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Polygamous church leader Lyle Jeffs appears in Utah courtroom after nearly a year on the run

First Published      Last Updated Jul 10 2017 08:39 pm

Lyle Jeffs, the former bishop of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who was apprehended after almost a year on the run, pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court to the latest indictment against him.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells ordered Jeffs, 57, to remain in jail pending trial.

Wells scheduled that trial for Sept. 18, though Jeffs' lawyer, Kathryn Nester, said she would ask for more time to prepare.

Jeffs wore an orange and white striped Tooele County jail jumpsuit and shackles. He was thinner than during his court appearances in winter and spring of 2016, and he had far fewer supporters in the gallery.




Only one member of the FLDS, a woman, was noticeable in court. Brenda Nicholson, a former FLDS member who has been attending Jeffs' court appearances, identified the woman as one of Jeffs' nieces.

Last year, 20 to 30 people, including Jeffs' sons and at least one of his plural wives, would attend his hearings.

Jeffs answered yes and no to standard questions Monday, but otherwise did not speak.

Jeffs was on home confinement in Salt Lake City pending trial when he slipped his ankle monitor and fled on June 18, 2016. While on the run, according to the FBI, Jeffs' older brother, Warren Jeffs, removed him from a leadership position. The FBI hoped that lesser status would limit Lyle Jeffs' access to FLDS resources and hiding spots.

He was arrested 361 days later in Yankton, S.D.

Prosecutors in February 2016 indicted 11 people with allegedly defrauding the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. The other defendants have all pleaded guilty. Jeffs' is the only case remaining.

After Jeffs' arrest, a new indictment was issued. Jeffs is now charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud SNAP and one count of conspiracy to launder money, as well as failure to appear in court.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

 

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