ST. GEORGE, Utah – Jailhouse statements made by polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs cannot be used against him at his September trial on rape by accomplice charges, a state judge ruled.
Fifth District Judge James Shumate made his ruling after hearing arguments Friday in the privacy of his office, Utah courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.
Prosecutors sought to use those statements over the objections of defense lawyers for Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect, with about 10,000 members, practices polygamy and arranged marriage in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Jeffs' recorded statements have not been made public and the nature of the remarks isn't clear.
Shumate said he would hold another hearing to decide whether to allow testimony by two prosecution witnesses offering disparaging accounts of Jeffs and his leadership.
Jethro Barlow and Richard Holm, according to court papers, say Jeffs introduced arranged marriages of underage woman while taking over the sect from his ailing father, Rulon Jeffs, who died in 2002.
Rulon Jeffs never performed underage marriages, according to Holm, whose remarks to investigators were summarized in a defense motion seeking to have his testimony stricken from the Sept. 10 trial.
Rulon Jeffs "did not even want to see a girl until she was 18," Holm was quoted in court papers telling investigators.
In his account, Barlow asserted Jeffs was a "sex broker" who married young girls on short notice in secret ceremonies, pairing couples who didn't learn each other's identity until they showed for the wedding.
Jeffs' lawyers are arguing that Barlow and Holm formed many of their impressions of Jeffs from inadmissible secondhand accounts that are prejudicial, vague or irrelevant.
Shumate scheduled a hearing for Aug. 20 on whether to allow their testimony at trial, Volmer said.
Jeffs, 51, is in the Washington County jail on two counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in a 2001 spiritual marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.