Former LDS general authority George P. Lee, 50, will stand trial June 21 on charges of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl.
The June trial date, set Monday, is the earliest that would fit the schedules of his defense attorney, Ron Yengich, and 3rd District Judge Kenneth Rigtrup.The trial is expected to last three or four days.
Rigtrup said that because Lee has made "strong statements about the (LDS) Church" in the press, he offered to have the case assigned to another judge if Lee makes such a request. The judge, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, apparently wants to avoid any potential claims of prejudice.
Yengich said he would discuss the offer with his client, who lives in Arizona.
Lee, who in 1989 became the first general authority in 46 years to be excommunicated from the church, said his excommunication stemmed from his accusations that church leaders are materialistic people who set themselves up as superior to the Lamanites.
The church said he was excommunicated for "apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church."
After the charge of aggravated sexual abuse of a child was filed in July 1993, Lee said the allegations will set a chain of events in motion that will bring the wrath of God against the Gentile nations. He also warned, "The perpetrators or those who are doing this to me and my Indian people will be dealt with and be punished by God. . . . They cannot get away with this."
A former neighbor, now 16, testified last month that "Brother Lee" sexually abused her from the time she was 9 years old. The girl testified of several fondling incidents. She said Lee told her he had fallen in love with her, but the Lord had told him it was OK.
Lee has strongly and repeatedly denied the allegations.