Polygamist Lyle Jeffs doesn’t want to testify at upcoming discrimination trial

The man running the day-to-day operations of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not want to testify at a trial scheduled for later this month.

An attorney for Lyle Jeffs on Friday filed a motion to quash a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice to testify at a civil trial over whether two towns discriminate against people who don't follow the church. The attorney, Michael Piccarreta, is citing a court rule saying people who are not parties to a case are not required to travel more than 100 miles to testify.

Jeffs lives in Hildale, Utah, which along with Colorado City, Ariz., are the two town governments defending themselves in the discrimination case. The trial is being held in Phoenix. Jury selection is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Also, Piccarreta writes, Jeffs already was deposed in the case and repeatedly declined to answer questions by citing his rights under the First, Fifth and Sixth amendments to the Constitution. Judge H. Russel Holland, who is presiding over the trial, has already ruled that anyone who cited such rights to refuse to answer a question in a pre-trial deposition cannot give a different answer at trial.

So, Piccarreta argues, the Justice Department has nothing substantial to gain from questioning Lyle Jeffs in front of the jury.

"Rather, it appears that Plaintiff wishes to stage a 'dog and pony show' in which a non-party witness, whose last name happens to be Jeffs, is paraded before the jury for the sole purpose of repeatedly invoking his right not to answer Plaintiff's questions," Piccarreta wrote.

The Justice Department had earlier indicated it may not call Jeffs to the witness stand, but rather play a video of his deposition for the jury.

Jeffs is the brother of imprisoned FLDS President Warren Jeffs. Much of the Justice Department's case is built around communications officials the two towns had with the brothers as they allegedly denied services to residents. Lawyers for all sides have already argued over whether to permit discussion of polygamy and Warren Jeffs, who is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.

Holland has ruled that those topics may be discussed at trial so long as they relate to allegations of discrimination.