Lyle Jeffs, the former polygamous sect bishop who was recently captured after almost a year on the run, needs more time to prepare a defense, in part because of injuries he suffered years ago, his lawyers say in a new court filing.
Jeffs attorneys are asking for a delay of at least 120 days. His trial on counts of conspiracy and money laundering is scheduled to begin Sept. 14.
In the filing, his lawyers say they need more time to sift through terabytes of evidence. But attorney Kathryn Nester, in a brief filed Tuesday, says she also recently learned of two injuries Jeffs suffered years ago, ”specifically multiple traumatic brain injuries.”
Nester’s motion suggests that she may seek to raise Jeffs’ injuries as a defense at trial. She says she needs more time to gather records related to the injuries.
“This is pertinent to the case since this is a specific intent crime and goes to defendant’s ability to understand his actions,” Nester wrote. “Additionally, it is pertinent with regard to his ability to assist counsel in preparing for trial.”
Nester sites two accidents her client suffered — both of which The Salt Lake Tribune reported on in a January 2016 profile of Jeffs, who was a bishop in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
In the first accident, which Nester does not date but The Tribune reported happened in the early or mid-1990s, Jeffs was constructing a house and fell three stories onto concrete.
Then, on Jeffs’ 38th birthday in 1998, a Chevy Suburban ran through the red light on Bangerter Highway in West Jordan. It hit the passenger side of Jeffs’ Ford Explorer broadside as Lyle drove west on 9000 South.
Family members have told The Tribune that after those two accidents, Jeffs began telling people God had saved him so he could become a great man in the FLDS. Jeffs became more religious and stricter in enforcing the doctrine set by his father and his older brother, current FLDS President Warren Jeffs. He is serving a prison sentence in Texas of life plus 20 years for crimes related to sexually abusing two girls he married as plural wives.
Lyle Jeffs is accused of orchestrating a scheme to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps. Groceries FLDS members purchased with the benefits were diverted to the church or converted to cash, prosecutors say. Defense attorneys have said the FLDS were merely donating their benefits or groceries.
Lyle Jeffs is being held at the Tooele County jail. He is due in court Thursday for a status conference before U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart. Stewart is likely to discuss Nester’s motion then.