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Trust lawyers seeking Jeffs' jailhouse tapes

Lawyers for the financial arm of the Fundamentalist LDS Church want to get their hands on tapes of jailhouse conversations polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has had with his followers.

Attorneys for the court-appointed special fiduciary of the United Effort Plan Trust subpoenaed Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith and county attorney Brock Belnap, demanding "any and all communications (including oral and written statements) made by Warren Jeffs to any person while he has been incarcerated at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County, Utah. This includes communications made by telephone and in person to jailhouse visitors."

The subpoenas do not request conversations Jeffs had with his criminal defense team, which is protected by a legal right to attorney-client privilege. The papers were filed in an effort to glean information about how the UEP Trust was being managed, said lawyer Jeffrey L. Shields.

"We're not getting anything from Warren, so we might as well find out what he's saying to members of the community," Shields told the Deseret Morning News.

In 2005, the state courts took control of the $100 million UEP Trust, which controls homes, businesses and property in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Allegations have plagued the trust that Jeffs and other top FLDS leaders had been "fleecing it." The UEP Trust recently has undergone reform efforts, doing away with the early-Mormon communal "united order" in favor of private property.

Jeffs has refused to answer questions about the trust and a series of lawsuits filed against him over its management. Shields said he believes Jeffs is still talking about the trust with his followers.

"If he's talking about us, we want to know what he's saying," Shields said.

The subpoenas demand that the sheriff and county attorney respond with documents and tapes by Oct. 17. However, authorities were unsure if they could release all of Jeffs' conversations, which are recorded like any other inmate's.

"We will honor any court order," Washington County Sheriff's Lt. Jake Adams said Tuesday. "We are consulting with counsel as far as how to respond to the subpoena and maintain the rights of Mr. Jeffs."

The Washington County Attorney's Office said it was reviewing the subpoena and determining an appropriate response.

A judge in St. George's 5th District Court has ordered some of Jeffs' jailhouse statements sealed, claiming that to play them would make it impossible for him to get a fair trial anywhere.

Jeffs, 51, recently was convicted of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 20. A state court spokeswoman recently said the judge ordered the tapes to remain sealed, because of pending criminal cases against Jeffs in Arizona.

Meanwhile, the judge who presided over Jeffs' trial issued an order about contacting the jury that convicted Jeffs. Judge James Shumate reminded counsel for the prosecution and defense to adhere to rules of professional conduct about communicating with a juror who doesn't want to talk.

"The Court has been made aware of persons making unwanted, and, in some cases, harassing attempts to contact jurors in this case and members of their families," Shumate wrote in an order signed Friday. "The Court notes that there are still very important matters pertaining to this case to be decided, and connected cases are pending."


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com