Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Thu, July 18

Attorney eyes venue change

An attorney for Warren Jeffs said Monday that he'll ask for a new trial location when the polygamous-sect leader is tried on Arizona charges tied to arranged marriages.

Tucson lawyer Mike Piccarreta said Jeffs' fate was sealed in a separate case in Utah after a judge refused to grant a change of venue for his client. Jeffs was tried and sentenced in St. George, Utah, which is in the same county where the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is based.

"We just need a community with enough distance away from the previous trial so that we can get jurors that are neutral, and secondly, jurors who would not be criticized in the community if they rendered a fair verdict," Piccarreta said.

The Arizona city where prosecutors want to try Jeffs is too close to St. George, Piccarreta said.

Piccarreta said Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff or Prescott would be preferable to Kingman, a city of about 20,000 people in the same county as Colorado City, where - along with the twin border town of Hildale, Utah - FLDS church members live. Jeffs, 51, is the group's leader.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith, whose office is prosecuting Jeffs on the Arizona charges, said he wants the trial held in Kingman.

"Until you see the motion, it's kind of hard to speculate, but I think that anybody can get a fair trial anywhere in the country," Smith said. "I don't think there's necessarily that much more publicity in Mohave County than there is anywhere else on the Warren Jeffs case. It's just a matter of questioning jurors individually."

Smith said it could take between two and six months for Jeffs to be brought to Arizona.

He said prosecutors were eager to move forward, but that the longer it took for Jeffs to be brought to Arizona, the longer attorneys would have to prepare their cases.

Jeffs was sentenced last week to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison for rape as an accomplice in St. George, Utah, the result of a marriage arranged for a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin.

Jeffs faces four felony charges in Arizona in a 2005 case involving marriages between two teenage girls and older men who were their relatives. He also is charged as an accomplice with four counts of incest and four counts of sexual contact with a minor in an indictment handed up earlier this year for similar cases.


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