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Polygamist leader promptly fires new attorney

By the CNN Wire Staff
Sect leader Warren Jeffs is led into court Wednesday in San Angelo, Texas, where he is charged with bigamy.
Sect leader Warren Jeffs is led into court Wednesday in San Angelo, Texas, where he is charged with bigamy.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Warren Jeffs fires his new Texas-based attorney within hours of being hired
  • Jeffs is reindicted on sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault charges
  • Jeffs was extradited from Utah; he leads Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • The case stems from an alleged "spiritual" marriage to a 12-year-old girl

(CNN) -- Polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs got a Texas-based attorney Wednesday during a pretrial hearing in San Angelo, Texas, but the lawyer was fired within hours.

Before he was dismissed, attorney Gerry Morris told the court he has a conflict with the scheduled January 24 start date.

Jeffs' Nevada-based attorney, Richard Wright, had also sought to delay the trial. But Judge Barbara Walther at first denied that request, saying the church leader has long-known about the charges in Texas and had plenty of time to seek counsel.

Jeffs asked Walther for more time to find appropriate counsel, and the next pretrial hearing was scheduled for January 31 with the trial set to begin February 21.

Walther appointed attorney Fred Brigman to advise Jeffs in the meantime.

Warren Jeffs faces Texas trial
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Jeffs also was reindicted on charges of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault on Wednesday, combining the charges against him so they can be tried simultaneously.

Jeffs, 55, leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the FLDS. The charges stem from an alleged "spiritual" marriage to a 12-year-old girl.

The sect leader was extradited from Utah and faces charges in Tom Green County.

Prosecutors filed the charges two years ago, after authorities raided the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, and removed more than 400 children. At the time, authorities said they feared the children had been sexually abused.

Most of the children were returned to their families at the ranch, but some men were charged with sexual abuse.

The 10,000-member FLDS splintered from the Mormon church over polygamy, which the mainstream church renounced a century ago. The FLDS openly practices polygamy at the Texas ranch and in two towns straddling the Utah-Arizona border -- Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.

Critics of the FLDS say underage girls are forced into "spiritual" plural marriages with older men and are sexually abused. Sect members have denied sexual abuse.

Jeffs was convicted in Utah in a case stemming from the marriage of an underage girl to her cousin, but that conviction was overturned in 2007.

In June, a judge in Arizona dismissed similar charges against Jeffs at the request of prosecutors, who cited the "much more serious charges" in Texas. Jeffs had been charged in Arizona with four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor.

CNN's Divina Mims contributed to this report.

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