The fugitive leader of a polygamist Mormon sect may have “experience the miracle of rapture.”
Lyle Jeffs, former head of the Fundamentalist Church of Later-Day Saints (FLDS), disappeared earlier this summer while awaiting trial for multi-million dollar food stamps fraud.
“Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel,” Kathryn Nester, Jeffs’ public defense attorney, wrote in court documents reported by Salt Lake City, Utah’s Fox affiliate.
Nester’s apparently tongue-in-cheek comments relate to a proposed change in the trial date for Jeffs and his co-defendants. Jeffs’ absence, “prevents counsel from obtaining his approval and thus further prevents counsel from filing a joinder with the Motion to Continue Current Trial Date in compliance with the local rules,” Nester wrote.
Nester could find no objection to moving the trial date, currently scheduled for Oct. 3, 2016, given Jeffs’ absence and lack of communication with his court-appointed defense attorney.
Prosecutors say Jeffs slipped his ankle monitor in late June by rubbing his foot with olive oil. (RELATED: Polygamous Man Leaves 7 Wives And Dozens Of Kids To Flee The Feds)
A federal indictment against Jeffs and 10 other FLDS members claims the group funneled welfare benefits from church members to pay for things like John Deere tractor payments and Ford trucks. The church leaders asked congregants to donate their food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, to the church for redistribution as part of their religious duty, prosecutors allege.
Defense attorneys for the FLDS leaders recently argued that the case represents a religious liberty question, as church donations are protected under the First Amendment. (RELATED: Alleged Polygamist Fraudsters Argue For Religious Right To Donate Food Stamps)
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