Convict on trial

Although it will be months before Warren Jeffs is transferred here, Kingman and Mohave County are already preparing.

Based on his experience, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said that it could be as many as two to six months before the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is transported from his prison cell in Utah to Kingman.

In order for Jeffs, 51, to come to Mohave County, an Interstate Agreement on Detainers has to be completed by the defendant or his attorney Michael Piccarreta, Smith said. As a condition of the IAD, all charges Jeffs faces in Arizona must be resolved before he will be sent back to Utah.

Jeffs is currently being held in a Utah prison serving two sentences of five years to life. He was sentenced in St. George, Utah, for rape as an accomplice for his involvement in an arranged marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

Transportation and lodging

Once Jeffs is cleared to come to Kingman to face charges in four separate cases similar to the ones in his Utah case, the trip will be the responsibility of the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

When and how Jeffs will be transported will be kept confidential, Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said. His office is taking extra steps with Jeffs as a precaution against any escape or attack attempts.

Piccarreta said he wasn't concerned about Jeffs' safety, and his client would be secure.

The MCSO has been preparing for the transportation and housing of a man once on the FBI's most wanted list since he was arrested near Las Vegas last year during a routine traffic stop.

"While he is in our custody, we want to make sure he goes to court every day and hope he is convicted," Sheahan said.

To help ensure his safety, Jeffs will be housed on the first floor of the Mohave County Jail located directly behind the courthouse in downtown Kingman. He will be kept in solitary confinement, where he can only leave his cell for an hour each day.

Due to the revelation of multiple suicide attempts while he was in custody in Washington County, Utah, Sheahan said they will also use additional manpower to place Jeffs on suicide watch.

During the approximate 20-yard walk from the jail to the courthouse, additional officers will be used to help transport Jeffs, Sheahan said.

Once in the courthouse, court security will be working hand-in-hand with MCSO, Court Security Manager Robert Lawless said.

Trying the case

Jeffs was most recently indicted in 2007 on four charges of sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice and four charges of incest as an accomplice in relation to marriages involving two underage girls to adult male FLDS members.

Both indictments alleged Jeffs was an accomplice to the crimes beginning on May 1, 2002, and the last incident is alleged to have occurred Sept. 1, 2003, in Colorado City, Ariz.

Jeffs faces a maximum of two years in prison on each sexual conduct with a minor charge, a class 6 felony, and three years, nine months in prison on each incest charge, a class 4 felony.

In an e-mail, Piccarreta said he is not sure when Jeffs will be coming to Arizona and added he will being taking up motions with Mohave County Superior Court then.

"I will be filing a change of venue after Mr. Jeffs arrives in Mohave County," Piccarreta said. "I believe the change of venue is necessary to ensure that Mr. Jeffs receives a fair trial."

The motion for a change of venue, if granted, could push back the trial even further. It has already been more than two years that cases involving Jeffs have been on hold in Mohave County.

Smith said he felt Jeffs could get a fair trial in Mohave County, as was the case in three trials involving members of the polygamous-supporting community indicted on similar charges.

"The defense attorney was able to pick the panel," Smith said.

Jeffs not alone

In those separate trials, two of the men were found guilty, while another was found not guilty. Donald Robert Barlow was the defendant found not guilty by a jury trial.

Kelly Fischer and David Bateman were found guilty by jury trials. Mohave County Judge Steven F. Conn sentenced Fischer to three years probation and 45 days in jail, while Mohave County Judge James E. Chavez sentenced Bateman to nine months in prison.

Both men were charged with and found guilty of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. The charges were the result of marriages with underage girls allegedly arranged by Jeffs in order for them to receive salvation in the religious sect.

Jeffs, Barlow, Fisher and Bateman were indicted on July 2005 with five other men from the Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, area on similar charges.

Vergel Bryce Jessop accepted a no-contest plea to child abuse, a Class 6 undesignated offense. Jessop was sentenced to three years supervised probation and will be required to register as a sex offender during that time period.

Dale Evans Barlow was the second member to enter a guilty plea agreement with the Mohave County Attorney's Office.

Dale Barlow pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years probation on Aug. 17.

Jeffs was a co-defendant in the 2005 indictments with Randolph Joseph Barlow and Rodney Hans Holm.

With Randolph Barlow, Jeffs was charged with sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, both class 6 felonies.

The charges against Randolph Barlow were dismissed on Feb. 27 at the request of Smith because the victim and key witness refused to testify.

With Holm, Jeffs is facing three counts of sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice.

The charges against Holm were dismissed without prejudice on Aug. 27 because the victim allegedly engaged in a potential blackmail scheme with her brother. The letter indicated she would not testify against certain defendants if excessive money was given to her brother and another man by one of the members of the FLDS Church, Smith said.

Terry Darger Barlow had the charges pending against him dismissed by the Mohave County Attorney's Office. Smith said they were dismissed because there was lack of proof he committed the crimes in Mohave County.

If the prior cases are used as a guideline, it could be 2010 before Jeffs' cases are resolved in Mohave County.

Media circus

All of Jeffs' cases have been assigned to Conn. The Division 3 judge doesn't allow cameras or video recorders in his courtroom, Lawless said.

How that will affect media coverage is unclear at this time.

Fischer and Donald Barlow's trials were held in Conn's court where local media were in attendance.

Bateman's trial was held in Chavez's court, and he allowed a pool video camera. Members of national news cable stations and statewide news agencies were present throughout the trial.

The Kingman Police Department has come up with a pre-operations plan in dealing with media and any unexpected increases in traffic during the trial.

"If there should happen to be an onslaught of media," Sgt. Rusty Cooper said, "we will close down a street for media trucks."

Cooper said they were expecting a significant amount of media if Jeffs had come to Arizona first, though he is not sure how it will be since Jeffs has already been tried in Utah.

The Mohave County Attorney's Office utilizes press releases sent out to media outlets, which are also available on the county's Web site www.co.mohave.az.us, to efficiently get the word out when there are developments in the case.

"Otherwise I'd be answering my phone all the time," Smith said.

After the cases are resolved in Mohave County, it's unclear where the media will go to keep up with Jeffs. He is also under federal indictment in Utah on charges of fleeing to avoid prosecution for nearly a year and a half.