SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge is considering whether to release two members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church from jail again.
John Clifton Wayman and Seth Jeffs have renewed their arguments to be released from jail pending trial. During a hearing Tuesday, their attorneys tried to argue that they had learned their lesson about violating a judge's order and would not do it again.
"John has very much learned a lesson in terms of what compliance with this court's order means," Wayman's defense attorney, Jim Bradshaw, argued.
U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart appeared skeptical.
"Do you think you can represent to the court that would include his disobedience to a specific revelation or command from Warren Jeffs?" the judge asked.
"I do," Bradshaw replied.
"You know, I can cite scripture to you about serving two masters," the judge later said.
But federal prosecutors insist both men are loyal to imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, and would do whatever he commanded. They referenced a recording of a conversation Warren Jeffs had with one of his wives and a daughter who visited him in a Texas prison, where he's serving a life sentence for child sex assault related to underage "marriages."
The recording, was made by Texas prison officials during his regular visitation. It was filed in exhibits and released to FOX 13 on Tuesday after a request through the federal courts. The recording lasts hours, and features Jeffs having numerous "revelations" and giving dictations about business involving members of his family and the FLDS Church.
"Thank you for the safe travel of visitors, sparing of your servant's life here in bondage," Jeffs said on the recording, seemingly in prayer.
On the recording, Jeffs makes reference to a "revelation" from God through him to Wayman.
"You noticed a revelation to John Wayman. The Lord says to Annette, hold on to it and do not make that communication until other visiting and the Lord appoints. He is not to hear it yet, amen," Jeffs said, adding moments later: "Do not give it to him until keyholder authority of the Lord Jesus Christ says to do so, amen."
Federal prosecutors admitted they don't know what that revelation is, but argued to the judge it should still be considered as evidence that Wayman and Seth Jeffs should not be released from jail again. As prosecutors spoke about Warren Jeffs and his control over the church in court, FLDS faithful seated in the audience got up and walked out.
"The defendants are beholden to Warren Jeffs in a way they're not beholden to this court," assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Lund told the judge. "They recognize the authority of Warren Jeffs superseding this court."
But Judge Stewart also questioned if there was any evidence Warren Jeffs has ordered anyone to flee. He pointed to Jeffs' brother, FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs, who absconded from home confinement. Lyle Jeffs vanished after Judge Stewart allowed him to be released from jail (as FOX 13 first reported, the FBI believes he used olive oil to slip out of a GPS monitoring device).
"Does the government have any evidence Lyle Jeffs fled at the instruction of Warren Jeffs?" the judge asked.
"No, your honor," Lund replied.
Eleven members of the FLDS Church are facing food stamp fraud and money laundering charges, accused of ordering faithful followers to hand over Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to leaders, to do with as they wished. Federal prosecutors have alleged taxpayers were bilked out of more than $12 million.
Seth Jeffs' attorney, Jay Winward, argued there was new evidence that had emerged that justified his client's release and he had a right to a speedy trial. He also referenced plea deal negotiations under way involving some of the defendants.
"Mr. Jeffs would be crazy to flee given the offers that have been made," he said.
Judge Stewart did not immediately rule on the motions to release them. He said he anticipated having a decision by Wednesday night.