Utah drops accomplice to rape case against polygamist Warren Jeffs
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – A Utah judge dismissed accomplice to rape charges against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs on Wednesday at the request of prosecutors, who said pursuing the case was unnecessary given his life prison term in Texas.
A Utah jury had found Jeffs, leader of a breakaway Mormon sect, guilty in 2007 of accomplice to rape for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
But the Utah Supreme Court overturned that conviction last year, ordering a new trial after finding that the lower court judge gave faulty instructions to the jury.
Jeffs, 55, was sentenced to life in prison in Texas earlier this year after being convicted there of sexually assaulting two girls he wed as spiritual brides when they were 12 and 14 years old.
“It would basically be a symbolic additional victory. Even though that would have been satisfying on some level, it didn’t make sense from a practical level,” Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap told Reuters.
“We decided that we were not going to go forward with re-trying Warren Jeffs primarily because the results in Texas have him serving time there for his natural life plus twenty years,” Belnap said.
He said that prosecutors consulted with the girl in the case before deciding not to re-try it.
Jeffs is considered the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has been condemned by the mainstream Mormon Church and is accused of promoting marriages between older men and girls.
The sect, which experts estimate has 10,000 followers in North America, also teaches that for a man to be among the select in heaven, he must have at least three wives.
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
[Flickr image by Lady_K.]
Mochila insert follows.