SAN ANGELO — A judge on Wednesday dealt a blow to the defense of polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs, refusing to suppress evidence police seized during a 2008 raid on his sect’s West Texas compound.
District Judge Barbara Walther’s decision means a small mountain of documents — including marriage and birth records — can be presented to the jury during Jeffs’ trial.
It also means opening statements in the case are set for Thursday morning, after one more suppression hearing.
This time, Jeffs’ attorneys are asking that evidence seized during the 2006 traffic stop in Nevada when Jeffs was arrested also be suppressed. Walther said she would hear arguments on that for about an hour, then told both sides to be ready with opening statements.
Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, faces two counts of sexual assault of a child. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 119 years to life in prison.
The April 2008 raid on the FLDS ranch outside of tiny Eldorado, Texas, made headlines nationwide. Walther signed the search warrant that prompted it.
The raid was based on a call to a domestic abuse shelter that turned out to be a hoax, however. Jeffs’ attorneys had argued that police had suspicions information provided by the caller was spurious, and yet didn’t mention them to Walther to ensure she’d approve the warrant.
After about an hour hearing, an additional 30 minutes of deliberating, Walther turned down the defense request.
Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Judge approves evidence in polygamist's case