Two More FLDS men in Texas going to trial
Two FLDS members to appear in court today
Trial date, venue could be determined

By Matthew Waller

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SAN ANGELO, Texas —Two polygamist sect members are scheduled to appear in court today for pretrial matters relating to their charges of bigamy and sexual assault of a child.

Wendell Loy Nielsen, a former president of the polygamy-sanctioning Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with three counts of third-degree bigamy. While he was president of the church, Warren Jeffs was still the spiritual and actual leader of the FLDS. Jeffs took over as president Jan. 31.

Nielsen’s 2 p.m. pretrial at the Tom Green County Courthouse could establish a trial date and venue for the trial.

“This will be a pretrial on him to find out where we are,” said Peggy Williams, the district clerk for Schleicher County. “They may also be looking at a date for him.”

A third-degree felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

State District Judge Barbara Walther is set to preside over Nielsen’s trial.

David Botsford, an attorney out of Austin, is listed as Nielsen’s attorney of record, Williams said.

Leroy Johnson Steed, also an FLDS member, is charged with first-degree sexual assault of a child.

He is scheduled to appear to discuss where his trial might take place, 51st District clerk staff said.

His trial is set for Nov. 29.

In a pretrial earlier this month, Steed’s attorney, Gena Bunn from Longview, said she wanted to move the trial out of Walther’s 51st District to a place where news coverage of FLDS trials hasn’t be as extensive.

All the trials have occurred in Eldorado and San Angelo.

All the indictments against FLDS members have come out of Schleicher County, where law enforcement raided the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in April 2008 on allegations of child abuse at the ranch. Their search brought evidence that has led to the conviction of eight men on crimes such as bigamy and sexual assault of a child, including Jeffs, the head of the FLDS. More than 400 children were taken from the ranch, but they were ordered returned by an appellate court.

Central Texas was suggested as a place where the trial could be held.

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