ST. GEORGE, Utah – The U.S. Attorney for Utah has asked a Nevada federal court judge to reject a request from polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs to have the property seized during his arrest returned to him, or sealed as protected records.
In a motion to dismiss filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Nevada, Utah's Brett Tolman argues Jeffs has no grounds for either request and called the request "moot."
Jeffs, 51, is president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect of almost 10,000 who practice polygamy in arranged marriages. He was arrested during traffic stop northeast of Las Vegas last August on a federal warrant of flight to avoid prosecution in Utah and Arizona.
After the arrest, FBI agents impounded the 2007 Cadillac Escalade Jeffs was riding in and seized its contents, including $54,000 in cash, hundreds of papers and letters, several laptop computers and other items.
Attorneys for Jeffs claim the papers and electronic documents are sacred and should be protected by the U.S. Constitution under the clergy-communicant privilege. A motion was filed in September asking the court to order them returned or sealed.
But court documents filed Wednesday show Jeffs agreed to a search of the car, and later cut a deal with the government that grants investigators permission to review the documents and electronic files. Jeffs and his attorney have access to the information, copies of all the documents and the right to designate on a "privilege log" which information should be private, the court filing shows.
The arrangement makes Jeffs' motion "moot," federal prosecutors said.
"Thus, this court could not provide any effective relief that Mr. Jeffs has not already received and accepted by virtue of his agreement with the United States," court documents state.
Prosecutors contend Jeffs can't prove he's been harmed by government's actions and note that the church leader retains the right to challenge the seizure in court if he's ever charged with a federal crime.
The agreement also protects Jeffs' followers whose names and personal information may appear in the documents, federal attorneys argued.
Jeffs' Nevada attorney, Richard Wright, was out of town and unable to respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, a spokeswoman at his Las Vegas office said Wednesday.
Jeffs has not been indicted on federal charges, although court documents state he "remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Currently, Jeffs is being held in a southern Utah jail on state felony charges of rape as an accomplice. A trial is set for April.