Polygamous leader’s head injuries cited in trial delay bid

Lyle Jeffs booking photo, Davis County Jail, Utah, Feb. 23, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Davis County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The polygamous sect leader caught recently after he was on the run for a year was in a pair of accidents in the late 1990s that must be investigated to determine whether the head injuries he suffered caused brain damage, his lawyer said Wednesday.

A decision on whether Lyle Jeffs will argue that he is unfit to stand trial on food stamp fraud, money laundering and failing to appear in court won’t be made until after experts assess the old medical reports and evaluate his mental health, the lawyer, Kathryn Nester, said in an email to The Associated Press.

She first revealed the accidents in a request Tuesday asking a federal judge for a four-month delay for Jeffs’ Sept. 18 trial so she can obtain the records and determine whether he may have mental or physical problems stemming from the accidents that happened long before Jeffs ran into legal troubles centering on his leadership of the Mormon offshoot sect headquartered in a small community on the Utah-Arizona border.

The first accident happened 1997 when Jeffs fell three stories at a construction site, hit his head on concrete and rocks and was left unconscious, Nester said in a court filing. Doctors said he suffered traumatic brain injuries and could experience a personality change, the documents said.

A year later, Jeffs was in a car accident in the Salt Lake City area that left him unconscious with cuts on his forehead and required treatment for traumatic brain injuries, Nester said documents.

Nester has requested full medical records on both accidents, plans to hire experts to assess Jeffs’ mental health and said she will not decide whether to mount a defense saying he is unfit to stand trial until the experts conclude their evaluations.

Jeffs is jailed after he was captured in South Dakota on June 14 while apparently living out of his pickup truck. He had been a fugitive since June 18, 2016 after he slipped off an ankle monitor authorities put on him during home confinement in Salt Lake City while he awaited his trial.

He is a brother of Warren Jeffs, the sect’s leader who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered wives. Known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, the group believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven — a legacy of the early Mormon church. The mainstream Mormon church abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today.

Jeffs faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on a failure-to-appear charge. Counts of benefits fraud and money laundering carry possible 5- and 10-year sentences.

He was first arrested last year along with 10 other members of the group on accusations that they knowingly broke the law donating products purchased with food stamps to a communal storehouse while also diverting funds to front companies to pay for a tractor, truck and other items. Authorities have said sect leaders lived lavishly while low-ranking followers suffered.

Nine of the 10 defendants took plea deals and one had his case dismissed.

Federal prosecutors have said they will take a different approach with Lyle Jeffs, who they consider the lead defendant.

The revelation about the possible brain injuries will force the judge to be cautious in rulings about the case, said Amos Guiora, a University of Utah law professor who has studied Jeffs’ group.

“The court must be careful to avoid any appearance of injustice, especially given the high profile nature of this case,” Guiora said. “Anything FLDS-related brings attention other trials don’t bring.”

It was unclear when U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart will rule on the trial delay request, but Jeffs is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Written by BRADY MCCOMBS, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • January20 August 2, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Let’s have the state pay a million dollars to have him evaluated. What a joke! After all the food stamp and welfare fraud.

  • high5 August 2, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    This is funny??. “Head Injury”. Yeah -I’d say so- All of em have Head Injuries!???

    • Real Life August 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Or just something in the water out there that turns them into pedophiles.

    • mesaman August 2, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      The next thing we will hear about is that it affected his “brain”. He’s smart enough to elude law enforcement for two years, lady lawyer, it would seem reasonable that it is only a “head” injury but didn’t compromise his brain (too rigid and hard to cause any damage.

  • Utahguns August 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    So, Jeff’s attorneys are going to use the “I hit my head” defense…..
    This whole polygamist society are a bunch of sick whacko nut cases…..and the majority of ’em didn’t hit their heads.

  • DRT August 2, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    But the feebes just paid out a ridiculously large sum of our taxpayer money for a reward, to get him back into custody. So now he will turn around and “bleed the beast” for all he can.
    Don’t be at all surprised to see him get a slap on the wrist, if even that. Meanwhile, both he and his brother have 3 hots and a cot, medical care, entertainment, pruno or what ever alcohol and dope they can bribe the screws to bring them. Or at least to let it “slip buy” all screenings.
    They bled the tax system, they bled the welfare system, now they’re bleeding the criminal [in]justice system. I had more respect for the mafia, than this bunch of organized criminals will ever be given.
    At least the mafia didn’t hide behind religion to shield their criminal activity.

  • paul August 2, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Haha. Come on really

  • youcandoit August 3, 2017 at 12:52 am

    Are you kidding? My son was in a near fatal car accident his head split open 3 bleeds to the middle of his brain he now has seizures and short term memory issues he is a vulnerable disabled adult and when he gets into trouble he’s accountable plus he pays for his evaluations give me a friggin break. Plus my son can’t fill out paperwork to commit fraud you did plus you knew how to run away for a year whatever you discuss me sick piece of trash.

  • utahdiablo August 3, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    POS ….a piece of lead will fix all

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