KINGMAN - The decision to try Warren Jeffs in Utah rather than Arizona first is pretty much a no-brainer, according to Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith. The logic of the decision is clear.
Smith said on Thursday that the decision for Jeffs to go to Utah first was made during a conference call with representatives of the Utah Attorney General's Office, the Arizona Attorney General's Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, the Washington County (Utah) District Attorney's Office and the Mohave County Attorney's Office.
Though Jeffs was first indicted in Mohave County, representatives at the meeting decided that prosecutors from Washington County have the chance to hit Jeffs with more stringent release conditions based on their charges, Smith said.
"We could (require Jeffs to) post a $700,000 bond in total, but they could request a no bond," Smith said.
Smith said he did not know exactly when Jeffs would be transported to Utah, but once Jeffs appears in Utah and has an attorney, he would quickly find out when Jeffs would appear in Arizona.
Jeffs told a judge in Las Vegas on Thursday he would not fight extradition to Utah on charges he arranged marriages between underage girls and older men.
In the company of court police and eight fully-armed SWAT team officers, Jeffs appeared in court for the first time since he was caught Monday evening near Las Vegas during a traffic stop.
The Associated Press reported that Jeffs nodded when a Las Vegas Justice of the peace asked if he agreed to be extradited to Utah. He is charged with two counts of rape by accomplice in Washington County, and could get life in prison if convicted.
Jeffs, 50, is the spiritual leader of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that believes the religion requires the practice of polygamy or plural marriage. Jeffs had been on the FBI's top 10 most wanted fugitives list for months before he was arrested.
Prior to Jeffs' arrest, private attorney Bruce Griffen from Flagstaff, who represents all eight men in Colorado City cases in Mohave County, was widely expected to be the one who is most likely to represent Jeffs once he is in custody.
Jeffs was charged with multiple counts of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in Mohave County. Griffen had defended his Colorado City clients in Mohave County Superior Court repeatedly on those similar charges in the past several months.
In an earlier interview, Griffen did not rule out the possibility of representing Jeffs, but insisted nobody has ever talked to him about the likelihood. Griffen said he maintains a very good working relationship with his clients from Colorado City, even though he does not necessarily share their religious belief.
Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan also followed Jeffs' news closely Thursday morning, and said he was not disappointed at all after learning Jeffs would go to Utah first.
"I'm glad he is going somewhere. It did not matter whether he is going to Mohave County or Washington County first. The main thing is he is going to be facing justice," Sheahan said.
Sheahan said there probably will be a time in the not-too-distant future when Jeffs would come to Mohave County to face charges, and his deputies have long been ready to deal with any situation for Jeffs' appearance.
"We had our contingency plans in place even prior to Jeffs' arrest, because we know there will be a lot of interest in this case when he was eventually caught," Sheahan said. "We have preparations already done, and when he is coming back to Mohave County - it could be anytime after he's gone to Utah - we would have appropriate measures already in place to handle any situation that could occur," he said.
Sheahan said the Kingman Police Department had promised to help his office maintain order outside the courthouse, so his deputies could concentrate on the courtroom and other possible emergencies.
As for the rumor that hundreds of Jeffs' followers might storm the court during Jeffs' appearance, Sheahan thought the scenario would be unlikely to happen. "I would expect people from Colorado City and Jeffs' followers to be very low profile now rather than high profile," Sheahan said.
But if Jeffs' followers show up, Sheahan believed he definitely has enough resources to handle the situation.
Sheahan said he has been in close contact with the sheriff from Washington County, and promised to send deputies there if any assistance is needed. He said the security situation during Jeffs' trial in Utah would offer his office insight as to what might work for Jeffs' future appearance in Mohave County.
"We will find out what kind of situation they are dealing with It will certainly make our job easier, because they will get stuck with possible problems first," Sheahan said.