US & Canada

Sect leader to be extradited to Texas on new charges

Warren Jeffs (File picture)
Image caption Mr Jeffs was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list at the time of his arrest in 2006

Warren Jeffs, a polygamy sect leader already in a Utah jail ahead of a rape trial, is to be extradited to Texas to face new sexual assault charges.

The 54-year old is accused of bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault, based on alleged incidents with under-age girls at a church ranch.

A 2007 conviction for conspiracy to rape was later overturned, but Mr Jeffs is awaiting a retrial in Utah.

Officials there said he could be tried in Texas before the retrial took place.

Mr Jeffs, who was part of a breakaway Mormon sect that married young girls to church leaders, was arrested in 2006 while he was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

He was convicted by a Utah court of two counts of conspiracy to rape, including using his religious influence to force a 14-year-old girl to marry her cousin. He received two five-year to life terms.

Last month the Utah Supreme Court ordered a retrial, ruling that the judge did not give instructions to the jury correctly at the original trial.

'Impractical'

Officials in Texas now want Mr Jeffs and four unnamed men to go on trial over the sexual assault of girls under the age of 17.

The indictment - lodged in 2008 - accuses Mr Jeffs of assaulting a child in January 2005.

He had also faced charges in Arizona of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor, but the case was dismissed in June by a judge who said it would be impractical to continue the prosecution when Mr Jeffs faced more serious charges in Texas.

Mr Jeffs, who is currently being kept in Utah state prison, is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS.

The 10,000-strong sect, which dominates the towns of Colorado City in Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, split from the mainstream Mormon church more than a century ago.

While in prison, Mr Jeffs has been treated after undertaking self-imposed fasts, and has also attempted to commit suicide, according to prison authorities.

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