Conn drops incest charges against Jeffs

Attorneys for former FLDS leader argue that statute doesn’t apply

Warren Jeffs

Warren Jeffs

KINGMAN - In a written ruling, Judge Steven Conn agreed with an argument made by attorneys for Warren Jeffs and threw out four charges of incest against the polygamous leader.

Jeffs is charged with four counts of being an accomplice to incest and four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor. He could now face anything from probation to eight years in prison on the remaining charges.

Before the incest charges and two other charges were dismissed, he was facing 27 years in prison.

During a hearing on May 16, Jeffs' attorneys argued that according to state statutes, incest could only occur between two first cousins of whole blood who are over the age of 18.

His attorneys said that Jeffs married two couples who are both first cousins of half-blood - they share only one common relative - and the women involved in the marriage were both under the age of 18 when they were married.

Timothy Linnins from the Attorney General's Office argued that limiting the charge of incest to relatives that are over the age of 18 does not make sense.

He also argued that while state statute does not specifically state that marriages between cousins of half-blood are prohibited, it is implied by the fact that marriages between half-siblings are prohibited.

In his written ruling, Conn stated that the statute defining what constitutes incest was "clear and unambiguous" and required that both parties involved in the act of incest must be 18.

Since both the defense and the prosecution agreed that the women were under the age of 18, then the charges of incest could not be brought against Jeffs.

Conn also stated in his ruling that the arguments about the blood relationship and prohibited marriages from both the prosecution and the defense could be justified depending on how a person read the state statute.

However, Conn stated, the rule of lenity requires "if two interpretations of a statute are equally plausible, then the one favoring a criminal defendant is to be preferred."

He ruled that the prohibited marriage statute does not apply to first cousins of half-blood.

Awaiting ruling on motion

Conn has still not ruled on Jeffs' attorneys' motion to remand the case back to a grand jury.

During the May 16 hearing, Jeffs' attorneys argued that the grand jury that indicted Jeffs was not questioned extensively about the amount of media coverage they had been exposed to about the case.

They also argued that the grand jury was not instructed by the county attorney as to the legal definition of accomplice, that the county attorney presented misleading evidence and did not provide evidence that might exonerate Jeffs to the grand jury.

They also argued that prejudicial statements about Jeffs' religious beliefs were given to the grand jury.

On May 16, Conn stated that he would rule on the matter in writing in a few weeks and set the date for the next hearing in the ruling.

It is unknown when Conn will release his ruling on the matter or when the next court hearing will be held.