Shocking allegations of child sexual abuse by a self-proclaimed prophet and polygamist may test the limits of a 1965 U.S. Supreme Court decision forbidding a defense waiver of a jury trial unless the government also consents.

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb in Sacramento, Calif., became only the third judge since the 1970s to order a nonjury trial over the government’s objection. He held that the allegations of ritual abuse were so inflammatory it would make a fair jury trial all but impossible.

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