Jeffs to represent himself in sex assault trial

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs will represent himself at his sexual assault trial after dismissing his latest legal team — the seventh one — Thursday, just before his trial was to begin.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs will represent himself at his sexual assault trial after dismissing his latest legal team — the seventh one — Thursday, just before his trial was to begin.

But even though District Judge Barbara Walther allowed Jeffs to represent himself, she refused his request to further delay the trial. Instead, she had the jury sworn in, Jeffs arraigned and decided opening arguments would be heard immediately after a lunch recess. Prosecutors had complained Jeffs’ frequent switching of attorneys was a delay tactic.

Jeffs, 55, is accused of sexually assaulting two girls. The charges stem from a 2008 raid on a remote Texas compound that belonged to his sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If convicted, he could go to prison for life.

He addressed the court for about 25 minutes, telling Walther that he thought hard before deciding he’d be better off representing himself. He asked for time to find another attorney who could help him file legal briefs.

Jeffs repeatedly said he needed a “pure defence,” and, although he wanted to represent himself, he asked that he be given some assistance, saying his ability to work and write in prison are limited.