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Samuel Bateman wants to represent himself in court

Samuel Bateman is facing more than 50 federal charges including child sexual abuse and child pornography.

PHOENIX — One of the courtrooms inside the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix was packed with defendants on Tuesday.

All of them facing serious charges involving sexual crimes against children and other related crimes that took place within a two year time frame according to a federal indictment released in May. The 10 defendants and their attorneys sat in the jury box as their reported leader entered the room.

Self-proclaimed prophet of the FLDS Church Samuel Bateman of Colorado City, Arizona is reported to have about 50 followers and more than 20 wives. 10 of them are underage, according to the indictment.  The federal document claims Bateman and his followers traveled between Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona with the young victims. He’s accused of having sex with the girls on a regular basis and recording it.

RELATED: Body-cam video shows arrest of accused polygamist leader in Flagstaff

Bateman was seen wearing a yellow jumpsuit when he walked into the courtroom. As he was escorted by federal agents, several defendants turned toward Bateman’s direction and smiled at him throughout the hearing. 

They are some of Bateman’s many wives who are accused of helping him kidnap and transport victims across state lines, those same documents claim.

Bateman and his accused co-conspirators all sat for a status conference hearing. While prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said they are able move forward in this case, each defendant’s attorney said they needed more time. Telling the court they have not received all of the evidence. One attorney said they are waiting for several terabytes of discovery to be released to them.

Bateman also had a motions hearing where he told U.S. District Court Judge Susan Brnovich that he wanted represent himself at trial. The judge allowed his attorney to withdraw but appointed an advisory council to Bateman. 

There was also discussion of a previous motion filed by Bateman asking for his communication privileges back. 12News obtained the hand written documents by Bateman where he claims his constitutional rights have been violated because he has not been able to contact his “darling family”. 

The reason why those privileges were taken away, is because while Bateman was behind bars the indictment claims he was still in contact with his co-conspirators. It accuses Bateman of asking his followers to delete information potentially related to this case. It also claims Bateman would speak with his co-conspirators and victims through video.

Judge Brnovich said she would make a written ruling regarding Bateman’s communication at another point in time. 

Three of the defendants also had motion hearings arguing for supervised release from custody. Marona Johnson, 26, is facing charges of distributing obscene material to a minor. Prosecutors said Johnson is Bateman’s “first plural wife”  and to this day is still a “loyal” and “committed follower” of Bateman. Johnson’s defense argued that she is a victim of Bateman and should be released. 

RELATED: Woman tied to polygamous sect leader accused of threats

Judge Brnovich denied Johnson’s release.

Torrance Bistline, 34, was also denied release. He is charged with using a means of interstate commerce to persuade or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity and multiple counts related to tampering with evidence. The indictment also claims Bateman called Bistline while in custody after Bateman was arrested in Flagstaff last year.

The judge also denied Leia Bistline’s release. Leia’s defense attorney Loyd Tate argued his client is not a danger to the community and has no criminal record.

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