8 Nov 2010

Mormon polygamist accused of sexual assault wants evidence of polygamy and fraud excluded from trial

The Houston Chronicle - September 30, 2009

Sect member asks judge to exclude some allegations

The Associated Press

ELDORADO, Texas — A polygamist sect member set to go on trial on a sexual assault charge asked a judge Wednesday to exclude allegations about multiple marriages and illegal bank activity, saying the accusations are unsubstantiated and unfairly prejudicial.

Raymond Jessop, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was indicted last year on a charge of sexual assault of a child stemming from his alleged marriage to a 16-year-old girl. His trial — scheduled to start Oct. 26 — will be the first stemming from the April 2008 raid of the Yearning For Zion Ranch in West Texas.

The Texas attorney general's office filed a notice in court last week accusing Jessop, 38, of marrying several women, of trying to skirt anti-money laundering laws and of using his wife's name to front a company in Arizona. While no additional charges were filed, prosecutors want to use the allegations to increase the punishment Jessop could face if convicted.

Jessop's attorney, Mark Stevens, said in a court filing in Schleicher County on Wednesday that prosecutors cannot offer sufficient proof of the allegations and should not be allowed to make them or enter evidence that would be "unfairly prejudicial, confusing and misleading" to jurors.

He also objected to prosecutors accusing Jessop of being closely aligned with Warren Jeffs, the jailed FLDS leader who was on the FBI's most wanted list before being arrested and convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape. Jeffs is jailed in Arizona awaiting trial on similar charges there.

"It is apparent that the state wants to taint Raymond Jessop with Warren Jeffs's notoriety. The indictment in this case, however, does not allege a conspiracy, and, in fact, says nothing at all about Warren Jeffs. It is fundamentally unfair," Stevens said in his filing.

A pretrial hearing is set for Friday.

Jessop was one of 12 FLDS members indicted after a raid brought on last spring by bogus calls to a domestic abuse hot line. Jessop, Jeffs and nine others face felony charges, including sexual assault of a child and bigamy. The sect's doctor faces misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.

Jessop could face trial later for a separate indictment on a bigamy charge related to a separate alleged underage marriage.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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