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Warren Jeffs: From capture and conviction to reprieve and Texas trial

Published July 23, 2011 9:35 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

NEW LEADER , in 2002 • After years of acting as a spokesman for his aged and stroke-disabled father, Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs takes over leadership of the sect in a disputed succession process.

CHARGED, April 5. 2006 • Prosecutors file accomplice to rape charges against Jeffs for presiding over the unwilling marriage of then-14-year-old Elissa Wall to her 19-year-old cousin.

APPREHENDED , Aug. 28, 2006 • After two years on the run, Jeffs is arrested in southern Nevada. He was riding in a red Cadillac Escalade with a brother, Isaac, and a favorite wife, Naomi, when a state trooper pulled the SUV over for having partially obscured temporary registration tags. Police later found wigs, 14 cell phones and nearly $68,000 in hundred dollar bills, among other items, stuffed into the SUV.

STEPPED DOWN, January 2007 • Weakened by extended fasting, sleeplessness and long periods spent on his knees praying, Jeffs renounces his role as prophet in a videotaped jailhouse conversation with his brother. He refers to himself as a "wicked man" and names the bishop of Colorado City/Hildale, William E. Jessop, as the true prophet. He attempts suicide days later, but recovers and later apparently recants.

CONVICTED , Sept. 27, 2007 • After a two-week trial, a jury in St. George finds Jeffs guilty on two counts of accomplice to rape in the Elissa Wall case. The suicide attempt, and jail's tapes of the conversation in which he renounced his role as prophet are made public more than a month later.

SENTENCED, Nov. 20, 2007 • Jeffs gets 10 years to life on accomplice to rape charges and steps down as president of the FLDS Corporation of the President.

RAIDED , April 3, 2008 • Texas authorities begin a weeklong raid of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in remote Eldorado, Texas. More than 400 children are taken into protective custody, though they are later returned to their parents. Police also cart off the equivalent of 1.7 billion pages of evidence.

INDICTED , July 22, 2008 • Based on evidence gathered in the raid, a Texas grand jury indicts Jeffs on bigamy and sexual assault charges in two alleged underage spiritual marriages.

REPRIEVE, July 27, 2010 • The Utah Supreme Court overturns Jeffs' 2007 accomplice to rape conviction, saying the jury should have been instructed to more carefully consider only whether Jeffs intended for Allen Steed to rape his cousin, Elissa Wall.

TEXAS-BOUND, November 2010 • After a courtroom fight, Jeffs is quietly extradited from Utah to Texas.

POWER PLAY, January 2011 • Jeffs takes back control of the FLDS Corporation of the President. Using a pay phone in his Texas jail cell, he begins excommunicating more than 30 men from the FLDS Church, forcing most to leave their homes and families. Those exiled include nearly all the top leaders and public church faces. The expulsions are said to be ongoing.

RE-EMERGING , March 28, 2011 • After a four-year absence, William E. Jessop re-emerges to claim that he, not Jeffs, is the true prophet of the church. He files paperwork to take control of the FLDS Corporation of the President back from Jeffs, igniting an ongoing struggle for control. He is now said to be gaining some traction in the twin towns, with up to 200 people attending Sunday sessions he leads.

FIRED , July 6, 2011 • In a move the prosecution calls a stalling tactic, Jeffs fires his high-profile defense attorney less than three weeks before trial. But Texas District Judge Barbara Walther denies Jeff Kearney's motion to withdraw.