Sharpshooters surround court for top polygamist's trial


By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer

ST. GEORGE, UT- Amid extraordinary security, the leader of a polygamist sect went to court Tuesday to learn if he will go to trial for allegedly forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry an older man.

Police sharpshooters were posted on hills that ring the courthouse.

Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with rape as an accomplice for what prosecutors say is his role in forcing the girl to marry her 19-year-old first cousin in 2001.

The hearing is the most significant hearing since Jeffs, who was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, was captured Aug. 28 near Las Vegas during a traffic stop. The court is scheduled to hear evidence and decide whether to send Jeffs to trial.

The bride in the case, identified only as Jane Doe No. 4, objected to the marriage and later begged to be released, according to court documents.

But Jeffs told her it was her religious duty to marry and produce children, prosecutors say.

His defense team has said Jeffs is being persecuted for his religious beliefs.

The church arranges marriages for young girls and believes plural marriage ensures exaltation in heaven. Jeffs assumed leadership in 2002 after his father's death. An estimated 10,000 followers revere him as a prophet who communicates with God.

The church represents itself as a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church, but the Mormons disavow any connection and renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Jeffs also faces felony charges in Arizona related to marriages involving minors. That case is on hold until after the Utah case is resolved.

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