Lawyer: Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has a nervous breakdown
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SALT LAKE CITY, AP — Jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs suffered a nervous breakdown and is unfit to testify in a sexual abuse case against him, according to a recent court filing.
Forcing Jeffs to testify would be “unnecessary,” said attorneys representing a community trust that once belonged to a polygamous sect led by Jeffs on the Utah-Arizona border.
The trust and Jeffs were sued in 2017 by a woman who claims she was sexually abused by Jeffs as a child.
“The Trust has received information that Warren Jeffs has suffered from a nervous breakdown, and there appears to be a strong likelihood that Warren Jeffs may not be mentally capable of providing admissible testimony,” attorney Zachary Shields wrote in July 8 file.
Shields said Monday he wasn’t trying to cover up for Jeffs, who he says did a lot of horrible things, but he didn’t want the lawyers wasting time and money going to court. Texas prison where Jeffs is being held until he is determined to be mentally competent.
This isn’t the first time mental and physical health issues have surfaced regarding Jeffs, who is 63. He is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered wives. He attempted to hang himself in 2007 in Utah, had to be force-fed in 2009 in an Arizona jail and was placed in a medically induced coma in 2011 after fasting in the Texas jail.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst declined to comment on Jeffs’ mental health via email, citing confidentiality rules. Jeffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment made by Hurst on Monday.
The woman’s attorney, Alan Mortensen, countered in a July 15 filing that there was no evidence to support the claim that Jeffs was not mentally competent.
Mortensen accused the trust of being “understandably very frightened” by Jeffs’ testimony because the trust is responsible for the actions of Jeffs, who was the former president of the group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.
The state of Utah took over the trust in 2005 and the court oversaw it for more than a decade before a judge recently handed it over to a board of community members who are mostly former cult members.
Shields said the trust, which has more than 700 homes and properties valued at around $100 million, should not be responsible for all of Jeffs’ actions. Many of the people who benefit from reselling homes at reduced rates are women and children who are former cult members who suffered under Jeffs’ rule, he said. If the alleged victim is awarded damages in the case, the trust may have to dip into their account.
“It seems wrong that they have to pay for Warren’s crimes,” Shields said.
A judge has set a court date for Aug. 27 in the southern Utah town of St. George to determine whether Jeffs will be ordered to testify.
The story was first reported by KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City.
FLDS members still consider their leader and prophet to be Jeffs, even though he has been continuously in jail in Utah or Texas since 2006. To his followers, he is a prophet who speaks to God who was wrongfully convicted. .
In recent years, the group has lost hundreds of members and control of sister cities Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, amid a major leadership vacuum started by Jeffs’ imprisonment and exacerbated by the conviction of his brother Lyle Jeffs on the food stamp. fraud charges.
Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly forbids it.