said he will take the case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Absent other developments, Smith said he expects the next Kingman hearing sometime in September will address the motion Piccarreta has promised in an effort to preclude introduction of any evidence against Jeffs that might arise from the controversial raid on the FLDS ranch in Eldorado, Texas, this year.

Smith said he is not certain what evidence might be available or whether he will try to introduce any of it in his prosecution of Jeffs.

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