Jan 13, 2016

Justice Department: Lyle Jeffs needs to testify at polygamous towns’ trial

The Salt Lake Tribune
January 12 2016

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Bishop Lyle Jeffs is a "key co-conspirator" in discriminating against people who do not follow his church and should be forced to testify in a trial scheduled to begin next week, the U.S. Department of Justice says.

The Justice Department made its allegation against Jeffs in a motion filed Tuesday. The Justice Department is suing Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., collectively known as Short Creek and home to the polygamous FLDS.

Jeffs has been issued a subpoena to testify at the trial, though his attorney filed a motion last weekasking that subpoena be quashed.

In its motion Tuesday, the Justice Department rejects arguments from Jeffs that traveling the 371 miles from Hildale to Phoenix would be a burden, saying he has made such trips before and Jeffs frequently does business in Arizona. That means a court rule which says witnesses do not have to travel more than 100 miles does not apply, the Justice Department motion says.

Jeffs' attorney argued last week that the Justice Department can play a recording of Jeffs' pre-trial deposition. The Justice Department on Tuesday said live testimony, particularly if Jeffs' invokes his Fifth Amendment rights and declines to answer some questions, will better allow the jury to assess Jeffs' credibility.

"Bishop Lyle Jeffs is a key co-conspirator with Defendants in this case, and the United States will suffer prejudice in several ways if this Court grants the Motion" to quash the subpoena, the Justice Department wrote Tuesday.

"Lyle Jeffs represents a central figure in this case," Justice Department lawyers later added, "the biggest co-conspirator with Defendants beyond Warren Jeffs, and the jury thus should have the benefit and opportunity to observe him testify live."

Lyle Jeffs is the full brother of imprisoned FLDS President Warren Jeffs. Much of the Justice Department's case is built around communications officials in the two towns had with the brothers as they allegedly denied services to residents.

In a motion on behalf of Colorado City, attorney Jeff Matura on Tuesday also asked that the subpoena for Lyle Jeffs be quashed. Matura argued that since Lyle Jeffs is likely to take the Fifth, having him testify live will lead to a "scripted presentation between the United States and Lyle Jeffs" that could mislead the jury. Matura favored playing the deposition for the jury.

Lawyers for all sides have already argued over whether to permit discussion of polygamy and Warren Jeffs, who is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.

Holland has ruled that those topics may be discussed at trial so long as they relate to allegations of discrimination.


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