Feds ask for delay in FLDS food stamp trial

Salt Lake City — Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to delay the upcoming trial of 11 members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church on food stamp fraud-related charges.

In a motion filed Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah revealed it has nearly 50 terabytes of video evidence, as well as volumes of documents and hundreds of witnesses in the food stamp fraud case. The government said it could attempt to put on a trial by May 31 (the original trial date) but asked for more time for itself and the defense.

“The United States remains committed to providing the defendants and the public with the most fair and expedient trial that reasonable practicality can afford. However, the current trial date precludes counsel for any party from meeting their constitutional obligations to the defendants,” assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund wrote in the motion.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office proposes a month-long trial beginning October 3.

Eleven members of the Utah-based polygamous sect, including bishops Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs (the brothers of imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs) and John Wayman, are accused of ordering FLDS members to hand over Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to the church. Federal prosecutors allege the amount exceeds $12 million. Defense attorneys for the FLDS members have suggested a religious right to hand over the benefits.

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to block that defense.