- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Polygamous sect members accused of food stamp fraud may testify at an upcoming hearing in an attempt to persuade a judge they were following religiously rooted communal living practices and not breaking the law.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart said Tuesday he’ll allow attorneys to decide whether their clients take the stand at the Oct. 3-4 hearing or just submit statements.

Attorneys for 11 suspects facing fraud and money laundering charges are asking Judge Stewart to throw out at least part of the case based on the argument the actions were constitutionally protected.

Federal prosecutors counter that the defendants knowingly broke the law by not only donating food to a storehouse but diverting funds to front companies and to pay for a tractor, truck and other items. They say sect leaders lived lavishly while low-ranking followers suffered.

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