Evidence

Phone Transcripts Released in Jeffs Case


Formerly sealed documents detailing jailhouse phone calls made by the leader of a controversial fringe sect of the Mormon church that advocates polygamy were released Tuesday by a Utah court.

A lawyer for Warren Jeffs, 51, who has since been convicted of accomplice rape for pressuring a 14-year-old church member into an unwanted marriage, complained that the transcripts were released by the trial judge without informing the parties’ counsel in the now-decided, high-profile case, according to the Associated Press and the Salt Lake Tribune. The transcripts were not used in evidence at Jeffs’ trial.

“I had no idea,” attorney Wally Bugden tells the Tribune. “There are significant due process issues for Mr. Jeffs as it relates to future cases in Arizona, and there are significant privacy issues that we believe are protected.”

The transcripts of phone calls by Jeffs detail a rambling series of self-accusations of possible sexual misconduct, according to the news accounts. “During this period, Jeffs suffered what has since been described as a mental and physical breakdown, brought on by extended fasting, sleeplessness and time spent on his knees praying,” the newspaper reports.

Jeffs’ case and conviction were discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post and a February ABA Journal story, “Violation or Salvation.” He faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 20.

Although his church is controversial because of its views on polygamy (as well as claimed mistreatment of some members of both sexes), polygamy was not officially at issue in Jeffs’ trial.

CORRECTED 3:29 p.m. CDT to indicate the documents were released Tuesday.

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