Question remains whether Jeffs will come to Mohave

With the fate of Warren Jeffs in the hands of Washington County Judge James Shumate in Utah, it is unclear what the future may hold for Jeffs in Mohave County.

"It is too early to speculate on what will happen next," Mohave County Attorney Matthew J. Smith said in a news release. "The first thing we need to see is what type of sentence Warren Jeffs receives in Utah."

A jury found Jeffs, 51, guilty Tuesday of two counts of rape by an accomplice for ordering a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin and have sexual relations.

He faces five years to life in prison for each count, and his sentencing is set for Nov. 20.

"We are very happy with the verdict in this case," Smith said. "The Washington County Attorney's Office deserves all the credit and did a fantastic job in prosecuting this very difficult case."

Smith wasn't the only official in Arizona keeping an eye on the Utah case. Attorney General Terry Goddard released a statement Tuesday concerning the verdict in the case against Jeffs.

"I commend the jury for carefully reviewing the facts and rendering a fair verdict," Goddard said. "Their decision is a triumph for the rule of law."

Jeffs is under federal indictment in Utah on charges of fleeing to avoid prosecution. He was captured during a routine traffic stop near Las Vegas last year after spending nearly a year and a half on the lam.

"The second question then is whether or not he will go to Arizona or the federal authorities will get him," Smith said, "although it seems likely that he will probably go to Arizona first."

Other cases

In Mohave County, Jeffs has been indicted in four separate cases. Jeffs is a co-defendant with Randolph Joseph Barlow in a 2005 case. 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 Barlow were dismissed on Feb. 27 at the request of Smith because the victim and key witness refused to testify.

Jeffs is a co-defendant with Rodney Hans Holm in another 2005 case. 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. A 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.

Jeffs is still facing charges in the 2005 cases, however, Mohave County would first focus on his two 2007 cases, Smith said.

The most recent

In the 2007 cases, Jeffs is facing four charges of sexual conduct with a minor as an accomplice and four charges of incest as an accomplice related to marriages involving two underage girls. Both indictments alleged Jeffs was an accomplice to the crimes beginning in May 1, 2002, and the last incident is alleged to have occurred Sept. 1, 2003, in Colorado City.

Jeffs was facing 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. The range increased when Jeffs was found guilty of a historical felony in Utah.

Smith said he will look into the desires of the victims in each case after the Utah verdict before deciding what action will be taken.

"Other than that any answers on what is going to happen next would be pure speculation," Smith said.

About the church

Jeffs is the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He took over as the prophet in 2002 from his father.

The sect, split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is located in the neighboring towns Colorado City and Hildale, Utah. Members of the FLDS practice polygamy in marriages arranged by the church prophet in order to receive salvation.

Goddard touched on the broader issues surrounding the case. "This case was not about religious beliefs but about protecting young women from being abused," Goddard said. "We may never know how many young women have been abused in Colorado City and Hildale. But today's verdict sends a message that forcing girls under the legal age of consent to 'marry' older men is not only unacceptable, it is illegal."

The focus

The Mohave County Attorney's Office focused on underage marriage rather than polygamy when they indicted eight men, not including Jeffs, in July 2005 on similar sexual conduct with a minor charges.

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.

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.

Kelly Fischer was found guilty by jury trial and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. Donald Robert Barlow was found not guilty by a jury trial.

David Bateman was found guilty and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

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.