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Mon, March 18

Jeffs' lawyer says he'll challenge search

KINGMAN (AP) - A lawyer for polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs said Friday that he plans to fight the use of any evidence seized during a raid on the sect's Texas ranch at Jeffs' trial in Kingman.

Attorney Mike Piccarreta told a judge at a court hearing in Kingman that he will challenge the search because it was based on a call that Texas authorities should have known was a hoax.

"They proceeded to search the premises nevertheless," Piccarreta said in an interview after the hearing. "And there are also a whole assortment of constitutional errors by the Texas authorities, and we intend to raise each and every one of them.

"I believe the search is illegal and unconstitutional, even by Texas standards."

The main focus of Friday's hearing in Kingman was a defense effort to have the case against Jeffs sent back to a grand jury for reconsideration. Piccarreta argued that Jeffs was denied a fair, impartial and unbiased grand jury, and that the prosecution presented false or misleading evidence to the grand jury.

Mohave County Judge Steven Conn said he'll rule on that next week.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith wasn't immediately available for comment.

Jeffs, 52, leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which practices plural marriage as part of its faith. He is awaiting trial in Kingman on four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor stemming from the marriages of two teenage girls and their adult male relatives.

Jeffs originally faced 10 charges, but four incest counts were dropped at the request of the defense because Arizona's incest law didn't fit the circumstances. Two others were dropped at the request of the prosecution because the alleged victim refused to testify.

FLDS members practice polygamy in arranged marriages, believing it brings exaltation in heaven. Most FLDS members make their homes in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City., Ariz., but the church also has enclaves in Colorado, South Dakota, Texas and British Columbia.

Leaders of the sect set up a compound in Texas several years ago that was the focus of a raid by Texas authorities earlier this year.

Authorities raided the FLDS-run Yearning For Zion Ranch in April, looking for evidence of underage girls forced into marriages and sex with older men. Texas child welfare authorities initially put all 440 children at the ranch in foster care but were forced to return them by a Texas Supreme Court ruling that found evidence showed abuse in only a handful of cases.

The tip that led to the raid was eventually determined to be a hoax.

But in July, Jeffs and four followers were indicted in Texas for sexual assault of a child. Three new felony indictments were handed up in Texas against sect members on Thursday.


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