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Judge sets one month trial for polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has scheduled a one-month trial beginning October 23 for polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs.

In an order issued Friday morning, the judge granted a defense request to delay Jeffs’ upcoming trial. However, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart sided with prosecutors who asked it be delayed to longer than late-October.

The trial will last one month, Stewart said, with jury selection beginning October 19. Prosecutors wanted a two-week trial, but Jeffs’ defense said they believed it would take at least a month.

FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs arrives at the federal courthouse in Sioux Falls, SD. (Image KSFY via CNN)

Jeffs, once a top leader in the Fundamentalist LDS Church, is charged in a massive food stamp fraud scheme that prosecutors claim bilked taxpayers out of more than $12 million. He’s accused of ordering rank-and-file members to hand over federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to church leaders to do with as they wished.

The FBI said Jeffs escaped home confinement last year after using a substance like olive oil to slip out of a GPS monitoring device. He was arrested in June in South Dakota.

Jeffs’ defense attorneys told the judge during a hearing Thursday they plan to ask that he be tried separately on a charge of failure to appear. The defense also said they planned to get an MRI for Jeffs after raising questions about a pair of brain injuries he suffered in the 1990s and whether it might affect his potential testimony at trial.

Jeffs is the brother of imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.”