19 May 2011

Mormon polygamist who pleaded no contest to child bride sex assault appeals conviction based on search warrant

Houston Chronicle   -  May 17, 2011

FLDS member 1st to appeal Texas conviction

By PAUL J. WEBER Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A member of a polygamist church was set to challenge his sexual assault conviction Wednesday in the first appeal stemming from the 2008 raid on a Texas ranch that put more than 400 children in temporary state custody and led to criminal charges against sect leader Warren Jeffs and nearly a dozen followers.

Michael Emack, 60, pleaded no contest last year to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has characterized that plea as a legal strategy, saying Emack never would have received a fair trial in the rural Texas county where jurors have swiftly sentenced sect members.

Emack is scheduled Wednesday to finally get his appeal in the 3rd District Court of Appeals. His attorneys have denounced the search warrant that led to the raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch as invalid, arguing that reams of evidence seized are therefore tainted.

At the heart of Emack's appeal is that the phone calls that initiated the raid didn't come from a girl inside the ranch as originally thought. A Colorado woman was later suspected of making the "outcry" calls that alleged sexual and physical abuse in the West Texas ranch.

"The 6-day siege of the YFZ Ranch community in April of 2008 was a law enforcement debacle of unprecedented scope and magnitude," wrote Gerald Goldstein, Emack's attorney, in a 49-page brief filed last month.

Oral arguments were set for Wednesday, but the appellate court likely won't issue a ruling for weeks.

State prosecutors responded in court filings that the trial judge in Schleicher County already denied earlier attempts to suppress evidence from more than 900 boxes and 66 computers seized at the ranch. They also described Emack as paranoid that state officials targeted his church solely because of their religious beliefs.

"(Emack) plainly sees evidence of his persecution in everything; in every act of every state actor involved in his ultimate arrest and prosecution, at every stage," prosecutors wrote.

Emack had a child with the teenage girl after the church wed them in a "spiritual" marriage, according to prosecutors, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. His attorneys allege that state District Judge Barbara Walther made 21 errors in failing to uphold their motion to suppress evidence collected from the raid.

The Texas attorney general's office hasn't lost a criminal case against the FLDS since the 2008 raid. Seven followers of Jeffs, the ecclesiastical head of the FLDS, have been prosecuted since last year, and all have been convicted. Only in one case have jurors deliberated more than two hours.

Jeffs was extradited to Texas last year but appears unlikely to stand trial anytime soon on charges of bigamy and sexual assault. He has appeared in court with four different attorneys and seen his trial date pushed back twice, and the court has yet to rule on substantial motions such as where the trial will even take place.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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Salt Lake Tribune  -  Utah   May 18, 2011

Search warrant used to raid FLDS Texas ranch challenged

BY LINDSAY WHITEHURST  |  The Salt Lake Tribune

Austin, Texas • In a hearing that could affect a dozen criminal cases connected to alleged underage marriages, a polygamous sect member on Wednesday challenged the search warrant that allowed a massive 2008 raid on the group’s West Texas ranch.

Attorney Robert Udashen told Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals judges the search warrant was illegally obtained because it was based on a hoax call from a Colorado woman pretending to be an abused 16-year-old plural wife trapped on the ranch.

“If law enforcement had just done a little investigation, they could have figured out … this call wasn’t true and it would have taken them little time to do it,” Udashen said in representing Michael Emack, a 60-year-old contractor serving seven years in prison after pleading no contest last year to sexual assault and bigamy charges.

But attorneys for the state of Texas said police had good reason to believe there was an abused girl, and that they got a second search warrant after seeing evidence of other underage marriages and polygamy after entering the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado.

Authorities “did not put any deliberate falsehood and did not act in reckless disregard for the truth,” said prosecutor Eric Nichols, of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Fifty-first District Judge Barbara Walther found that the warrant was legal during a suppression of evidence hearing in 2009.

If the appeals court rules that the search warrant was illegal, it could bring into question the cases of all 12 FLDS men who were charged with crimes related to alleged underage marriages following the raid — including sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, 55, charged with sexual assault and bigamy.

Five FLDS men have filed appeals after being convicted; one other entered a no contest plea and is also appealing. Five more are awaiting trial; Jeffs’ trial is set for late July.

If the court were to side with Emack, who spiritually married a 16-year-old girl, the effects on the other men would have to be decided on a “case-by-case basis,” but “there is no doubt the warrant at issue is the same one … it’s very important,” Nichols said.

The evidence in all those cases was collected in the week-long raid, in which authorities also removed 439 children who were later returned to their parents. It started in the late afternoon of April 3, 2008, when authorities arrived at the YFZ Ranch looking for 16-year-old Sarah Jessop Barlow.

That girl doesn’t exist. Authorities have said the calls claiming abuse came from then-33-year-old Rozita Swinton, who has a history of making fake abuse calls. She has not been charged in connection with the call, which was placed to the NewBridge Family Shelter in San Angelo. Shelter workers then called police.

Calling the raid “a law enforcement debacle of unprecedented scope and magnitude,” Emack’s attorneys argued that the caller named her husband only after being given “multiple choice options” by shelter workers.

But Nichols countered that the caller’s omissions, including a blocked number and a reluctance to reveal personal information, fit the profile of a domestic violence victim.

Once authorities entered the ranch, Udashen said they overreached when they collected all the 7- to 17-year-old girls in the community and kept them overnight in a schoolhouse for questioning, then began searching the community house-to-house to find the victim.

Nichols said that was reasonable in the approximately 1,600-acre ranch, which has no street names or house numbers.

“You have a situation in which there are no street names, no house numbers,” he said. “It was reasonable under those circumstances for those officers to ... look for her wherever she might be found.”

But Udashen argued that those actions were overly general.

“I’m not sure where the state gets off saying because they were looking for Sarah Barlow, they had a right to go into Michael Emack’s home,” Udashen said. “Where in the world does that come from?”

Willie R. Jessop, the onetime spokesman for the church, attended Wednesday’s hearing. He called the search warrant challenge “a civil rights issue.”

The raid “was a terrible trauma to the children. It could happen to any community in any city in America if it is tolerated in West Texas,” he said.

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Almost 2 billion pages of evidence in child bride trials of Mormon sect leaders challenged by FLDS lawyers

Book investigating Mormon polygamy suggests prohibition enables sect leaders to commit sex crimes

More evidence submitted against Mormon polygamist leader for sex assault of pre-teen child brides, trial dates set

Decision in Canadian constitutional case on polygamy months away but evidence renews police investigation

Author who escaped abuse in US polygamy cult explains why Canadian constitutional case is so important in both countries

Stop Polygamy in Canada website has notes taken by observers in the courtroom as well as links to most of the affidavits and research the court is considering in this case.

FLDS children raised for a life of poverty and servitude to their insane pedophile prophet Warren Jeffs

Child rapist Warren Jeffs predicts doomsday for an "evil wicked sinful world" if he is not freed from prison

Warren Jeffs diary submitted to Canadian court reveals three more child brides smuggled to US for FLDS leaders

RCMP renew investigation of Mormon polygamists on new evidence of child bride trafficking to US

Warren Jeffs ordered Canadian parents to smuggle daughters as young as 12 into US to be his brides

BC government failed to act on evidence of child bride trafficking after 2008 Texas raid on polygamists

Judge hearing polygamy case asked to allow new evidence of child bride trafficking between Canada and US

Rape charge dropped in plea deal for FLDS man who married 14 year old cousin, pleads guilty to lesser charges

Jeffs retakes legal control of FLDS from prison, court rules Utah illegally took over sect's property trust

Sect papers reveal Jeffs total control of followers, even from jail

Warren Jeffs Still Dominant Force Even After Conviction

Polygamist leader Jeffs still a force from jail

JEFFS BOMBSHELL: Says he was "immoral" with sister, daughter in jailhouse tapes

Trial of Mormon fundamentalist leader Jeffs delayed again due to massive amount of evidence

Trial will proceed for FLDS man charged with rape after polygamist leader Jeffs was convicted as accomplice to rape

Polygamous sect leader hires then fires lawyer so judge appoints standby counsel and delays start of trial

Polygamist cult leader's silence in Texas court results in not guilty plea to bigamy and child sex charges

Utah Supreme Court denies rehearing of conviction reversal in polygamous sect leader's accomplice to rape case 

Polygamist leader failed to delay Texas trial set to start January 2011, supporter says God approves of child brides 

Texas juries have convicted 5 Mormon fundamentalists from cult compound, 2 others pled guilty, leader Jeffs next to be tried 

Mormon polygamist cult leader Jeffs extradited to Texas to face charges related to child 'brides' and bigamy 

Utah Court allows extradition of Mormon fundamentalist leader Jeffs to Texas to face child 'bride' sex abuse charges 

Utah Court of Appeals suspends extradition of Mormon fundamentalist leader to Texas while it considers legal issues

Mormon polygamist cult leader's lawyer says Utah and Texas conspiring through extradition to deny his constitutional rights 

Mormon polygamist sect leader still fighting extradition to Texas where prosecutors have more evidence against him 

Utah sending Mormon polygamist leader to Texas to face bigamy, child sex assault charges 

Jon Krakauer's reaction to court's reversal of Mormon polygamist's rape convictions

Utah Supreme Court decides to not protect FLDS girls from forced marriage, overturns Warren Jeffs' accomplice to rape convictions

Child 'bride' key witness against Warren Jeffs stunned by court's reversal of rape convictions, fears for safety of FLDS children

Mormon polygamist leader jailed in Utah refuses to sign warrant extraditing him to Texas to face child sex charges

Extradition process started to bring jailed Mormon polygamist leader to Texas for trial after Arizona drops cases against him 

Former under-age polygamous bride tells all in book 

Catching 5 from West Texas polygamist ranch may require wide net 

Brother of jailed Mormon polygamist leader sentenced to 17 years for sex assault of child in forced 'marriage' 

Trial begins for brother of jailed Mormon polygamist sect leader, state seeks enhanced penalty for sex assault of child

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

Evidence seized during raid on Texas polygamist ranch can be used in sexual assault trials

FLDS polygamist sentenced to 10 years for sexual assault of minor in forced 'marriage'

Mormon polygamist gets 33 years for child sexual assault, defense relied on ridiculous religious freedom argument

Second Mormon polygamist found guilty of child sex assault, jury doesn't buy defense claim of religious persecution

Third Texas polygamist jailed for sex assault, but FLDS spokesman says no contest plea was merely a legal tactic

Fourth Mormon polygamist from Texas compound guilty of bigamy and sex assault of child 'bride', jailed 75 years 

First legal finding that bigamy occurred at Mormon fundamentalist compound sees two more polygamists sent to prison

Warren Jeffs' FLDS Church and What I Left Behind

Jeffs's wedding pictures disgust

Texas seeks custody of teen Jeffs allegedly wed

Jeffs' role: Coercion, devotion?

Jurors: Girl’s age was crucial to decision in Warren Jeffs trial

About time, ex-Bountiful member says about Warren Jeffs conviction

Jeffs verdict irrelevant to followers, polygamist community

Listening to the Lord: Jeffs exerted 24-7 control over FLDS faithful

When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back

New Book on Warren Jeffs' Polygamy Sect Provides Insight into Lives of Women Enslaved by Fundamentalist Group

Texas polygamist trial set to start, advocate says women nothing but pimps giving their daughters to perverts

Texas doctor protesting conviction of FLDS polygamist for sexual assault says law should allow sex with minors 

Hate mail from Mormon polygamists doesn't faze Texas lawmaker who crafted laws to protect girls from religious abuse


  1. Texas appeals court upholds conviction against FLDS member Michael Emack

    August 26, 2011


    In a ruling that could influence a dozen cases against polygamous sect men, including leader Warren Jeffs, a Texas appeals court refused to overturn a sexual assault conviction Friday.

    Michael Emack, 60, pleaded no contest last year to charges in his polygamous marriage to an underage girl.

    Emack is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the sect led by Warren Jeffs, who was convicted of sexual assault of a child earlier this month.

    Emack then appealed his conviction, saying that the search warrant used to gather the evidence against him was illegally obtained.

    That warrant led to a massive raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in April 2008. The evidence collected there led to charges against 12 FLDS men, including Jeffs.

    The call for help that led to the warrant, however, turned out to be a hoax. A Colorado woman called a shelter pretending to be an abused underage wife.

    Despite the setback, however, the FLDS legal fight against the search warrant may not be over. Attorney Robert Udashen has said he plans to continue to appeal, perhaps to the US Supreme Court.

    Jeffs has not yet appealed his conviction.

  2. Wife of Warren Jeffs flees church community

    By Gary Tuchman, CNN October 14, 2011

    (CNN) -- One of the 78 wives of jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs left the Arizona community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this week and is receiving medical treatment at a shelter, authorities said. The woman, who is not being named by the Washington County, Utah, Sheriff's Department because she's considered a victim of abuse, was taken to the shelter after a tense standoff with church members Monday.

    The woman fled to the home of Willie Jessop, a former top church associate expelled by Jeffs.
    Jessop said the woman came there because she knew he would protect her. The standoff began when men from the FLDS arrived at Jessop's office, wanting to take her back to the community, Jessop said. Detectives removed the woman and took her to the shelter.

    Jeffs, leader of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is serving a life-plus-20-year term for sexual assault. He was convicted in early August of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl Jeffs claimed were his "spiritual wives."

    The FLDS is a breakaway Mormon sect that openly practices polygamy in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, as well as on its Yearning For Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas. The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.


  3. As polygamous senior leader’s trial opens, another member takes plea

    Salt Lake Tribune November 1, 2011

    Robert Lee, Texas • During the second day of trial for a former polygamous sect bishop, Texas Rangers testified about their discovery of what would amount to more than a billion pages of documents housed behind a thick vault door on a polygamous sect’s remote ranch.

    Fredrick Merril Jessop, 75, is accused of marrying leader Warren Jeffs to an underage girl on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in 2006. The documents Rangers discovered when they penetrated that vault door during a massive raid in 2008 would form the basis of charges against Jessop and 11 other members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Testimony wrapped up early Tuesday afternoon, and prosecutors said the bulk of their case against Jessop could be complete Wednesday, according to a report by the San Angelo Standard-Times.

    "The state will prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that on July 27, 2006, Fredrick Merril Jessop married a freckled, 12-year-old girl to a 50-year-old man," said prosecutor Angela Goodwin, according to the paper.

    Jeffs was convicted in August of sexually assaulting two young girls he took as plural wives. Prosecutors say the 55-year-old had a total of two dozen underage brides.

    Jessop is the only person charged with facilitating those unions. He faces a felony count of performing an illegal wedding ceremony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison. His trial started Monday, when a jury of eight women and four men was seated along with two alternates. Tuesday was dedicated primarily to law enforcement testimony establishing how the evidence was found and how it was handled, according to the Standard-Times.

    Jessop’s San Angelo, Texas-based defense attorney Rae Leifeste raised hearsay objections on how the Rangers learned that those at the YFZ Ranch are members of the FLDS, and whether evidence is admissible based on their testimonies, the newspaper reported.

    He also questioned whether the type of marriage ceremony Jessop performed — a so-called spiritual or celestial union — can be considered a marriage ceremony under Texas law.

    "We have to follow Texas law, not some church law," Leifeste said, according to the Standard-Times.

    Jessop was a senior church leader in charge of running the daily operations at the YFZ Ranch until Jeffs excommunicated him from the faith in January.

    Concerns over the difficulty of choosing an unbiased jury in sparsely populated Schleicher County, where the ranch is located, prompted the judge to move Jessop’s trial about 70 miles north to Coke County.

    Among the possible witnesses in the trial is one of Jessop’s wives, Carolyn, who fled the FLDS community on the Arizona-Utah line with her children in 2003 and wrote a best-selling book, "Escape." A Texas judge ordered Jessop to pay his former wife $148,000 for seven years of back child support last year.

    Jessop was the leader at the ranch when authorities executed the 2008 raid, responding to a call to a domestic violence hotline from a person claiming to be an abused underage wife. Before the call was found to be a hoax, more than 400 children were temporarily removed from the ranch and placed in state protective custody.


  4. Tension flares in Jessop’s trial

    By Matthew Waller, San Angelo Standard Times
    November 2, 2011

    ROBERT LEE — Attorneys battled with definitions of statutes governing marriage and the expertise of witnesses Wednesday, the third day of the trial of Fredrick Merril Jessop. Jessop, 75 and a former bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is accused of performing a ceremony prohibited by law, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

    The state alleges he married a 12-year-old girl to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, the same girl Jeffs was convicted of sexually assaulting in August. Jeffs received a sentence of life plus 20 years in prison for that assault and the assault of a 15-year-old girl. Polygamy is central to the beliefs of the sect, and its men take multiple wives who are “sealed” to them through “celestial marriages.” Jessop is accused of performing such a ceremony.

    The trial is being held in the Coke County Courthouse in Robert Lee under 51st District Judge Barbara Walther. Rae Leifeste, Jessop’s San Angelo attorney, argued Wednesday that Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS member called by the prosecution as an FLDS expert to authenticate church records, didn’t have the necessary credentials. “Ms. Musser said she watched (records made) a few times and now she claims to be an expert,” Leifeste said.

    Musser was once a wife of former FLDS leader and “prophet” Rulon Jeffs, the father of Warren Jeffs. She left the sect in 2002 when Warren Jeffs tried to marry her to others after Rulon Jeffs’ death, she testified. Musser, who has testified in previous trials of FLDS men, came in wearing a red suit, which she has said she wears as a statement of defiance because Warren Jeffs once banned the color.

    “Who better to have specialized knowledge?” lead prosecutor Angela Goodwin said in Musser’s defense. Musser said she had been trained to believe that record-keeping was sacred, that what is “recorded on earth is recorded in heaven” and vital to salvation. Musser, the final witness of the day, will continue her testimony at 9 a.m. today. Walther said she expects the trial to continue into next week, and that jurors will get the day off Friday.

    University of Texas at Austin School of Law professor John Sampson, a family law expert, also testified Wednesday, despite Leifeste’s objections that Sampson shouldn’t be instructing the jury on matters of law. He said that should be left to the judge. “If he is not going to talk about the meaning of this law, I don’t know what he is going to talk about,” Leifeste said.

    Leifeste also argued about matters concerning the need for a marriage license for marriage ceremonies, and he and state attorneys argued about differences between “a marriage ceremony” and “ceremonial marriage.” Leifeste also didn’t want Sampson to be permitted to speak about facts of the case relating to law, saying that Sampson would essentially be giving the opinion that Jessop is guilty. Walther overruled those objections and told Sampson he needed to avoid the “magic word” guilty.

    The jury was excused three times while attorneys debated about Sampson’s testimony. In one case, Sampson began to testify about “informal marriage” and Leifeste accused the state of starting to make the case about bigamy. “We’ve not been trying to backdoor bigamy,” said Matthew Ottoway with the Office of the Attorney General. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  5. Jury finds Jessop guilty. Sentencing scheduled for this afternoon

    By Matthew Waller, San Angelo Standard Times
    November 7, 2011

    ROBERT LEE --- A jury took one hour and 20 minutes today to find Fredrick Merril Jessop guilty of performing a ceremony prohibited by law, marrying a 12-year-old girl to sect leader Warren Jeffs.

    The punishment phase of the trial will take place this afternoon.

    Jessop, 75 and a former bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with performing a ceremony prohibited by law, marrying a 12-year-old girl to sect leader Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is serving a life plus 20 year sentence for sexually assaulting that girl and a 15-year-old girl.

    "You might be terribly disgusted with Warren Jeffs, but this is different," Jessop's San Angelo attorney Rae Leifeste said in closing arguments. "This is a technical issue with Texas law."

    Leifeste argued that since there was no marriage license procured for the ceremony, the FLDS "sealing" that the Jessop performed doesn't count as the kind of marriage ceremony that can be prosecuted.

    For his defense, Leifeste called a justice of the peace and a county clerk to affirm that marriage licenses are necessary for a marriage ceremony and that no marriage license had been attained for Jessop's ceremony.

    "Texas law is as clear as a bell on this," lead prosecutor Angela Goodwin countered in her closing arguments, saying also that there was no mention of the necessity of a marriage license in the charge that the jury was to consider. "He is trying to confuse the issue on what a marriage ceremony is.

    The jury left for deliberations at 11 a.m.

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


  6. JESSOP GIVEN MAXIMUM: 10 years in prison, $10,000 fine

    By Matthew Waller, San Angelo Standard Times
    November 8, 2011

    SAN ANGELO, Texas — ROBERT LEE — After only an hour of deliberation, a Coke County jury sentenced Fredrick Merril Jessop to the maximum penalty for the third degree felony offense of conducting an illegal ceremony: 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    Arguments and testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial ended just after 3 p.m.

    Having 22 wives, marrying 11 daughters and two granddaughters to a man now in prison for sexual assault, and participating in 16 underage marriages — those were the numbers leveled against Jessop, the former polygamist sect bishop who has been found guilty of performing an illegal ceremony by conducting marriage between a 12-year-old girl and 50-year-old sect leader Warren Jeffs.

    The maximum penalty for the third-degree felony is 10 years in prison.

    Through testimony Tuesday morning in the penalty phase of the trial, the prosecution has been putting on marriage records in alleging that Jessop, 75, participated in marriage ceremonies involving 16 underage girls and had more than 20 wives himself.

    "With each wife is it an addition to an existing wife?" lead prosecutor Angela Goodwin asked Attorney General Sgt. Investigator Wesley Hensley.

    "Yes," Hensley said, to clarify that these marriages were not divorces and remarriages.

    Several marriages were those involving women who had been married to Jeffs' father before he died. And several marriage ceremonies involving both Jeffs and Jessop occurred when Jeffs was a fugitive on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, Hensley said.

    Jeffs is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl and the 12-year-old Jessop married to him.

    The documents came from a raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch of Jessop's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a raid conducted after allegations of sexual abuse at the ranch.

    The FLDS sanctions polygamy through "sealings."

    The jury saw the aftermath of one sealing where then 50-year-old Warren Jeffs was seen deeply kissing the 12-year-old girl in the case as he held her up in his arms. The marriage happened July 27, 2006, documents in the case state.

    The jury found Jessop guilty on Monday after deliberating than an hour and a half y.

    Jessop's conviction of performing a ceremony prohibited by law is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.


  7. Utah drops case against Warren Jeffs

    By PAUL FOY, Independent Online November 10 2011

    Prosecutors in Utah dropped charges on Wednesday against a polygamist sect leader serving a life sentence in Texas in a separate case.

    Warren Jeffs had been found guilty of rape by accomplice - a 2007 conviction that was overturned last year by the Utah Supreme Court, which cited improper jury instructions by the trial judge.

    “As a result of the conviction in Texas, we decided not to bring him back to Utah for a re-trial,” said Brian Filter, senior deputy attorney.

    Jeffs, 55, is the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was sentenced to life in prison in August on charges of sexually assaulting two of his underage brides.

    The Utah case charged Jeffs with arranging an under-aged marriage involving Elissa Wall, who wrote a book about her experience. Jeffs had been accused of presiding over the marriage, and the two felony charges of rape by accomplice involving Jeffs were the result of sexual encounters with a husband she said she didn't want to marry.

    Allen Steed pleaded guilty in February to solemnisation of a prohibited marriage - Wall was 14 at the time - and is serving 36 months' probation, Filter said. Jeffs faces no other charges in Utah.

    The decision to drop the case was made with the consent of the victim and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

    The Utah Supreme Court provided no guidance that would make another trial possible, Shurtleff spokesman Paul Murphy said. But given that Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas, there was little to gain by pursuing the Utah case, Murphy said.

    Earlier this week in Texas, another high-ranking member of the church was convicted of presiding over Jeff's marriage to a 12-year-old girl.

    Fredrick Merril Jessop, 75, received the maximum sentence from a West Texas jury. He was found guilty Monday of performing an illegal wedding ceremony.

    That case grew out of a raid at the sect's Yearning for Zion ranch in 2008. Authorities gathered a trove of evidence they used to bring charges against Jessop, Jeffs and 10 other followers.

    Jeffs was sentenced to life imprisonment in August after prosecutors used DNA evidence to show he fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl prosecutors say he took as one of his spiritual wives.

    In September, Jeffs filed a handwritten motion seeking a new trial. He alleged that his religious freedoms were violated by the courts - an argument he also tried to make while defending himself during his trial.

    Jeffs is scheduled to go on trial on bigamy charges in February in San Angelo.

    He was initially assigned to a state prison southeast of Dallas to serve his life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls. On August. 28, about three weeks after his conviction, he told corrections officers he had been fasting since the end of his trial and was ill. He then was taken to the Tyler hospital before his transfer to the prison hospital.

    That hospital shares quarters with the University of Texas Medical Branch, the Texas prison system's chief medical provider.

    This was not the first time Jeffs has required hospitalisation in the years since he first was locked up.

    He tried to hang himself in January 2007 while awaiting trial on rape charges in Utah, according to court documents. He also threw himself against the walls of his cell and banged his head, although he later told a mental health expert he really wasn't trying to kill himself. Around the same time, he was hospitalised for dehydration and depression.

    In 2009, he was temporarily force-fed while in an Arizona jail.

    Former church members have said Jeffs likely would continue to lead his Utah-based church from inside prison and that his followers likely still revere him as a prophet despite the considerable evidence at his trial showing he sexually assaulted young girls. - Sapa-AP


  8. Warren Jeffs predicts death and destruction to the U.S. from prison

    By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News November 14, 2011

    SALT LAKE CITY — Apparent prophecies from imprisoned FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs warning of the destruction of America were delivered to the Utah Attorney General's Office on Monday.

    In one of the five separate "revelations," Jeffs writes that Jesus Christ will make his coming known with a "great tsunami of the sea" on the East Coast; earthquakes and volcanoes in "populated places" in Utah and Arizona; a tidal wave in Seattle; and melting in Idaho "to cleanse my land of all evil."

    "But surprisingly nothing going on in Texas," quipped Paul Murphy, Utah Attorney General's Office spokesman.

    Jeffs, 55, was sentenced to life in prison in Texas earlier this year after being convicted of sexually assaulting two girls he wed as spiritual brides when they were 12 and 14 years old.

    In addition to the two- and three-page revelations, the attorney general received a more than 200-page "proclamation" that contains writings about his Jeffs' father, Rulon Jeffs, past FLDS leaders and and Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, Murphy said. The packet also includes an order form for new and old Jeffs' revelations that can be bought over the Internet for $1 to $8.

    The revelations seem to have to do with the fact that Jeffs is in prison for plural marriage, Murphy said.

    In a revelation dated Sept. 25, 2011, in Tennessee Colony, Texas, for "Leaders and Peoples of the United States of America," Jeffs writes plural marriage has come under attack as if it were corrupt.

    "It is not so," he writes.

    "Thus, you have imprisoned men who are holy and pure, of pure religious motive, not desiring harm to anyone; and your prosecuting zeal is a crime against my Priesthood, Church and Kingdom that shall be answered upon thy people and governing powers if you heed me not."

    Each revelation includes dates for when Jeffs received it (two in October and August, one in September) and a city where it was received (two in Palestine and Huntsville, Texas, one in Tennessee Colony, Texas). Jeffs has been incarcerated in those areas since he was sentenced in August.

    The documents contain the signatures of Vaughan L. Taylor, who lists himself as patriarch of the Utah-based Fundamentalist LDS Church, and John M. Barlow, counselor in the FLDS bishopric.

    Murphy said the revelations appear consistent with those Jeffs has issued in the past.

    Jeffs predicted calamities in Utah following the 2002 Winter Games along with the end of the world.

    "And when they don't happen, he comes up with reasons for why they don't happen," Murphy said.

    Murphy said he didn't see anything in the new prophecies the attorney general would consider a direct threat, noting they were being sent to "all nations."

    "I'm assuming we're not the only ones receiving these revelations," he said.

    Jeffs also prophecies that in one or two years of his warning, "heavenly bodies of a larger size" will strike the earth and disturb the atmosphere, resulting in people being burned.

    The revelations are not confined to the U.S. He predicts an uprising in Turkey and instability in Europe. He says NATO has lost credibility and is an "aggressive alliance."


  9. Quakes, volcanoes, 'melting': Jeffs offers new revelations from God

    Lindsay Whitehurst, The Salt Lake Tribune
    November 14, 2011

    Imprisoned polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs is seeing apocalyptic things again.

    A Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints elder sent a packet of four new revelations and a 248-page proclamation to the Utah Attorney General's Office Monday, said spokesman Paul Murphy via Twitter.

    Murphy sent me a copy of the revelations, which total 16 pages. (Read them here) The earliest is dated Aug. 18, just over a week after a Texas jury sentenced Jeffs to life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, who he took as plural wives.

    The revelation calls out the "rulers of this land" for "putting innocence in prison now" and implied that prosecution against Jeffs was all a lie. It also says Libya was at that point under attack unfairly and that other countries would "unite other nations to fight NATO nations," and that the US economy would "wither."

    A second revelation dated the next day, also from Hunstville, Texas, threatens a "sickness onto the land."

    There's a break for about a month - during that time Jeffs was in a prison hospital with an unspecified ailment suffered during fasting - until a revelation dated Sept. 25 from Tennessee Colony, Texas, where he was sent immediately after his release from the hospital. It takes credit for storms and flooding, apparently as payback for "prosecut[ing] my Church and my Kingdom" and, more directly commands: " Heed my word: Let my servant go."

    The most recent revelation in the packet is dated Oct. 28. It's the most specific, predicting tsunamis for the east coast and for Seattle, earthquakes and volcanoes in Utah and Arizona, and that Idaho "shall be as a melting fire of such powers."
    If that seems like a lot of places, don't worry. We've got a google map of all the areas slated for God's wrath.
    Why is the punishment coming? Besides Jeffs' imprisionment, it's for "sins of immorality," in particular the "murder of unborn children." (Jeffs is very concerned about abortion. He mentions it a couple of times in these revelations and on other occasions in priesthood records).

    This isn't the first time that Jeffs has sent such a bundle of bad tidings. Back in March, his followers mailed out an 18-page proclamation predicting ruin for President Obama's one-time home state of Illinois if he wasn't freed from jail. It was reportedly sent to quite a number of people, including leaders from Utah to Washington.

    During his July sexual assault of a child trial in Texas, Jeffs claimed to have gotten a couple revelations from God promising "sickness and death" to those prosecuting him. Neither succeeded in stalling his trial, as Jeffs claimed the Lord wanted.

    The revelation is signed by FLDS Patriarch Vaughn Taylor and Counselor in the Bishopric John Barlow. Taylor also signed the March proclamation.

    You can buy copies of some revelations, by the way, at flds.org. It looks like these new ones are available for order, according to a note at the bottom of the packet.


  10. Purge of Nonbelievers Under Way in FLDS Communities
    By John Hollenhorst, KCSG TV  December 5, 2011
    Utah - A new crackdown on followers of Warren Jeffs by his own lieutenants and a ban on everyday items such as children's toys have triggered turmoil in the FLDS community.

    Former members of the group say a large-scale purge is under way in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz. Many followers of the imprisoned polygamist leader are being forced out, and many others are said to be leaving voluntarily because they're disturbed by what's going on.

    "A lot of people are scared. A lot of people are just getting tired," said former FLDS member Isaac Wyler. Among the new edicts, according to Wyler, is a ban children's toys. "Also, they have been told to get rid of their bicycles and trampolines," he said.

    Observers say it's part of a program to cleanse and purify FLDS members before a Dec. 31 deadline. FLDS faithful reportedly have to profess their loyalty to Jeffs and to show they're obeying his moral edicts. If they don't do so by the end of the year, they're out. Attempts to reach FLDS leaders for a statement were unsuccessful.

    Jeffs, who was sentenced in November to seven years in prison for bigamy and child sex assault, reportedly is still pulling the strings from his cell in Texas. Former members say his edicts are passed on through phone calls to FLDS leaders. His brother, Lyle Jeffs, appears to be the most powerful FLDS leader outside of prison.

    Tensions are on the rise, according to private investigator Sam Brower, who has tracked the group's activities for years. "I think Warren's getting them wound up pretty tight," Brower said. "I worry now more than I ever have before." ...

    Former member Carlos Holm, who has numerous relatives in the group, said many FLDS members are quitting or expecting to be forced out by Dec. 31. Holm said FLDS leaders are cracking down on entertainment and outside sources of information, enforcing bans on DVDs, news media content and the like.

    "They've completely banned the Internet from Colorado City," Holm said. "They don't talk to anybody on the outside unless it's for business reasons." FLDS members have been ordered to make a list of their personal possessions, he said.

    "And they're supposed to write down everything they had," Holm said, "every last item in their house, from a dish cloth to every butter knife — everything they owned. And if they owned any movies, they were supposed to write that too. But they'd obviously lie about it so they wouldn't be kicked out."

    FLDS families reportedly have been told to turn over $5,000 to the church, Brower said, and all members have been told they must be re-baptized by the end of the year. Wyler said members also are required to profess their loyalty to Warren Jeffs in personal interrogations by Dec. 31.

    "They're going to ask them if they believe that Warren Jeffs is the prophet of God and will they obey him 100 percent and things like that," Wyler said. Interrogations have been so intense, focusing on intimate sexual matters, that many are quitting before they're kicked out, he said.

    "They're just leaving," Wyler said. "They're just saying the questions they ask are way too personal, and they feel violated when they're done." He predicts that hundreds will have quit or been kicked out by the end of the year. Typically, departing members leave behind fractured families because church leaders reassign their wives and children to faithful FLDS members. ... "There will be violence," he said, "because … their whole entire life has been completely destroyed by Warren Jeffs." ....

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  11. Imprisoned Cult Leader Warren Jeffs Predicts End Times

    by Ryan Lenz, Southern Poverty Law Center December 9, 2011

    Now that he has a whole lot of time on his hands, self-described prophet Warren Jeffs [1] is claiming to be the “mouthpiece” of an angry God. And judging from the sound of things, there’s going to hell to pay for daring to lock up the racist cult leader for raping a 12-year-old “celestial” child bride and other crimes.

    In a series of eight biblically themed “revelations,” written between Aug. 18 and Nov. 12, Jeffs predicts widespread catastrophe and divine vengeance for a nation “fully ripening in iniquity.” Earthquakes will rock Arizona, tidal waves will smack Seattle, “melting fire” will roll across Idaho, and devastating storms will wreak havoc everywhere else, the convicted sex criminal predicts.

    “I have named many places that shall be cleansed entire, and as you witness this, a memory of my word shall hearken in your souls that thy God reigneth,” Jeffs wrote in one overweening prediction on Sept. 25 from Tennessee Colony, Texas, where he was being held at the time.

    And why would all of this damnation suddenly befall the world––especially considering Jeffs is a little late to the party predicting an end of times? From Jeff’s perspective, it’s because of the legal system locked up the Lord’s “mouthpiece.”

    “My warning voice has sounded,” Jeffs wrote, speaking in the alleged voice of God and referring to himself in the third person. “My servant is in bondage.”

    Jeffs, the leader of a sizeable Mormon breakaway sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [2](FLDS), initially became a fugitive [3] in 2005, after he was charged with conspiracy to commit rape for arranging a marriage between an unwilling 14-year-old girl and her 17-year-old cousin, and then pressuring the girl to have sex with the young man. Jeffs was finally arrested more than a year later, and ultimately convicted of two rape conspiracy charges, drawing two terms of five years to life in prison.

    Earlier this year, in a separate trial, he also was convicted of raping his own 12-year-old “spiritual bride,” as well as sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Evidence of those attacks turned up in 2008, when Texas authorities raided an FLDS compound [4] in the town of El Dorado, and included a document, part of the evidence put before the jury, in which the supposed prophet of God wrote, “If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree.” He was sentenced to two life terms in that case.

    Despite the evidence against him, Jeffs vigorously denied the charges throughout the 2011 trial––even after prosecutors played horrifying tapes of him sexually assaulting the 12-year-old and produced DNA evidence proving he had fathered a child with the 15-year-old.

    Of course, Jeffs makes no mention of that in his recent prophecies, which were signed by church representatives Vaughan E. Taylor, the current FLDS patriarch, and John M. Barlow, the so-called “counselor in the Bishopric.” Instead, he limits himself to using his 8-by-10 soapbox to chastise a nation for turning away from “plural marriage,” a Mormon concept officially abandoned more than 100 years ago. ...

    The prophecies were given to the Utah Attorney General’s office earlier this week. A spokesman for the attorney general, Pat Murphy, said last month that the prophecies appear to be consistent with what Jeffs has said in the past. In 2002, for example, Jeffs predicted that a tragedy would follow the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. “When they don’t happen, he comes up with the reasons for why,” Murphy told KCSG-TV [6] in St. George, Utah. ...

    read the full article at:


  12. Followers of polygamist Warren Jeffs give up bikes, trampolines

    Los Angeles Times December 23, 2011

    Though polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two girls, he continues issuing directives to his followers. The new rules are considered particularly strict – even by sect members who’ve acquiesced to giving up reading the news and wearing the color red.

    Jeffs recently instructed members to hand over all personal possessions to leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who will then determine whether followers are worthy of getting them back, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Girls younger than 18 must give up their jobs and cellphones, and all children must surrender their toys, which explains the for-sale bikes and trampolines lining roads in the church's hamlets of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

    Followers are facing a Dec. 31 deadline to prove their devotion to the faith –- and pay $5,000 –- or face excommunication, the Tribune said. Nonprofit groups that work with former church members fear that a large number of people may be kicked out of the sect. That could create a flood of newly homeless followers as desperate as the "Lost Boys,” the hundreds of teenagers that Jeffs expelled to reduce competition for the sect’s women.

    Since Jeffs was sentenced in August for sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he said were his spiritual wives, he has also shared a dozen revelations with his followers, the Tribune said. He predicts that earthquakes and fires will terrorize humanity if he and nine other church men remain incarcerated.


  13. Marriages dissolved, sexual relationships banned among FLDS faithful

    By John Hollenhorst, KSL.com December 30th, 2011

    HILDALE — As the year comes to an end and the followers of Warren Jeffs await the apocalypse he has predicted, they're living under a challenging edict: they're forbidden to have sex until Jeffs is sprung from a Texas prison.

    "He has predicted that the walls in the prison where he's at will fall and crumble," said Joni Holm, who has many relatives in the polygamous FLDS faith.

    According to Holm, Fundamentalist LDS Church members also face their faith's most severe punishment, excommunication, if they conceive a child. It's one of the strangest edicts in a season full of them. Jeffs has issued a stream of revelations, prophecies and orders to his congregation in the border community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

    The recent edicts from Jeffs' prison cell seem to be having two contradictory effects: Many are leaving the FLDS faith in disgust, and those who stay are reported to be increasingly devoted to a man who is serving a lifetime sentence for raping underage girls.

    According to numerous critics and outside observers, the imprisoned FLDS leader has sometimes acted through his brother Lyle and other times has spoken directly to his congregation over the phone from prison. He recently banned many of the things his followers enjoy: bicycles, ATVs, trampolines, even children's toys. But the sex edict reaches into the bedrooms of all his devoted followers. According to Holm, Jeffs declared all existing marriages to be void.

    "Right now they have all been told that they are not to live as husband and wife," Holm said. "They can live in the same house, but they are not to have sexual relationships until Warren comes out and 're-seals' them."

    The sex ban was the last straw for Holm's brother-in-law. She said he left the FLDS fold three weeks ago after spending 39 years — his entire life — in the FLDS community. Social service organizations are reporting a surge of people departing the FLDS group, although exact numbers are unavailable. Holm thinks about 100 members have left in recent weeks from the community of 10,000.

    "They're leaving," Holm said. "Groups of them are coming out. We're getting families that are coming out now. It's only going to get worse."

    She has helped such "refugees" for years, offering a place for them to live temporarily as they try to establish lives outside the FLDS community. Mike Leetham, coordinator of Utah's Safety Net organization, said there is currently a shortage of "host homes" for people trying to leave the group.

    Holm said her brother-in-law confirmed reports that faithful members are meeting almost daily and being re-baptized. But they won't be considered married until Jeffs gets out of prison to personally "re-seal" them.

    "Until then, they are not have any sexual relationships," Holm said. "It is now considered adultery."

    If FLDS members have sex on the sly, any resulting children will be considered "sons of perdition," according to Holm's brother-in-law, and the parents will be instantly excommunicated. The sex ban will be lifted only if Jeffs' latest prophecy comes true: an apocalypse that will bring down the prison walls and broil the human race.

    "They believe that they'll still roam on the Earth," Holm said, "but the rest of us will be burned."

    In recent weeks, FLDS members have reportedly faced intense, personal interviews with Lyle Jeffs to prove their loyalty and have been ordered to pay large financial assessments. Some members have been excommunicated. The process seems to be aimed at winnowing the FLDS down to Jeffs' most faithful followers. Texas officials are investigating whether Jeffs violated his prison phone privileges by calling his congregation.


  14. As many as 1,000 may be exiled from the FLDS Church

    by Ben Winslow fox13now.com January 2, 2012

    HILDALE, Utah -- As many as a thousand people may have been exiled by the Fundamentalist LDS Church under an edict by imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

    From his prison cell in Texas, Jeffs reportedly set a New Year's deadline for his faithful followers to be re-baptized into the faith or face excommunication. Over the weekend, hundreds of vehicles were seen parked at a meeting hall as well as schools in the community. Ex-members of the church and observers said it appeared it was where they learned if they remained in the church or were exiled.
    "What's happened is Warren Jeffs has divided the community into at least two different groups, probably three," said private investigator Sam Brower, who works for attorneys suing the FLDS Church. He photographed hundreds of people going into the meetings.

    The majority remained in the FLDS Church, ex-member Isaac Wyler told FOX 13. Another group, believed to be comprised of nearly 1,000 individuals were told they must atone by "yearning for Zion," but were not allowed to attend church services.

    "They were told to repent," Wyler said, adding that they could still tithe to the church.

    Others were excommunicated from the church entirely. Brower said that in some cases, entire families were split apart.

    "I talked to one guy that was kicked out," he said. "The church officials showed up at his door at three o'clock in the morning, removed his wife and ten children. To say it was heartbreaking was an understatement."

    Ex-members who left the FLDS Church have expressed concern for family members who remain devoted to Jeffs.


    Many who choose to leave the FLDS Church often leave without anything. The FLDS Church lives under the concept of a "united order," where property is commonly owned and members' needs are distributed by the church. The land in Hildale and neighboring Colorado City, Ariz., is in a communally owned trust that was taken over by the Utah courts in 2005 amid allegations that Jeffs and other FLDS leaders mismanaged it.

    The United Effort Plan Trust is under court control, managed by an accountant appointed by a judge to oversee it. The court-appointed special fiduciary told FOX 13 on Monday that he was concerned that FLDS leaders might try to force exiled members from their homes.

    "We'd like to see families stay together. We'd like to see people living there in the houses. They do not have to leave," Bruce Wisan said. "I'd like to get the word out that if the church says you have to leave the community, you don't. The church does not control the real estate."

    Non-profit groups that work with those in the polygamous communities said they had seen an increase in calls from people seeking assistance. Tonia Tewell of the group Holding Out Help said she was trying to line up housing for a predicted exodus of people. She was also collecting donations to bring to people who chose to stay in Hildale and Colorado City, but may not have access to services without the church.

    More information on that can be found at the websites holdingouthelp.org and at the Family Support Center, which administers the Safety Net program at http://www.familysupportcenter.org/safetyNet.php

    read the full article at:


  15. AG intends to look into allegation of FLDS girls being secretly held

    By John Hollenhorst, ksl.com Utah January 4, 2012

    HILLDALE -- Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says he intends to look into allegations that girls are secretly being held, possibly for sexual purposes, by followers of imprisoned polygamist Warren Jeffs.

    This latest allegation comes in the context of rising tension in Jeffs' church. The prison walls did not crumble at New Years as he supposedly prophesied. Now, there is even more turmoil among his followers.

    Printed documents attributed to Jeffs are piling up at the Attorney General's office. The purported revelations generally predict doom and destruction and they've been mailed by FLDS officials regularly in recent weeks to government offices, churches and even schools around the country.

    "We read it just to see if there's any specific threat from him or from his people or any kind of order to do anything that might be a public safety concern," Shurtleff said.


    Shurtleff said he has heard allegations that underage FLDS girls are being held, without their parents, in secret places around the country.

    "They're called "houses of hiding." The worry is that there are still children being trafficked in potential sexual crimes or being held for the prophet for that purpose," Shurtleff said. "We don't know exactly. But that is a concern and that is something I intend to look into."

    Texas officials have temporarily suspended Jeffs' prison phone privileges because he apparently broke the rules by speaking to his congregation on the phone Christmas Day.

    Branded as a traitor

    Dan Fischer left the FLDS fold for good 17 years ago, became a dentist and founded a company called Ultradent. For years, he's been using his wealth to help others escape the polygamist community. If that's disloyalty, he's not ashamed of it.

    Warren Jeffs' purported revelations in prison, mailed out by leaders of the FLDS community, predict doom and destruction. So far, the documents have made no actual threats, according to Shurtleff.

    But the latest so-called revelation singles out Dr. Dan Fischer as a liar and traitor.

    "I would consider it an honor to be outside his camp and not inside his camp," Fischer said.

    Since leaving the FLDS faith, Fischer has never hidden his feelings about Warren Jeffs, calling what he's done to the community "an atrocity." He organized The Diversity Foundation to help others escape and rebuild their lives outside Warren Jeffs' control. He said recent FLDS turmoil has caused more departures.

    "Particularly the young people," Fischer said. "Many of them are getting discouraged, dismayed, and they're simply leaving."

    He says Jeffs, from prison, has ramped up an old tactic, dividing his community into two camps. The most righteous are exalted. The less righteous, the so-called Evil Ward, are being stripped of privileges and sometimes wives and children.

    "They're not actually kicked out. They're actually on probation if you will," Fischer said.

    He compares Jeffs to Hitler in using fear to control people.

    "For those that are devout, they're getting more solid," he said. "The more he scares them, the more the frenzy goes up, the more the mysticism goes up, the more panicky it gets, the more certainly committed they become that they must do whatever Warren Jeffs says. I think there's a significant number, however, who are beginning to say 'enough's enough. This is craziness.'"

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  16. Imprisoned Jeffs Imposes Change on Polygamous Sect

    By JENNIFER DOBNER Associated Press January 15, 2012

    Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs may be serving a life-plus-20-year sentence in a Texas prison, but his grip on most of his 10,000 followers doesn't appear to be lessening and some former insiders say he's imposing even more rigid requirements that are roiling the church and splitting its members.

    The edicts from Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, form the basis for what he's called the "Holy United Order." An estimated 1,500 men, women and children church members failed to meet the stringent standards by a Jan. 1 deadline, said Willie Jessop, a former FLDS spokesman who no longer reveres Jeffs.

    Whether those members were excommunicated outright or have been put on probationary status until they can prove they meet the standards remains unclear, Jessop and others said. Some marriages have been dissolved and families split up as Jeffs works from his prison cell to reshape his church.

    Since about mid-November, Jeffs' brother, Lyle Jeffs, has been conducting personal interviews with members to determine their worthiness under the new order, the former church members say.

    "There are eight questions, but before they get there, they ask, 'Do you accept Warren Jeffs as God's mouthpiece and your prophet,' and if you believe he can rule in all the affairs of your life," said Jessop.

    A copy of the question list was provided to The Associated Press. The inquiries range from the purity of an individual's thoughts and whether they are saying daily prayers to whether they have carnal desires or "dwell in the wickedness of evil dross of this generation."

    "He regulates sex and money on behalf of God," said Jessop. "It's pretty real and it's damn serious."

    Jeffs is in a Houston prison and could not be reached for comment. Request for comment left for Lyle Jeffs, who runs the daily operations of the church, was not returned on Friday. Vaughan Taylor, a church patriarch, declined comment.

    But not all FLDS are submissively accepting the "correction" as church disciplinary actions are called.

    Some spouses are refusing church-directed breakups and choosing to leave the faith on their own. Some are leaving the community along the Utah-Arizona state line, while many have chosen to remain in their homes.

    "What makes this important is that there has never been a time when people in the community have taken this sort of stand against Warren," said Jessop, who left the church a year ago, but still considers himself FLDS. "I think the church is going through a social crisis that is extremely painful, but in the long term, it's healthy."

    From his daily conversation with other FLDS, Jessop said he senses a growing confusion among members about the validity of the church's leadership.

    "Warren has created a wholesale distrust of the church," he said. "Everyone is second-guessing their religion."

    Jeffs, 56, rose to power in 2002 following the death of his father who had led the church for nearly 20 years. The church practices polygamy, a legacy of early Mormon church teachings that held plural marriage brought exaltation in heaven.

    The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah's statehood, however, and excommunicates members who engage in the practice. An estimated 40,000 self-described Mormon fundamentalists have continued to practice plural marriage across the West. The FLDS are the largest of any organized fundamentalist group.

    Faithful FLDS members revere Jeffs as a prophet, despite his conviction in August in Texas of sexually assaulting two underage sect girls whom he took as plural wives.

    continued in next comment:


  17. continued from previous comment:

    From prison Jeffs shepherds his flock through messages passed to visitors, letters and phone calls, including two on Christmas Day that were played over speakerphones to followers gathered at a meeting house in Hildale, Utah. That violation of prison rules earned Jeffs a 90-day suspension of his phone privileges.

    Jessop said Jeffs' "United Order" requirements were once loosely used as conditions for living at the faith's Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas.

    But about a year ago, Jeffs said the rules would be globally imposed on church members living in the twin towns along the Utah-Arizona border, Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., and in church enclaves in South Dakota and British Columbia, said Jessop.

    As the end of 2011 approached, the pressure to meet the standards increased, former church members still living in Hildale and Colorado City say.

    "We started to hear about (church leaders) kicking people out," said Isaac Wyler, who was excommunicated in 2004. "We heard that at the end of the year (members) were going to be destroyed if they weren't chosen."

    Among the newly reinforced rules: No Internet access, no recreation equipment or toys and no sexual relations between spouses without Jeffs' permission, which mean no children being born in the community.

    Members are also expected to give 100 percent of their earnings to the church, meeting only their basic needs through goods obtained from a church cooperative known as the Bishop's Storehouse.

    Former FLDS member Richard Holm, who was excommunicated by Warren Jeffs, believes the recent crackdown on members shows a level of desperation among the church's senior most leaders that's not been previously seen by the FLDS community.

    "I think there's an evolution taking place that is a major change," said Holm, whose brother remained a senior church leader until he, too, was ejected about six weeks ago. "I'm really glad to see people one by one break free of it."

    But the evolution will come slowly for some, Jessop predicts.

    Obedience and a mistrust of the outside world run deep in FLDS culture. Church members trust each other and their prophet above all others and many don't believe news reports — if they have seen them at all — about Warren Jeffs' sexual misdeeds with underage girls are true.

    In addition, Jessop said, Jeffs' previous criminal conviction in Utah was overturned — seemingly proving the church leader's predictions that prayer and obedience would set him free. Then and now, he's told members he remains imprisoned because they are not keeping church covenants and living worthy lives.

    Most FLDS have also had few personal interactions with Jeffs, whom Jessop said worked overtime to keep the flock from knowing all that he did.

    "What he teaches is so opposite of what he did," said Jessop. "You never got to see the man behind the curtain and there were so many curtains and so much secrecy."


  18. Event raises money for people fleeing from FLDS Church

    By Jennifer Stagg KSL TV Utah January 27, 2012

    PARK CITY — Sundance is full of movie premiers and celebrity sightings. But there was a different kind of exclusive event Friday night, one aimed at raising money for former members of the FLDS Church.

    There were roughly 100 people in attendance, including former FLDS member Elissa Wall. She fled the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints six years ago.

    "I have moments where it feels like a lifetime ago — a completely different lifetime — and then there's moments where it feels like yesterday," Wall said.

    She stood up to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, which ultimately contributed to his arrest and imprisonment. Before that, she says she was a lot like 18-year-old Natalie Knudson.

    "My dad has two wives and 19 kids," Knudson said.

    Her polygamist father agreed to letting her leave Colorado City, but not before he forced her to get married at age 17. She is now divorced and starting over.

    Knudson is enrolled in college, working on her nursing degree, and she's finding support in the nonprofit group Holding Out Help.

    "It's a lot different. There's a lot more freedom — and my dad was really strict so I couldn't do anything without being watched by him or one of the moms," she said.

    "There's a lot of pitfalls that can be bypassed by having that support system, by having people that have already come out and made the way for them," Wall said. "(It) makes it a lot easier for them to have continual progress, instead of falling backwards."

    Both women are now involved in Holding Out Help. The organization's mission is to provide support, assistance and guidance to anyone wanting to leave a polygamist community.

    Friday night, a mansion in Park City hosted a fundraising event for Holding Out Help. In attendance: Jon Krakauer, author of "Under the Banner of Heaven", a book about the FLDS Church.

    "I think this organization, Holding Out Help, is doing amazing stuff," Krakauer said. "The need is great; it's getting greater not smaller. The FLDS Church is not going away even though their leader is now in jail for life. He still controls the church.

    Sam Brower, a private investigator who carefully watches the ins and outs of the FLDS, says a group like Holding out Help can make all the difference.

    "It's a whole strange, foreign world for them as they leave," Brower said. "I've compared it sometimes to taking someone from Somalia, or tribal areas of Pakistan, and dropping them off in L.A. and saying, ‘survive.'"


  19. Arizona bill targets police in polygamous enclave

    BY PAUL DAVENPORT The Associated Press Salt Lake Tribune February 08 2012

    Phoenix » A bill advancing in the Arizona Legislature would abolish the police department in Colorado City, a northern Arizona community where state Attorney General Tom Horne says officers who are followers of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs flout the law.

    The bill would set up a process for a local police agency to be abolished if at least half of its officers have lost their law enforcement certifications, and Horne said there already have been enough de-certifications of Colorado City officers to pull that trigger.

    The Senate Government Reform Committee’s approval of the bill on Wednesday positions it for consideration by the full Senate following a legal review by the Rules Committee. Senate passage would send it to the House.

    Chief Marshal Jonathan Roundy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bill.

    Horne said Colorado City officers who have been decertified "are simply replaced by other followers of Mr. Jeffs, who put their loyalties to what Mr. Jeff says rather than to court decisions or to the law. He still runs things from prison."

    Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is serving a prison sentence of life and 20 years in Texas where he was convicted of sexually assaulting two underage sect girls whom he took as plural wives.

    Horne was Arizona’s elected state superintendent of public instruction when Arizona seized control of the Colorado City school district based on findings of financial mismanagement. The district has since emerged from receivership.

    The FLDS practices polygamy, a legacy of early Mormon church teachings that held plural marriage brought exaltation in heaven.

    However, the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 as a condition of Utah’s statehood and excommunicates members who engage in the practice.

    Horne said there have been numerous examples of Colorado City officers "refusing to enforce the law when crimes are committed against the property or person ... of non-followers of Jeffs by followers of Mr. Jeffs."

    "In fact, they’re actively interfering with the law ... when a court awards property to non-followers," Horne said. "They will use the police power to give the land to other people."


  20. The Second Coming of Warren Jeffs: The Jailed Polygamist Leader Prepares His Flock for Doomsday

    By HILARY HYLTON / TIME February 10, 2012

    AUSTIN - Six months ago Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), was hospitalized in critical condition, prompting speculation both inside and outside the breakaway Mormon sect about his survival and his successor. Now, thanks to the care he received during a medically induced coma, Jeffs has returned to health and to his cell inside a Palestine, Texas, prison where he appears to be in full command of his flock, issuing a barrage of revelations and edicts. Among them are orders to take away children's bicycles and to build a massive, amphitheater-like structure on the sect's West Texas ranch, all in preparation for doomsday.

    Convicted of sexual assault in early August, 2011, Jeffs fasted and spent extended time on his knees praying during his trial, leading to his physical collapse 20 days after the verdict. His official Texas-prison mug shot shows an emaciated, hollow-cheeked man with close-cropped hair and piercing eyes. Gone was the tall, lanky, wavy-haired man seen kissing his teenage bride draped in his lap, as depicted in a photograph submitted during his West Texas trial. But while his criminal trials and his self-imposed afflictions have savaged his appearance, they appear not to have diminished his sense of purpose. (See "The Polygamist Prophet: One Step Closer to a Texas Court.")

    Jeffs spends 23 hours a day in his East Texas cell under protective custody; that means he shares no facilities and has no contact with other prisoners. He leaves his cell only for an hour's daily exercise either inside or out, depending on the weather, in a small space where even the basketball hoop is subject to prison rules (it has no net attached to the ring). He may leave his cell to shower, or talk on the telephone for no more than 15 minutes at a time for a total of 240 minutes a month to an approved list of 10 friends or relatives. All calls must be to a personal landline number, not a business one, and calls may not be forwarded. Jeffs also has a typewriter, according to Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), plus access to a radio, but no television since TV sets are housed in common areas where prisoners mingle. He can receive books and magazines through the mail or by request from the prison library.

    Despite this constrained life, Jeffs has managed to maintain control over the FLDS, primarily by communicating via phone and letters with his lieutenants. But on Christmas Day, according to Lyons, Jeffs violated the TDCJ's rules and spoke to his followers over a speakerphone — conference calls are forbidden under the rules and the use of the speakerphone was considered "conferencing," Lyons said. Following an investigation, Jeffs lost his telephone privileges for 90 days.

    But the silencing of his spoken word has not stopped Jeffs' campaign to cleanse the 100-year-old church in preparation for leading the chosen few through the final days. Unless he and the other imprisoned FLDS members are released, Jeffs has warned in a barrage of letters sent to numerous federal, state and local officials, the world will suffer a plague of earthquakes, tidal waves and huge fires. In late January, the FLDS took out quarter-page ads in a number of newspapers, including national publications like the New York Times and Washington Post, titled: "Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ Given to President Warren S. Jeffs." It promised a "full humbling" for all people. To get a detailed picture of the revelations, readers were urged to fill out the ad's order form and send in $2 to $10, depending on the number of revelations requested. (See whether Texas would have better luck with Jeffs.)

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    Jeffs' primary message is that the end of the world is imminent, according to Sam Brower, a Cedar City, Utah, private investigator and author who is a longtime observer and expert on the FLDS church. "He is setting up for the end of the world," Brower says. "He has divided the community into two groups, the elites and the repentance group, and they are in a competition to be the most obedient." Followers have been instructed to prove their allegiance by contributing $5,000 each to the church and reaffirming their faith by way of loyalty oaths. Even FLDS children have been included in the edicts. After Jeffs ordered them to give up their bicycles and trampolines, a Salt Lake Tribune reporter observed hundred of children's bikes for sale along the side of the highway that cuts through the twin FLDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the area referred to by the FLDS as Short Creek. Brower says Jeffs had banned toys as "idolatrous" at the Texas ranch, but now has extended that ban to Short Creek. "He has removed any joy in the life of those people," Brower says. "He has taken away toys. There are no sports, no radio, no TV, no Internet. He has removed any diversions so they can focus on his revelations and the end of the world."

    "The reason he does it is because he can," Brower says. "He's a really sick human being." As he watched the FLDS self-proclaimed prophet during the trial, Brower says he realized Jeffs had reached a critical point in his reign of madness. "He wasn't interested in getting out. He didn't put up a fight because that would have exposed him ... Now, he's this kind of god-man who is being a martyr in a jail cell in Texas." At Jeffs' direction, members of the repentance group who have deemed less worthy are meeting at old shuttered schoolhouses in Short Creek, Brower says, where they listen to Jeffs' teachings and heed his admonitions. Many have been forbidden sexual contact with their wives and some have been separated from their families, Brower says, and are being told sex is a "priesthood ordinance," something that will be monitored and controlled by Jeffs through his lieutenants. "He has created more sadness and broken up more families now he is behind bars," Brower says.

    But one of the most dramatic signs of Jeffs' prophesy that the end is nigh is rising out of the rugged West Texas scrubland on the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch outside Eldorado, the site of the 2008 raid by Texas Rangers and child-welfare officials that resulted in a series of trials of FLDS men charged with sexual assault and bigamy. A large semicircular amphitheater, almost 300 ft. wide, is under construction on the ranch, according to judge James Doyle, Schleicher County's justice of the peace. The structure is about 40 ft. tall and appears to have stadium-style platforms rising to the rim, which has curious blue tubes erupting from its surface. Brower says the structure echoes, in some ways, the Visitors Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City, which features a circular structure dominated by a statue of Christ. Jeffs, according to Brower, often "parrots" the LDS church, which excommunicated the FLDS followers in the 19th century when they insisted on practicing polygamy. (See "The Strange Legal Trip of Polygamist Warren Jeffs.")

    Judge Doyle, a pilot, has kept track of the various construction projects on the ranch over the years, and he and his son have shot numerous aerial photographs of the various large homes, dairy, gardens and other facilities on the site. The largest YFZ Ranch structure is the temple, site of Jeffs' marriages. It is unclear if the temple is still in use, Doyle says, and there are reports the FLDS considers it to be desecrated following the raid.

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    This latest construction has him puzzled. "They have poured a gazillion yards of concrete," Doyle says, noting that most of the construction has been in flagrant violation of state environmental laws — no retention walls to control silt runoff are in place and there are rock-crushing machines on site that are likely to violate air-quality rules. "They don't abide by the laws," Doyle tells TIME. "They're just outlaws."

    Observers familiar with FLDS activities believe Jeffs has issued a call for the faithful to be rebaptized. Brower says there is evidence of a large baptismal font being built in Short Creek where some 15,000 of Jeffs' followers live, while Eldorado is awash in rumors and speculation that the new amphitheater will also serve as a baptismal site. The site also is crisscrossed with several large ditches that contain large, 48-in. pipes, odd in the dry West Texas landscape that has been in a severe drought. "It looks like some kind of ceremonial building," Doyle says, and he adds that there are local reports that a 30 ft.-high, gold-colored statue of Jeffs with one hand holding the hand of a young girl and other grasping a biblical text will be incorporated into the site. Doyle said many of the local residents find that imagery repulsive, given the evidence at the FLDS trials — the prosecution alleged Jeffs had 78 marriages, many of them to underage girls. (See the top 10 religion stories of 2011.)

    The greatest fear, Doyle says, is that "there will be a Jim Jones–like thing out there," referring to the mass suicide in 1978 at the Peoples Temple in Guyana. Suicide is taboo in the FLDS, but Brower believes Jeffs has shattered other taboos in the past. For example, he married his father's wives and the alleged erection of the large statue in his image would be an idolatrous act by a man who came to the leadership by attacking old leaders of the church for setting up an "idolatrous" historical monument. "He has done other things that were against their beliefs and culture — he's famous for that," Brower says. Procreation and death are two things in "God's territory," Brower adds, adding that Jeffs has exercised his dominion of the first and may be poised to control the second.

    Jeffs' intentions are wrapped in mystery, but his rambling revelations clearly vilify those outside the FLDS community and warn of doom. Interaction between believers at the ranch and residents of Eldorado is limited, Doyle says. Few of the estimated 1,000 FLDS members shop in Eldorado, except for an occasional visit to a mechanic's shop for a part, or to pay a traffic ticket. "They always pay in cash," the judge notes. Movement in and out of the site is by bus for women and children, while the group's leaders drive large, expensive SUVs. While the FLDS members have registered to vote in the sparsely populated county, necessitating a redrawing of precinct lines, Doyle says, they have not asserted themselves at the ballot box, but county commissioners continue to be bombarded by mail containing Jeffs' revelations.

    Jeffs could return to Eldorado in late 2012 to face bigamy charges, but for now life at the Schleicher County courthouse and jail are back to normal. Jailers, Doyle notes, had to treat a stubborn infection on Jeffs' foot during his trial, caused by constant pacing in his cell. The trial for the 11th FLDS man to face charges stemming from the raid, 71-year-old Wendell Loy Nielsen, has been moved to Midland, 150 miles to the northwest. Nielsen is charged with three counts of bigamy, a third-degree felony that could net him 10 years in prison. As for Jeffs, he will not be eligible for release from his East Texas cell until July 2038 as he approaches his 93rd birthday.


  23. Warren Jeffs: Lawsuit says polygamist leader ordered break-in

    Los Angeles Times February 10, 2012

    The onetime spokesman for Warren Jeffs has filed a $100-million lawsuit against the polygamous sect leader, saying Jeffs asked him to falsify church records and arranged a break-in at his excavating business when he refused.

    The lawsuit offers a window into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the reportedly vicious politics of Jeffs, who was recently sentenced to life in prison in Texas for sexually assaulting two young girls whom he said were his spiritual brides.

    Former sect spokesman Willie Jessop said in court papers that Jeffs asked him last year to put a letter containing false information in church records, which the sect considers sacred, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The letter was intended to cast doubt on allegations that Jeffs had married two different underage girls in Texas.

    Jessop said he knew the information in the letter was false and refused to add it to the records, according to the lawsuit. In response, Jeffs had him excommunicated and demanded he leave the sect's enclave, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border. Jessop wouldn’t budge.

    In April, Jessop said in court papers, someone broke into his excavating business and stole computers, hard drives and other files, the Tribune reported. Jessop blamed Jeffs and his associates. Jeffs is well-known for aggressive acts of retaliation, including expelling hundreds of teenagers -- the so-called “Lost Boys” -- reportedly to reduce competition for the sect’s women.

    A few months after the alleged break-in, Jeffs was sentenced to prison in Texas. He remains the sect’s leader, however, and recently ordered members to hand over their personal possessions to church officials, who’d determine if they're worthy of getting them back.


  24. Ex-FLDS man wins partial custody of children

    By Ben Winslow KSTU-TV Fox 13 News, February 21, 2012

    ST. GEORGE, Utah— A man purged from Warren Jeffs' polygamous church on the Utah-Arizona border won a partial court victory in a lawsuit he filed against the Fundamentalist LDS Church leader. It's a ruling that lawyers say could open the door to more lawsuits from those excommunicated by Jeffs.

    Lorin Holm sued Jeffs, his brother, Lyle Jeffs, and two of his ex-wives for custody of his children.

    "I wanted to see the children," Holm told FOX 13 outside St. George's 5th District Court on Tueday. "They have banned us from our children. This is a precedent (setting) case. Now that we've had a win, we'll have hundreds more."

    After a two hour hearing, Judge James Shumate allowed Holm to visit his nine children, ranging in ages from 2 to 17, that he has not seen since he was excommunicated in January 2011. His wives, Patricia and Lynda Peine, have considered him an "apostate," his attorney said. They were taken from him and now live with one of Holm's sons.

    "We are a kind people, but these Jeffs boys have come in and ruined our community and they need to be reeled in," Holm said.

    Holm's lawsuit is the first paternity case to get a judge's ruling since Jeffs ousted more than 1,000 people from the ranks of the FLDS Church. The imprisoned polygamist leader set a New Year's deadline for faithful followers to repent of their sins and reaffirm their allegiance to him or be excommunicated.

    Jeffs is currently serving time in a Texas prison for child sex assault, stemming from underage marriages he took part in. Holm claimed in his lawsuit that he feared his daughters would become child brides for FLDS leaders. A court-appointed lawyer for the children expressed similar concerns to the judge.

    Rod Parker, an attorney for Holm's ex-wives, Patricia and Lynda, said the entire FLDS community was being portrayed unfairly because of Jeffs' actions.

    "That's painting with a broad brush. What they're saying is everyone in the community, every child is at risk and every child should be taken away," Parker told FOX 13.

    Parker noted that same logic was used by Texas authorities when they raided the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in 2008. Hundreds of children were taken into state protective custody that case only to be returned months later when the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the children were not at imminent risk for abuse.

    Judge Shumate agreed with Parker in part, pointing out that no one in court had said anything about the children's mothers being bad parents. But Holm's attorney, Roger Hoole, feared they could not protect the children from FLDS leaders.

    "Child abuse is always accompanied by secrecy and deception," he said outside of court. "The mothers are being deceived, and the secrets are not being told to them."

    The ruling is only temporary. Holm will get visitation twice a week with his children and he was allowed by the judge to talk to them about religion -- and more specifically what he no longer believes.

    "He taught us a way to follow the prophet," Lynda Peine told the judge. "The love that was given to me for him was heaven sent. At the time of his correction, he no longer held us together as a family."


  25. Celestial marriages detailed in Wendell Loy Nielsen's trial

    19th wife of 'prophet' explains records

    By Matthew Waller, San Angelo Standard Times March 26, 2012

    MIDLAND — Former polygamist sect member Rebecca Musser said she was the 19th wife of the "prophet" Rulon Jeffs in 1995. That prophet would eventually have 65 wives, she said.

    Musser, once a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, saw her own records of that marriage on the fourth day of the bigamy trial of former FLDS President Wendell Loy Nielsen on Monday.

    Nielsen, 71, faces three counts of third-degree bigamy, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

    Musser was there to authenticate FLDS documents. She described their importance.

    "Within the culture, it is required for them to have certain ordinances and blessings. They had to be recorded. If there was no record, then it would not be acknowledged in the heavens," Musser said. "Without that record you could not gain your eternal salvation."

    Musser described the marriage ceremony, and Special Prosecutor Eric Nichols had her focus on the verbiage of the ceremony calling the marriages "legal and lawful." Musser demonstrated a marriage handshake for jurors with a legal assistant, holding the index finger extended down the other person's forearm.

    She explained that marriage and complete submission to her husband were necessary for a woman's salvation.

    "Does that require physical submission?" Nichols asked.

    "Yes," she said.

    "Mental submission?"


    "Emotional submission?"

    "Yes," Musser said.

    Musser said she knew the women Nielsen is accused of having married in bigamy, one from helping with musical numbers for children, another by being a "mother" to her, even though Musser was younger, because Musser was married to the woman's father, then-prophet Rulon Jeffs.

    Jurors have learned from documents that the three women whom Nielsen allegedly married were Ilene Jeffs, who would have been 43 at the time of the "marriage"; Margaret Lucille Jessop Johnson, who would have been 58; and Veda Barlow Johnson, who would have been 65. Linda Black, whom Nielsen married in 1965, was his legal wife.

    The state brought in family law expert Jack Sampson of the University of Texas School of Law to testify that the marriages would have been legal marriages, common law at least, if not for the previous marriage.

    Defense attorney David Botsford tried giving different scenarios to throw his conclusion in doubt. He pointed to secrecy not being allowed in a common law marriage, and brought up the secretive nature of FLDS plural marriages. Botsford also suggested a hypothetical in which two undercover police go through with a marriage to infiltrate a crime syndicate.

    "They should talk to the DA first about not getting prosecuted," Sampson said. He said he believed intent to actually marry wasn't necessary for an actual marriage to occur.

    He also said that secrecy might not apply when people are presenting themselves as married to their society.

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    Ezra Draper, another former FLDS member, also gave testimony about what it means to be in a celestial marriage. He and his wife, to whom he is still married, received a marriage license and were then married with a celestial marriage later.

    "The civil marriage was a steppingstone to a higher vow," Draper said.

    Jurors also saw priesthood records, the dictations of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, making a connection between "R17" and the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch where the crimes allegedly occurred.

    Nielsen stepped down as president of the FLDS when FLDS supreme leader Warren Jeffs assumed the position in early 2011.

    Warren Jeffs, who was convicted last year, is serving a prison sentence in Palestine of life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl.

    Law enforcement authorities raided the YFZ Ranch in April 2008 after allegations of sexual abuse. Twelve men, including Warren Jeffs, were indicted and 10 have been convicted of crimes such as child sexual assault and bigamy.

    This is the first bigamy case to go to trial. Others have pleaded no contest and accepted sentences of seven to eight years.

    Nielsen also had pleaded no contest, but he later withdrew his plea because he didn't like the terms of his probation and because he wasn't able to transfer his probation to Colorado where he has family.

    According to documents from the state, Nielsen allegedly married 34 women in addition to his legal wife. Among those he allegedly married were sets of mothers and daughters and groups of sisters.

    The document also states that Nielsen performed the ceremonies in which Warren Jeffs married 16- and 12-year-old girls, that Nielsen has been named a witness in 258 allegedly bigamous marriages and that he has been involved in the marriage of 37 girls ages 12 through 16, 29 of them bigamous.

    If Nielsen is convicted, those alleged offenses could be presented to jurors in the potential punishment phase of the trial.


  27. Warren Jeffs' appeal denied; another sect leader is convicted of bigamy

    By Greg Botelho, CNN March 29, 2012

    (CNN) -- A Texas judge denied the appeal of fundamentalist sect leader Warren Jeffs on Thursday, the same day a jury considered testimony to determine how to sentence a key figure in his church after his own bigamy conviction.

    The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jeffs is serving a life-plus-20-year term in Texas for sexual assault. He was convicted in August of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl, who Jeffs had claimed were his "spiritual wives."

    On Thursday, Chief Justice J. Woodfin Jones of Texas' Third District Court of Appeals ruled against Jeffs' appeal of that conviction.

    In his ruling, Jones noted Jeffs, who represented himself during part of his trial, missed several deadlines related to his appeal. Specifically, he did not file "a written designation specifying the matters to be included in the clerk's record nor (make) arrangements for payment of the record with the clerk's office."

    "We informed Jeffs that his appeal may be dismissed for want of prosecution if he did not make arrangements for payment of the record and submit a status report regarding this appeal on or before January 23, 2012," Jones wrote. "To date, Jeffs has not responded."

    The 10,000-member church that Jeffs heads is a breakaway Mormon sect that openly practices polygamy in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, as well as on its Yearning for Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas. The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

    Many sect members have disavowed Jeffs in light of his criminal convictions, while others are defending him and calling his conviction on sexual assault charges an act of persecution.
    Meanwhile, the man who temporarily replaced Jeffs as business head of the church, Wendell Nielsen, was in a Midland, Texas, court on Thursday for the punishment phase of his own trial.

    Nielsen was convicted Wednesday on three counts of bigamy, according to Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

    "It's a fabulous win for the victims of polygamy that he was convicted on these charges," Flora Jessop, who fled Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a teenager, told HLN's Dr. Drew Pinsky.

    Testimony was offered, but there was no sentence decided upon by late Thursday afternoon, Bean said.

    While awaiting trial in February 2011, Jeffs regained control of the sect and ousted at least 45 high-ranking members considered a threat to his leadership, two well-placed sources told CNN.
    In that reshuffling, Nielsen was replaced as the church's business figure as Jeffs had signed documents retaking control, according to the sources.


  28. Wendell Loy Nielsen Guilty of Bigamy, Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

    Statement from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott March 30, 2012

    MIDLAND — “A Midland County jury has sentenced Wendell Loy Nielsen to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of the three counts of bigamy brought against him. Today’s sentence follows Wednesday's verdict finding Nielsen guilty of the crimes. Nielsen will serve all three sentences concurrently.

    “A total of 11 YFZ Ranch-related defendants have been indicted on sexual assault of a child, bigamy or other charges, and all 11 defendants have been convicted on felony charges and sentenced to prison. All prosecutions are being handled by the Office of the Attorney General, which is working in cooperation with 51st Judicial District Attorney Steve Lupton.”



  29. Texas spent $20 million on polygamy cases
    Bryan College Station Eagle

    By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press April 04, 2012

    SAN ANTONIO -- In the four years since Texas authorities swarmed the polygamist ranch of sect leader Warren Jeffs, state prosecutors have spent more than $4.5 million racking up swift convictions against him and 10 loyal followers on child sex and bigamy charges, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

    Combined with other state agency costs surrounding the April 3, 2008, raid, documents show the price tag is approaching $20 million for what began as a chaotic roundup of nearly 400 children and grew into one of the largest criminal cases in recent Texas history.

    The saga is now all but over. Last week, state prosecutors convicted the last of 11 men arrested at the Yearning for Zion Ranch. All received prison time, including a life sentence for Jeffs.

    "This was never about validation," said Jerry Strickland, spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office. "... It was always about, first and foremost, protecting children. There were a lot of people who wanted to make this about something it was not."

    Jeffs, 56, is the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is still considered God's spokesman by his followers despite being in prison. He and several of his convicted followers still face separate charges of bigamy.

    Strickland said Tuesday his office has not yet decided whether to also prosecute the bigamy allegations. When asked whether spending more taxpayer dollars would factor in that decision, Strickland said he did not know.

    Driving up the FLDS case costs was more than 21,000 case hours spent by investigators sifting through a staggering amount of evidence hauled off the secretive ranch in remote Eldorado. Authorities seized nearly 1,000 boxes of physical evidence and another 6 terabytes of digital files.

    Strickland said Tuesday the manpower the case required makes it the largest ever in the decade since Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took office.

    The most disturbing evidence wasn't revealed until Jeffs finally went to trial. Prosecutors played lengthy audio tapes of Jeffs allegedly sexually assaulting one of his 12-year-old brides, and jurors saw wedding photos of the polygamist leader posing with other underage wives.

    Among prosecutors' expenses was more than $24,000 to Utah-based Beall Psychological Services for expert testimony. The state also paid Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS member who was once a wife to Jeffs' father, Rulon, more than $17,000. Strickland said the payment was for her testimony and assistance with the investigation.

    All but three of the 11 arrested FLDS members went to trial; the others accepted plea deals.


  30. Warren Jeffs issues new revelation, gets prison phone privileges back

    by Ben Winslow, Fox 13 Now April 6, 2012

    PALESTINE, Texas — Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs issued a revelation calling for “all peoples” to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday, by bowing and praying on April 6 at 7:18 a.m. It came the same day that Jeffs was given his privileges to make phone calls once again from prison.

    In another revelation mass mailed to political leaders, including Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the imprisoned Fundamentalist LDS Church leader demanded world leaders mark the occasion or face the wrath of God.

    “Let all peoples bow the knee, confessing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Jehovah Christ Ahman Holy Lord over all peoples. Amen,” he wrote.

    The revelation, dated March 17, promised floods, winds, earthquakes, disease and other destruction if people refused to repent. April 6 is a significant date in the history of Mormonism: it is the date that Joseph Smith founded the Mormon faith.

    The FLDS Church is a fundamentalist splinter group of Mormonism. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer practices polygamy and excommunicates those who do.

    Jeffs is serving a life, plus 20, sentence in Texas for child sex assault, accused of marrying underage girls in polygamous unions. He is also facing a trial for bigamy.

    The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed to FOX 13 that Jeffs would receive his phone privileges again on Friday. Jeffs previously was cut off from phone contact with his followers for broadcasting a Christmas Day sermon. Some of his declarations have led to the ouster of more than 1,000 people from the ranks of the FLDS Church, based in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz.


  31. Ex-FLDS bodyguard wins case by default

    Daily Herald June 9, 2012

    A former bodyguard and spokesman for imprisoned polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has won a multimillion-dollar judgment stemming from his lawsuit against church leaders.

    William "Willie" Jessop, in his 5th District Court suit filed in February, claims leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ruined his business and harassed his family after he had a falling-out with Jeffs. He seeks more than $57 million in damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

    The complaint names imprisoned sect leader Jeffs, his brother Lyle Jeffs, his brother-in-law John Wayman and two dozen other people or organizations who allegedly worked to arrange a burglary at Jessop's Hildale-area excavation business and ranch. The suit also claims church leaders have harassed his family and kept them under 24-hour surveillance, and expelled his children from FLDS schools.

    Monday's ruling by Judge G. Rand Beacham found two of the defendants, Lyle Jeffs and Wayman, liable for some damages because they failed to respond to a court summons and therefore lost the case by default, The Spectrum of St. George reported (http://bit.ly/LNXP9X ).

    Attorney Mark James, who represents Jessop and his R&W Excavation Inc. and Boulder Mountain Group Ranch companies, said the judgment allows him to pursue the collection from the two of nearly $30 million specifically addressed by the court.

    He said he may try to force Lyle Jeffs and Wayman to testify about their assets. The judgment against the two awards $26 million to R&W Excavation, more than $1 million to Boulder Mountain Group Ranch and more than $2.4 to Jessop as an individual.

    "There is a gap between having a judgment and having the money in hand. We have to collect," James told The Spectrum.

    Beacham's judgment notes that a ruling on punitive damages will not be made until a hearing on the evidence can be held. No date for a new hearing has been set.

    James said Warren Jeffs and other defendants named in the suit _ an FLDS business entity named NewEra Manufacturing Inc. and numerous John Does who allegedly took part in acts against Jessop's family under FLDS leaders' direction _ have not yet been served with a court summons.

    "We're trying to do this in an orderly fashion," he said, adding he expects Warren Jeffs to be served in the near future.

    Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison after being found guilty last year of child sexual assault.

    The suit states Jessop had supported Warren Jeffs until he became convinced of claims that Jeffs was having affairs with other men's wives, and had renounced his role as the faith's prophet.

    Jessop was expelled from the church and ordered to leave his home and family in 2011. According to the suit, that was because he had refused to file a false letter defending Jeffs against allegations he trafficked and married 12- and 13-year-old girls from an FLDS settlement in Canada.

    Jessop says when he refused to say his expulsion from the church was the will of God, FLDS leaders raided his R&W Excavating and removed computers and other electronic devices.

    "Records of job costing, site plans, scope of work descriptions, invoicing, receivables and payables were lost," the suit states. "Virtually all information relating to R&W's long-term and day-to-day operations was stolen, directly and foreseeably resulting in the shut-down and demise of R&W."

    Jessop said the business was also crippled by a mass employee exodus after FLDS leaders told workers they would be excommunicated from the church if they kept their jobs.

    The church is based on the Utah-Arizona line.


  32. As lawsuits loom, more kicked out of FLDS

    By Lindsay Whitehurst, Salt Lake Tribune June 28, 2012

    Warren Jeffs is said to have tossed 50 members over alleged violation of sex ban.

    Even as his followers’ home base comes under fire from a federal civil rights lawsuit, polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs has been excommunicating dozens of people, apparently accusing them of breaking his ban on sex, former sect members say.

    Some 50 people have been tossed out of the group in recent weeks and leaders loyal to Jeffs have halted all church meetings until the "lifting up," or end of the world, said Wallace Jeffs, a brother to the leader who was himself cast out last year.

    "Warren just considers that a great honor to be able to go to meetings. It’s just a way to punish the people," he said. Those excommunicated in recent weeks were accused of "the murder of unborn children" for using birth control to circumvent the sex ban, even though many are older, and at least one man is over 80, Wallace Jeffs said.

    Warren Jeffs often uses the "unborn children" phrase in the "revelations from God" that he writes from a Texas prison and has his followers send to government officials and librarians all over the country.

    The recently excommunicated include high-profile leaders like Vaughan Taylor, the man who used to sign those revelations, and high-ranking sect members at the group’s Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. In the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, excommunication generally means that members are told to leave their homes and their families and not return, though some are eventually allowed back after "repenting from afar." Their wives and children can be assigned to other men.

    Also among the rejected are the group’s midwives, along with the community’s dentist and doctor in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., said Willie Jessop, a former spokesman for the sect who broke with Jeffs and now supports a rival prophet.

    "Five women, all very, very high-profile, wonderful people, were asked to remove themselves from associating with the people of the community," Jessop said.

    The lack of local medical care leaves residents in a potentially dangerous situation — most of all those who get pregnant. There haven’t been any marriages in the community since Warren Jeffs was first arrested in 2006, and last year he banned even spouses from having sex. But encounters still happen, Jessop said, and when women do get pregnant, couples feel extreme pressure to keep the child a secret.

    "They cover up the medical health of the wife, don’t get prenatal care," he said. "At the end, it’s the women and children and the most innocent who are the most vulnerable and pay the ultimate price of abuse."

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    Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice last week filed a major civil rights lawsuit accusing the FLDS-dominated police and utility companies in Colorado City and Hildale of religious bias against non-members of the sect. Attorneys for the towns say the accusations are unfounded.

    Carolyn Jessop, who chronicled her 2003 departure from the group in the best-selling book Escape, speculated the lawsuit could end with town leaders working with federal authorities — or it could be a drawn-out court battle.

    "I would like to believe this lawsuit would lead to some progress, but I’ve seen so much come and go around this issue that I’m skeptical," Carolyn Jessop said. The lawsuit doesn’t contain criminal charges, but is sweeping in its language, accusing municipal authorities of "operating as an arm of the FLDS" for at least 20 years.

    "That’s going to be really difficult to make stick," she said.

    The Colorado City fire chief and town manager were already facing public corruption charges in Arizona alleging they mishandled fire district money.

    "It’s a social disaster down there, a dire set of conditions," she said.

    An FLDS elder listed on the "revelations" and an attorney for the sect could not be reached for comment.

    Jeffs, 56, is serving a life prison sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he took as polygamous wives. He has previously been punished for preaching to his flock over the phone, but remains able to communicate through weekend visits and letters.


  34. Apostate aids civil rights lawsuit against radical sect

    Isaac Wyler and other church outcasts on the Arizona-Utah border say they are still being harassed years after being banished by sect leader Warren Jeffs.

    By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times July 10, 2012

    COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Isaac Wyler is one of the unwanted ones.

    For years, he has endured a cruel banishment from those he once considered brethren — followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Out here on the desert high plains, guarded by big-shouldered buttes, church outcasts are dismissed as apostates, ostracized in life and condemned to burn in hell after death. Wyler was among several members banished by church leader Warren Jeffs in 2004 for unspecified sins.

    "Jeffs told the women and children not to say goodbye to their husbands and fathers," said Wyler, a horse rancher with a white cowboy hat and piercing blue eyes. "It was his will that we now simply failed to exist."

    But Wyler, 46, has refused to disappear. He and others collected evidence of church harassment that has become the basis of a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking to protect nonbelievers from the church and from civil and law enforcement authorities said to be under its control.

    Filed last month by the Justice Department, the suit alleges that authorities in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., have for 20 years "operated as an arm" of the church.

    Jeffs has called himself "president and prophet, seer and revelator." Law enforcement officials describe him in less lofty terms: as the leader of a polygamist cult who once made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He is serving a life sentence in Texas for child sexual assault.

    Even from behind bars, the suit contends, Jeffs, 56, wields power here. Under his direction, those banished from the sect have been denied "housing, police protection and access to public space and services," according to the federal lawsuit, which seeks to bar local officials from discriminating against scores of former church members in both towns.

    The church is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, which disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

    Wyler is a native of Colorado City and a father of four who grew up in the church but did not practice polygamy. He told Justice Department officials that those cast out by Jeffs had been denied electricity, water, building permits — even service at restaurants.

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    Local marshals have stopped their cars and arrested them without cause and allowed sect members to vandalize their property, the suit claims.

    Attorneys for the border towns criticized the lawsuit as an unnecessary intrusion.

    "This is a very heavy-handed attack," said Jeff Matura, a lawyer who represents Colorado City. "You've got two small communities in sovereign states. There's no need for the federal government to get involved. Arizona and Utah can take care of this."

    The twin border towns are about an hour south of Zion National Park, where Utah's Route 59 turns into Route 389 on the Arizona side. To visit the towns is to step back in time. Women wear long-sleeve "prairie dresses," even in the summer heat, their hair worked into elaborate buns in the style of 19th century homesteaders.

    Church members are forbidden to participate in sports, watch TV or read newspapers. Teenage girls are sometimes forced to marry men old enough to be their grandfathers.

    Most residents avoid eye contact with visitors. Asked the name of the mayor, a paramedic chief looked at the ground, saying he didn't know.

    Wyler, whose father had 39 children by four wives, loves the desert heat and the privacy of the place and says he helped build most of the houses here with his bare hands. But over time, he says, he began to harbor doubts about Jeffs' capricious dictates.

    When a fellow member asked him about making his young daughter sexually available to Jeffs, Wyler said he responded: "Anyone comes looking for my daughter before she's 18 will meet my baseball bat."

    He suspects the comment got back to Jeffs, leading to his banishment.


  36. FLDS continues abusive polygamist practices in Utah and Arizona

    by Debra Weyermann, High Country News June 11, 2012

    Rumors swirled around the courthouse in San Angelo, Texas, last summer. Prosecutors had charged Warren Jeffs -- leader of the nation's most notorious polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- with sexually assaulting two underage girls in the group's Texas compound. For weeks, spectators whispered that the prosecutors possessed a vivid "rape tape" from 2006. When the audio recording was finally produced, however, no amount of preparation could buffer the shock.

    Photographs projected on an enormous courtroom screen showed a freckle-faced, 12-year-old redhead, bundled head-to-toe in the trademark FLDS pioneer-style dress and caught in an awkwardly posed embrace with her 6-foot-4-inch, 50-year-old "husband." With her braids, she resembled the pre-teen heroine of the Pippi Longstocking books and movies. The jurors stared at the images, openly dreading what they were about to hear. Prosecutors handled the recording gingerly, as if they feared to touch it.

    The sound quality was poor, but the packed courtroom hung on every word. Jeffs' voice drifted down from ceiling speakers like curling smoke. The FLDS "prophet" both threatened and reassured the girl, mumbling prayers that enjoined her to joyfully perform God's will. In the courtroom, hands involuntarily flew up to cover mouths as it became clear that the girl had been restrained on a sort of temple altar bed, while several of Jeffs' adult "wives" stood by to assist him in case the child panicked. Five minutes into the recording, Jeffs' droning prayers were accompanied by the sound of rustling clothing. Then came a rhythmic heavy breathing that no adult could misunderstand; it went on and on. At one point, Jeffs, panting, asked the girl if she "liked it." She answered in a small, squeaky voice: "I'm OK, sir."
    Fifteen excruciating minutes later, several jurors were in tears; others gripped their chairs in white-knuckled disbelief. The jury sentenced Jeffs to life in a Texas prison, adding another 20 years as a kind of exclamation point.

    That day, it seemed like the head had been cut off the FLDS snake.

    Yet since Jeffs' conviction last August, FLDS leaders have continued many of their extreme practices -- especially in the sect's longtime headquarters on the Utah-Arizona border, called "Short Creek," the local nickname for the neighboring towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. For more than a decade, the Short Creek community had been roiled by accusations of systematic child abuse, rape, incest and massive fraud. Although those crimes seem less common now, bizarre allegations continue: involuntary "reassignments" of women to new husbands, the intimidation of children, book burnings, assaults and kidnappings by "God squads" composed of religious vigilantes and Short Creek's state-certified police force, and so on.

    And following a well-established pattern, most authorities in Utah, the state with the longest relationship with the sect, have responded with tolerance rather than prosecutions. Arizona's stance is only slightly tougher. Neither state is anywhere near as aggressive as Texas, whose lawmen took on the FLDS bigtime. The questions are impossible to avoid: How has Utah and Arizona's cultural acceptance of the illegal practice of polygamy created a habitat for the much more serious crimes of the most extreme polygamists? And will it ever be possible to dismantle this sect, or any others like it that might arise in its wake, unless those two states finally crack down? ...

    read the rest of this article at:


  37. No Refuge

    by Janet Heimlich, Texas Observer August 1, 2012
    Five years after the infamous raid on the FLDS compound in Eldorado, there remain questions about the state's handling of the case and the safety of the children.

    In 2008, Texas authorities raided the Yearning for Zion ranch outside Eldorado and discovered that a fundamentalist, polygamous Mormon sect led by Warren Jeffs had been “spiritually” marrying underage girls to adult men. The state took custody of more than 400 children for two months in what became the largest child custody battle in U.S. history.

    When it was over, all children were returned to the sect, and no parents lost custody of their kids. State officials claimed victory, saying they improved the sect’s culture by ensuring that members no longer would sexually abuse girls through underage “spiritual” marriage. But as we approach the five-year anniversary of the raid, two questions linger: Did the state really protect the children, or leave victims in the care of abusers? And does anyone know where those children are now and if they are safe?

    ON NOVEMBER 25, 2003, WHILE TRAVELING from Utah to Colorado, Warren Jeffs told three women in his sect about the special purpose for which God had chosen them. Jeffs is the “prophet” of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). The Mormon sect—which is estimated to have 10,000 members, mostly in Utah, Arizona and British Columbia—practices polygamy, a custom the mainstream Mormon church gave up in 1890. Jeffs often made divine pronouncements, which usually accompanied new rules for sect members to follow. As with much of what Warren Jeffs told his followers, those pronouncements were meticulously recorded in journals.

    Jeffs explained to the women that the FLDS needed to establish “places of refuge,” according to the journals. He felt the group wasn’t safe in its traditional strongholds in Utah and Arizona. (Fear of persecution is nothing new to the FLDS. Many members still talk about how Arizona authorities raided the sect in 1953 for practicing polygamy.) A few months earlier, in August 2003, a Utah police officer who was also an FLDS member had been convicted of bigamy and sexually abusing a teenage girl.

    There were also rumblings that attorneys general in Utah and Arizona were joining forces to crack down on crimes committed by the FLDS, such as underage, legally nonbinding, “spiritual” marriages.

    In places of refuge, Jeffs felt, his followers could live free of intrusions by outsiders. However, not everyone would get to enjoy the privilege. As Jeffs explained to the women, “The only ones allowed in these places of refuge are those named by revelation, the Lord telling me who can go there, and your names were given to me, and that is why you are going with me,” Jeffs said. “So consider that you are called by Heavenly Father to do a special work, to help build Zion.”

    Jeffs had a particular place in mind where that “special work” would take place. It was a 1,400-acre patch of desert outside the West Texas town of Eldorado, a place of refuge he designated “R17.” There, the FLDS would create a community from scratch, which entailed building a concrete plant, an enormous temple and residences.

    According to a dictation dated May 5, 2004, Jeffs told followers that a motor home was ready to transport members to R17. Again, Jeffs was particular about who would be aboard. He was “pruning,” as he put it, hand-selecting the most devout and obedient men, women and children. ...

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  38. Fathers from polygamous sect fight for access to children

    Wives and 40 offspring of six men excommunicated from Bountiful-based church have been reassigned to new husbands, fathers

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun September 7, 2012

    In Jeffs’ world, rebels are kids who spend time with their friends, boys who wear short-sleeved shirts or girls who don’t wear their hair in the prescribed manner.

    Six men from Bountiful went to Provincial Court in Creston this week pleading for access to their 40 children after having been excommunicated by Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of North America’s largest polygamous sect.

    Earlier this year, the fathers were deemed to be “unworthy” by Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    There are about 500 FLDS members living in southeastern British Columbia who remain loyal to Jeffs, even though he is in a Texas prison serving a sentence of life plus 20 years for sexually abusing girls.

    In interim orders signed Thursday, Judge William Sheard granted specific days and times for the fathers to have access to their children, starting on Friday evening.

    The oldest of the 40 children is 15; the youngest will be two in October.

    The judge has also forbidden the mothers to remove the children from the East Kootenay Regional District. The men’s lawyer, Georgialee Lang, has taken the precaution of having copies of the court orders delivered to the Canada Border Services Agency.

    Lang’s clients are concerned some of the mothers or church leaders may try to hide the children in other FLDS communities in Texas, Idaho, South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona or Utah the United States.

    All of the men’s wives and children have been moved to different homes. They have been “reassigned,” or given as chattel, by Jeffs to other “more worthy” men. They are to obey the men and the children have been instructed to call them father.

    Because of a publication ban, fathers, mothers and children can be identified only by their initials.
    Although Judge Sheard was told in court Wednesday of the increasingly bizarre edicts coming from Jeffs’ cell, the judge denied several other orders requested by Lang.

    He refused to allow the fathers to have input into the education of their children, even though Lang told the court Jeffs recently ordered the closure of the government-funded Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School. She said textbooks have been discarded and the home-schooling of children consists of watching hours of Jeffs’ rambling speeches on YouTube.

    The judge also denied an interim custody order for one father to retrieve his four children, who he believes are living in a logging camp in Elkford, B.C.

    The man was forced out of Bountiful in February 2012. Both his wives stayed behind, but four of his children, aged six to nine, have been banished.

    Lang said the father believes his children are living in the logging camp in the care of an FLDS woman who is not their mother.

    “These men are as much victims as the women are,” Lang said in an interview.

    She describes her clients as “hard-working, nice men.”

    All have found jobs outside the community in logging-related work. One is working in Alberta, another is in California.
    Two of the men have two wives. Lang said they are concerned they could be targeted for polygamy prosecutions because of the custody battle. But it’s a risk they were willing to take to see their children.

    One told Lang he loves his first wife and had never wanted a second wife.

    He told her how he’d been taken from his home one night and driven by church leaders on a circuitous route that ended in Nevada, where he married a woman he’d never met before.

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    Among the key concerns the men expressed in their affidavits is their teenage daughters would be forced into marriages.

    One father said he was “ran off” by FLDS leaders after refusing to consent to his 12-year-old daughter’s marriage. But the next day, his wife agreed and the girl was married.

    Another father was kicked out after an FLDS leader claimed the man’s daughter was no longer a virgin and the father had allowed it to happen. The father asked how the man knew. The response was: “God told me.”

    Another father was declared apostate after refusing to follow Jeffs’ order that all “rebellious” teens be banished from the community.

    In Jeffs’ world, rebels are kids who spend time with their friends, boys who wear short-sleeved shirts or girls who don’t wear their hair in the prescribed manner (swooped off the forehead with a long braid or a bun) or don’t wear plain-coloured, pioneer-style dresses.

    Rebels also include children who play. Lang’s clients told her toys, books, games, sports and all recreational activities have been banned.

    But that’s far from the end of Jeffs’ edicts.

    Late last year, he banned all physical contact — except handshakes — between husbands and wives.

    Jeffs also forbade fathers from having any physical contact with their children and warned any man who touched a child anywhere from head to toe would be deemed to be an adulterer and would be excommunicated.

    He’s also told all FLDS members there are only 12 to 15 men worthy of impregnating FLDS women and girls.

    The first of these edicts came at the end of 2011, when Jeffs widely disseminated his prophecy to government leaders and media across North America that the world would end soon.

    Surprisingly — given all the media coverage of Jeffs’ trial, allegations about child brides in Bountiful, a failed attempt to prosecute two of Bountiful’s leaders and a constitutional reference case that resulted in Canada’s anti-polygamy law being upheld — one of Lang’s clients claims not to have known until recently that the FLDS condoned the marriages of under-aged girls.

    The man, who is in his 30s, has a teaching certificate and is father to nine children, said in his affidavit he was “angry and shocked” to learn that.

    According to his affidavit, seven of 10 families in the FLDS towns of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah, have been broken up and redistributed since 2005, when Jeffs became prophet. Since then, he said, some of the excommunicated men have ended up unemployed and homeless.

    One committed suicide recently. He walked into the path of a fully loaded semi-trailer truck.

    Because FLDS leaders were not given notice of the fathers’ applications, there was no one in court to object to the orders being issued or rebut any of the allegations in the men’s affidavits.

    Still, something good may have already resulted from the case.

    One of the men spoke to his wife Thursday for the first time in months and told Lang his wife is now considering leaving the group so the family can be reunited.

    “If this case provides the impetus for some of the women to leave,” Lang said, “that would be wonderful.”


  40. Warren Jeffs Tyranny Over Bountiful, B.C.

    Georgialee Lang, Huffington Post September 10, 2012

    From his shaved head and striped jumpsuit to his withering limbs, Warren Jeffs no longer resembles the exalted man and prophet who ruled the polygamous sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, including Canada's FLDS community in Creston, B.C., called Bountiful.

    However, looks are deceiving because Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence plus 20 years, and teetering between martyrdom and self-delusion, has maintained control over his followers despite his confinement and Bountiful, B.C. is the worse for it.

    Desperate to remain leader and prophet, Jeffs' tactics are diverse. In 2007 while imprisoned in Utah, a video surfaced that showed Jeffs in prison garb admitting he was a false prophet and had lied to his followers.

    Yet several years later, he ordered his subordinates to spend thousands of dollars on newspaper ads across the United States which declared "Cease thy wicked attack ye government authorities against my people and my church," an ad clearly designed to buttress his tarnished image with his followers.

    Reports of his suicide attempts, head-banging and food and water deprivation have been replaced by ranting revelations and errant edicts meant to solidify his control in Bountiful and similar communities in Utah, Colorado and Texas.

    Over the last year Jeffs has ex-communicated hundreds of younger fathers and husbands, including at least a dozen or more men from Bountiful, ripping families apart with no apparent concern. He has ordered "rebellious" teenagers to be evicted from the community, for offences as innocuous as hairstyles and teen friendships. Several teenage girls from Bountiful have been caught by this edict.

    Jeffs has also banned sexual relationships between spouses including kissing, hugging or any physical contact other than handshaking, a rule that will prevail until he is released from prison. He has declared that a group of 15 men alone are worthy of procreating and they shall father all FLDS children.

    Mothers and fathers have been ordered not to touch or hug their children and toys, recreation, and games are no longer permissible.

    The Bountiful elementary and secondary schools have, for the first time, refused government funding, opting to run the programs they desire. Reports have surfaced that school hours are now filled with YouTube videos of Jeffs' preaching.

    But Jeffs' new tactics are backfiring. At Bountiful, both fathers and mothers who have been banished by Jeffs or taken the brave step of leaving voluntarily, are fighting back, trying to regain control of their lives, and more importantly, taking steps to rescue their children, who are suffering terribly.

    Six of these Bountiful fathers brought their concerns to the Creston Provincial Court this past Thursday, regaling the judge with examples of Jeffs' bizarre pronouncements and the deleterious effects on their children.

    The court heard about how four young boys were ejected from Bountiful because their father was an "apostate," one of the men who refused to accept Jeffs' leadership.

    At least 40 children have been denied any contact with their fathers for many months, a situation that was partially remedied this week by Creston Provincial Court Judge William Sheard who ordered immediate access. A further court hearing is scheduled in Creston on Nov. 7.

    The awakening in Bountiful may signal the beginning of the end of Warren Jeffs.


  41. B.C. government continues to fail Bountiful’s children

    The B.C. government is failing to protect the rights and freedoms of children in the polygamous community of Bountiful, continuing a years’ long pattern of indecision, indifference and, at times, sheer naiveté.

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun September 10, 2012

    Since January, a number of boys have been banished. At least 40 children have been taken away from their fathers and parcelled out to “new” dads after their biological fathers were deemed unworthy and expelled by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    One source says there are fewer than 30 men left among the nearly 500 FLDS followers in the southeastern B.C. community.

    Those followers are taking their orders from their prophet Warren Jeffs, a pedophile jailed in Texas for life plus 20 years for the sexual assault of girls. Among his edicts issued in the past year, Jeffs has said that only 12 to 15 men are worthy to impregnate FLDS women and girls.

    Jeffs, the convicted sex offender, is directing every aspect of children’s lives from his jail cell.

    Four children whose father was declared apostate have been banished. They range in age from six to nine.

    FLDS leaders following Jeffs’s orders have all but shuttered the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School.

    Mothers have been ordered to minimize physical contact with children. Fathers — even those who haven’t been expelled — are forbidden from having any physical contact with their children, warned that they will be deemed to be “adulterers” if they even hug a toddler or pat a little one on his or her head.

    Play is forbidden. Toys, games, sports and all other recreational activities are banned.

    Six of the expelled men — fathers to 40 children — said in sworn affidavits last week that they’re concerned their children’s education will come from listening to hour after hour of Jeffs’s sermons, both taped and accessed through YouTube, now that the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School has been all but shuttered.

    And what has the B.C. government done? Nothing.

    And that is “very disturbing,”said Child and Youth Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in an interview Monday. Following the “egregious behaviour” by the FLDS, she said, what happens next is “a test of the government,” which has “tiptoed around the issue for a long time.”

    This test, as she described it, comes on the heels of the lengthy and expensive reference case that was decided by Chief Justice Robert Baumann. He determined that polygamy is so inherently harmful to children, women and society as a whole that it justifies limiting religious freedom and freedom of association.

    But while it may be a relief to some taxpayers not have to spend $1.1 million supporting Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School, no one should feel good that 250 children, from kindergarten to Grade 10, will now possibly spend their days at home only learning from the bizarre ramblings of a convicted sex offender.

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    Some of Jeffs’s tapes from the 1990s were entered as evidence in his Texas trial. One instructs girls to blind obedience of their fathers and husbands; another warns against “mixing their seed or their bloodline with the seed of Cain — the Negro.” Both of those are posted on YouTube.

    Even if BESS opens later this month, as the school authority has promised the Education Ministry, children will no longer be required to be taught by accredited teachers.

    What Turpel-Lafond wants — and what anyone who cares about the welfare and protection of children should support — is more aggressive and more creative action from the government.

    She wants more vigilance from the Education Ministry to ensure that Jeffs’s sermons — the words of a convicted sex offender — are not being read or played to children or any home-schooled FLDS children.

    Attorney-General Shirley Bond should consider a Canadian court order to bolster the American restrictions on Jeffs to include a ban on him having any contact with Canadian children via social media or taped sermons, Turpel-Lafond said.

    If necessary, she said, the government should not shy away from charging mothers or anyone else who carries out Jeffs’s orders.

    Meantime, Turpel-Lafond said, child welfare officials need to step up investigations within the FLDS community to ensure that children are not being neglected, abused or “passed like baggage from one home to another.”

    But she rightly acknowledged it’s not easy. Even banished FLDS members have little experience in the outside world, and even if they are aware of their rights and what services are available, they’re distrustful.

    None of the six fathers told child welfare officials that their children have been stripped from them, that they were concerned about their children’s schooling or that their children may not have enough to eat. None of the boys who have been kicked out of Bountiful have asked for help, either.

    This banishing of men and boys, rearranging of families and the forced marriages of girls shouldn’t be happening here or anywhere.

    While laws and regulations can’t cover everything, the B.C. government needs to catch up to the egregious and disturbing reality of Bountiful and do something about it.


  43. B.C. government remains silent about Bountiful problems

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun September 11, 2012

    We’re living in Orwellian times with all this speaking without speaking and a failure to communicate despite a plethora of ways to do it from Facebook to Twitter to the old-fashioned phone.

    It’s especially so dealing with governments on issues like what to do about the polygamous community of Bountiful that have little political upside and only offer the prospect of sleepless night with no clear answers.

    Still, I was optimistic when I called B.C.’s ministry of children and family development about 10 a.m. Monday. Directed by one voicemail message to another voicemail message, I left a message and waited for three hours before calling Stephanie Cadieux’s office and asked for the courtesy of a response.

    Someone from government communications and public engagement called back, apologizing and asking: What do you want?

    I’d like to speak to the minister to find out what, if anything, is being done about boys and men being banished and children shuttled from one father to another like used furniture on orders from Warren Jeffs, a jailed sex offender and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints..

    I got an emailed response at 3:08 p.m. The minister was unavailable, but offered this statement:

    Nothing is more important to this ministry, myself and this government than the safety and well-being of the children and youth in B.C.

    Anytime the ministry receives a complaint of alleged abuse, the ministry reviews the circumstances to determine if an investigation is required and if there is a concern regarding criminal conduct the ministry works in cooperation with police.

    If there are protection concerns, the ministry will always work to assure the safety of a child – and family and community engagement is very important in this process.

    I replied that the statement was not particularly helpful. Could Cadieux tell me whether the ministry was aware of what was going on before six of the expelled fathers filed for an interim access order in provincial court?

    And, I wrote, “Can someone please say whether the ministry is doing anything or is it just waiting for people to file specific complaints either with the ministry or police? Is the ministry doing any outreach to those who have been kicked out to even inform them of what their rights are or how to access services? Is it providing any supports for any of the boys who have been expelled?”

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    Nearly 90 minutes later at 5:02 p.m., I received this.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, privacy concerns prevent me from discussing specific cases.

    However, I can assure you that the number one priority of the ministry is always the safety and well-being of children. Anytime the ministry becomes aware of a possible child protection issue, a social worker will assess the risk to the child and the parent’s ability to provide care.

    The ministry is proactive in its engagement with Bountiful residents, particularly to bring understanding around its legal obligations to protect children and the nature of laws that support that work.

    The ministry works to engage youth and the families in the region and make them aware of government services and supports, including child and youth mental health services, safe homes, parenting support, a men’s anger management group, a sexual abuse intervention program and family counselling.

    I hadn’t asked about any specific cases. Even if I had asked about the six fathers, their privacy is already protected by a court-ordered publication ban on their names and those of their wives and children.

    And what is proactive engagement? Is the ministry putting up posters, dispatching social workers to go door-to-door or are people standing by waiting for the phone to ring?

    As for the ministry’s engagement with youth and families in the region with all that stuff including men’s anger management groups, it’s laughable. FLDS members aren’t even allowed to go to Creston unaccompanied let alone spill their troubles in group therapy.

    But this is what passes for answers these days.

    Meanwhile, I’d contacted the Education Ministry and asked to interview the inspector of independent schools, Theo Vandeweg.

    Ministry spokesman Scott Sutherland told me that “public servants” don’t speak to the public. Only politicians and official spokesmen can do that.

    I asked about getting a copy of the report from the spring inspection done at Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School, which last year received $1.1 million in taxpayer funding and was told I’d have to file an access to information request because of privacy concerns.

    And what email address do I sent that to? He suggested I look at the government’s website.


  45. Jailed Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs Issues Hundreds of Orders From Prison

    By MURIEL PEARSON and JOSEPH DIAZ ABC News November 21, 2012

    Six years after Warren Jeffs was first arrested and later sentenced to life in prison for sexually assulting children, it's almost as though the fundamentalist leader, whom the faithful call their "prophet," never left Colorado City.
    Jeffs' followers, who live in the desert town nestled on the border between Arizona and Utah, are a radical splinter group of the mainstream Mormon church who call themselves the Fundamentalist Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    "Anybody who thinks that Warren Jeffs' incarceration ended his rule in this community has no idea what they're talking about. He is in many ways more powerful because now he's martyred," said reporter Mike Watkiss, who has covered the community of 8,000 people for 25 years.

    A raid in 2008 on the group's Yearning for Zion compound in Eldorado, Texas, brought the FLDS community into the national spotlight. Authorities found a polygamous community and pregnant child brides. Pictures of women in pastel prairie clothes with tightly braided hairstyles and stories of the controlling, male-dominated environment offered the world a glimpse into the lives of the reclusive group.

    "The prophet literally tells people where they will live, whom they will marry," Watkiss said. "Warren buys the allegiance of these men because they can't get into heaven without him, because he needs to give them three wives. That's the only way you're going to get to heaven."

    Despite the fact Jeffs spends his days in a Texas prison, his followers in Colorado City have not left him.

    His presence is felt in homes, offices, on computers and even cell phones in Colorado City.

    "We miss our prophet, Warren Jeffs," said Dr. Maryam Holm, the town's primary health care provider. "We know he is innocent and we all yearn for his deliverance, to be able to see him again."

    A year-long investigation by ABC News' "20/20" revealed that Jeffs' presence extends far beyond his prison walls and into the daily lives of his faithful followers. It started when he ordered followers to destroy all of their children's toys.

    "At home you couldn't have any toys. You couldn't ride bikes either. 'Cause he gave away all our bikes. I didn't even get a chance to ride mine before I gave it away," said 6-year-old Nellie Steed, who left the sect after her mother was banished by Jeffs.

    The FLDS leader has such a tight grip on the day-to-day lives of the faithful that he has even banned corn and dairy products, said Jeffs' former bodyguard, Willie Jessop, who compared the power his former boss still exerts to notorious cult leaders David Koresh and Jim Jones.

    Earlier this year, Jeffs forbade intimacy between husbands and wives and selected 15 men to father all future FLDS children.

    "If a woman wants to have a baby or whatever, she has to go to one of those 15 men. But then she has to have two other men with the one of the 15 men in the room to witness," Willie Steed, 19, told ABC News' Amy Robach.

    Steed, who is Nellie's older brother, broke free from the FLDS church in February. Jeffs first banished his father for no reason, and then his mother, Suzette Steed, who refused to leave without her children. Willie agreed to guide "20/20" through the strange and clandestine world.

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  46. Following every move were the "God Squad," Jeffs' secret police tasked with keeping an eye on the media.

    "They know where we are and they just follow us," Steed said.

    In the desert sits a newly-built multi-million dollar home, the product of another one of Jeffs' prison edicts.

    "They said if we build it then it would melt the bars or whatever in his jail and he would be released," Steed said.

    But Jeffs' influence extends far beyond the daily lives of his followers.

    When ABC News visited city hall and the police department, officials declined to answer any questions about Jeffs.

    This year, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against town officials, accusing them of acting as an arm of the FLDS.

    In response, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office has stepped up patrols in Colorado City, but it's proven to be a challenge to police a town that views law enforcement as religious persecution.
    "They won't talk to you because of who you are and who you represent," said Sgt. Mike Hoggard of the Mohave County Sheriff's Office. "It's troubling."

    It was this tyranny of control that caused Willie Steed to question the values of the FLDS when he made the decision to leave.

    "The church can just totally kill a family. In just the matter of three days, two days, an hour. And they can break the spirit of their people," he said. "And as you've seen coming out to this place ... they have nothing left, they have no hope, and they can see no future."



    By Alyssa Bernstein, Nov 21, 2012

    Deep in the desert on the border between Utah and Arizona is a hidden world within modern America. Colorado City is home to the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints… the largest polygamous community in America. Here, a year-long investigation by ABC News reveals a town of 10,000 ruled by a man behind bars. Warren Jeffs, their leader and prophet, was sentenced to life in prison last year. But his people continue to accept his edicts as law. Over the past year, he has destroyed families by excommunicating dozens of men and women. Men, women, even teens have been forced to leave their families and the only life they have ever known.

    “20/20″ follows one family: a mother, six daughters and a son, on their path to freedom and as they struggle to survive in the outside world they’ve been taught will be their damnation. Amy Robach’s report airs on “20/20,” FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23 (10:00 – 11:00 pm ET) on the ABC Television Network.

    VIDEO: Man Searches for Mom, Sisters After Dad Banished by Warren Jeffs and FLDS

    Carlos Holm confronted church leaders he suspected of hiding his mother and sisters.


    STORY: Jailed Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs Issues Hundreds of Orders From Prison


    STORY: From Prairie Dresses to Ear Rings: Mother and 6 Daughters Leave Warren Jeffs’ FLDS for New Life




  48. AG Seeks to Seize Polygamist Ranch

    by Emily Ramshaw The Texas Tribune November 28, 2012

    The Texas attorney general's office is pursuing legal action to seize the West Texas ranch owned by the polygamist sect led by Warren Jeffs, who is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting young girls.

    State child welfare workers raided the Yearning For Zion, or YFZ, ranch in Eldorado in 2008, taking 400 children into custody over allegations that they were being sexually abused and forced into underage marriages. After lengthy court battles, the children were eventually returned to their parents, but nine men were ultimately convicted of crimes including sexual assault and bigamy. One of them was Jeffs, who was in prison in Arizona at the time of the raid, and was eventually extradited to Texas from a Utah prison.

    Jeffs founded the West Texas ranch in 2004 for his most fervent adherents, who built a sacred temple, communal residences, factories and working farms on the ranch. State authorities notified him — and served papers at the gate of the West Texas ranch — ahead of Wednesday's announcement.

    By state law, Texas authorities can seek to seize property used to "commit or facilitate" certain crimes, though there must be a court hearing. (Such a hearing in this case probably won't be scheduled before the end of the year.) It's unclear how many people are still living on the ranch; no one could be forcibly removed from the property until after a court rules.

    The AG's court filing suggests that the sect — the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — "structured financial transactions to evade law enforcement oversight." It alleges that the purchase of the ranch, and the construction of its enormous buildings, "were financed with the proceeds of illegal money laundering" — and that the ranch was used to "illegally harbor Jeffs" when he was a fugitive on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List.


  49. Texas attorney general says state will try to seize Warren Jeffs' West Texas polygamist ranch

    By Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press Vancouver Sun November 28, 2012

    AUSTIN, Texas - Texas wants ownership of Warren Jeffs' massive polygamist ranch where prosecutors say the convicted sect leader and his followers sexually assaulted dozens of children, the state attorney general's office said Wednesday.

    A judge will determine whether to grant the state control of the 1,600-acre (650-hectare) property owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    The sect bought the land for more than $1.1 million in 2003, according to court records. The affidavit, filed Wednesday, does not provide a current value for the Yearning for Zion Ranch. Texas has spent more than $4.5 million in prosecuting the cases against Jeffs and 10 of his followers.

    Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the warrant begins the final chapter in the state's five-year-old case against Jeffs.

    "This is simply the next step," Strickland said.

    Texas Rangers raided the ranch in April 2008, following a call to a domestic abuse hotline that turned out to be false, and took 439 children into state custody. Jeffs last year was convicted of sexually assaulting two minors whom he described as his spiritual wives. At trial, prosecutors presented DNA evidence to show he fathered a child with one of those girls, aged 15.

    Jeffs, 56, is serving a life prison term in Texas. He has continued to try to lead his roughly 10,000 followers from behind bars. The sect is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

    It's not known how many people still live at the secluded Eldorado ranch located about 200 miles (320 kilometres) west of San Antonio, but the seizure warrant does not require them to leave. The property is so far off the main roads that only helicopters or planes can provide a true glimpse of the ranch.

    Strickland said it was too early to speculate about what the state would do with the property if given ownership. The group will have a chance to contest any seizure.

    Jeffs' most devoted followers consider him God's spokesman on earth and a prophet, but they were absent from court for the bulk of his criminal trial.

    Paving the way to Jeffs' conviction were his own "priesthood records" — diary-like volumes, covering tens of thousands of pages, in which Jeffs recounts his sexual encounters and records even his most mundane daily activities.

    Prosecutors cite the records in the 91-page affidavit filed Wednesday.

    "This will be a major gathering place of the saints that are driven," Jeffs wrote. "You can see it is well isolated. In looking at this location, we can raise crops all year round. There is no building code requirements. We can build as we wish without inspectors coming in. There is a herd of animals that the storehouse needs, that we can nourish and increase."

    Under Texas law, authorities can seize property that was used to commit or facilitate certain criminal conduct, such as a home being used as a stash house for drugs. Strickland said he didn't immediately know where this attempted seizure would rank among the state's biggest efforts to claim ownership of criminal property.

    In the affidavit, prosecutors allege that sect members illegally structured financial transactions and that Jeffs personally toured the ranch before the land was purchased.

    Jeffs wanted the "a rural location where the FLDS could operate a polygamist compound where the systemic sexual assault of children would be tolerated without interference from law enforcement authorities," according to the affidavit.


  50. Holding Out Help Serves Families Escaping Polygamist Groups

    ABC News Nov 29, 2012

    The group Holding Out Help assists those seeking escape from polygamist groups.

    It helps individuals and families make that difficult transition by providing access to housing, food, clothing, counseling, mentoring, job training, education and referral services. Holding Out Help is one of a very few organizations that specializes in helping members of polygamous communities.

    Since Warren Jeffs, the polygamous leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted of sexual assault and sent to prison a year ago, the number of people fleeing to Holding Out Help has quadrupled.

    Jeffs, still controlling his followers from behind bars, has reportedly purged the sect of many families.

    “We have entire families coming out and many individuals. They aren’t equipped to deal with the outside world,” said Holding Out Help’s executive director Tonia Tewell.

    The organization has 100 clients a month and this year Holding Out Help has added six new host homes and 20 new mentors. The organization also has a service team that completed a home makeover on one of their transitional homes and led a youth camp in the summer.

    Most of the individuals who leave their polygamist communities are lacking in education, high school education,” Tewell said.

    Holding Out Hope has had several success stories recently. They have had two single mothers get their GEDs, one get a nursing degree and one single mom even got a master’s degree.
    In the last four years, Holding Out Hope has brightened more than 400 lives.

    To find out more about Holding Out Help, go to http://holdingouthelp.org.


  51. Strangled by Warren Jeffs’ edicts, women leave FLDS

    Polygamous sect » Twins and their friend tell of a community and family in chaos.

    By Lindsay Whitehurst| The Salt Lake Tribune December 07 2012

    Colorado City, Ariz. » The day after church leaders told their father and husband to leave home and repent for unnamed sins, the Holm family listened as their bishop said: "Warren Jeffs is your father now."

    Lyle Jeffs, Warren’s brother, stood next to the family’s white baby grand piano as he took the three Holm wives’ credit and bank cards. He said the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would pay their bills now.

    "It was devastating to me," said daughter Heidi Holm, now 22. "I cried for a whole hour. I could not stop."

    But she trusted her bishop, accepted that her father needed correction and put her energies into "keeping sweet" under the new family regime.

    During the next nearly two years, she and her twin sister, Helen Holm, as well as their close friend Allie Steed would see their world grow smaller and darker as Warren Jeffs issued increasingly bizarre edicts from his Texas prison cell and Lyle Jeffs enforced them, dictating even the most intimate details of their lives in Colorado City, Ariz.

    "It’s like a cloud comes down around you," said Allie, now 23. "I couldn’t even breathe."

    The three eventually made the wrenching decision to leave the sect, joining hundreds of others who have been kicked out or abandoned the FLDS during two years of tumult in the polygamous group.

    On a recent Saturday, weeks after leaving the cloistered group they grew up in, the three young women breathlessly sent text messages to new boyfriendsand laughed over curling irons and hair clips — little luxuries banned in the FLDS.

    Their excitement is tempered by loss. They had happy childhoods, knew Warren Jeffs as a kind teacher and beloved prophet. Even after their departure, they still have trouble believing he’s committed sex crimes. They’ve lost dozens of family members who are told to consider them apostates, the lowest of the low.

    They were three friends faced with a choice — their faith and families or their futures.

    Unworthy » The twins’ father, Lorin Holm, was excommunicated Jan. 9, 2011— their younger sister’s 16th birthday.

    It happened on a Sunday as the family sat down to eat. He was called to the sect’s massive meetinghouse in the middle of town, where a group of some 25 men surrounded him and told him he’d lost his priesthood and needed to "repent from afar."

    Lorin came home hours later, gathered his family around him, and told them that, in the eyes of God, he was no longer their father.

    And then he left.

    The confiscation of the women’s credit cards severed one more link to Lorin, who had provided well for his family with the proceeds from his water-purification company.

    "They tell the women not to go on walks alone because sometimes the men will try and contact them," said Heidi, who told her story while wearing DC-brand boots and a fur-trimmed vest over her brown prairie dress. Bubbly and expressive, she opens her dark eyes wide and raises her eyebrows to make her points.

    But as the months passed, Lyle Jeffs failed to keep his promise to pay the bills. The women soldiered on, making do and attending church meetings, where a man at the door would ask for the four-digit identifier assigned to each member of the congregation.

    During the meetings, the bishop told the congregants it was their own unworthiness and imperfection that kept Warren Jeffs behind bars. The FLDS prophet was extradited last year to Texas, where he was convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls he took as polygamous wives.

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  52. FLDS leaders did not return a call seeking comment. Rod Parker, an attorney for the sect, declined to comment on the Holm family’s account.

    Heidi said if she missed her dad, or had problems, she was told to write to Warren Jeffs in prison, who would pray for her.

    She never received a reply.

    "It was kind of like writing into the unknown," she said.

    Meanwhile, her father’s faith was crumbling. Three months after he was tossed out of the FLDS, Lorin contacted his first wife and the twins’ mother, also named Helen, from a home in Nevada where he was staying.

    Though at first she didn’t want to believe Warren Jeffs was anything other than a prophet, her husband’s words touched something Helen had buried in the back of her mind.

    "I knew that something wasn’t right for 10 years, [but you have] children, family," she said. "Everyone, deep down, knows there’s something wrong but they’re not brave enough."

    The wife and mother ultimately decided to do two radical things: Stay with her husband and return home to the twin border towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah. As the couple pulled into the red-rock desert community, FLDS sentries took note of their arrival. Sect leaders warned the rest of the family that Lorin and Helen — now apostates — were coming. When the couple reached their rambling white-brick home, Lorin’s other two wives, along with their children, had fled.

    "We were told, ‘Leave them alone severely,’ " said daughter Helen. " ‘Do not associate with the apostate element.’ "

    The big house was empty. Lorin and his first wife were alone.

    Lorin’s other wives and children had moved to a house across town, with another man assigned as their "caretaker." Even his children with wife Helen were gone.

    "I was ready to call the cops," said Helen, but her husband stopped her, assuring her their five children under age 18 would be returned to them — legally, they had to be.

    Eventually, the younger children did come home, but with instructions to be "rebellious-sweet."

    Lyle Jeffs had made Lorin and Helen’s 17-year-old son a church elder to watch over the children while they lived with their apostate parents.

    The day the kids came home, Helen tried to give her 6-year-old a bath, but her 16-year-old daughter stood in the way.

    "She said, ‘I’m not supposed to let you be alone with her,’ " Helen recalled.

    It took months to convince the children, especially the teens, that their parents weren’t forsaken by God.

    "I didn’t ever have to deal with rebellious children. They were very easygoing," she said. "It’s very interesting to deal with when you’re faced with it for the first time."

    ‘You can’t even be human’ » The twins lived as best they could while heeding instructions to reject and ignore their parents. Along with Allie, they worked at Most Wanted Jeans, a small clothing company in Hildale. Allie also worked at an espresso stand, saving to pay for braces. In their off-hours, they were "like three peas in a pod," Allie said, driving around town together.

    They had grown up making their own clothes, growing much of their own food and being home-schooled for the past 10 years. Before that, Warren Jeffs had been Allie’s teacher at Alta Academy, an FLDS school once located at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

    Allie remembered him as her teacher, giving her and her friends prizes if they were first back in their seats.

    "That’s all I knew of him," she said. Hearing the crimes he’s committed, "it’s just kind of hard to accept."

    "I still don’t know what to think about it," Helen said. "He was the sweetest, most kind person you’d want to meet when he was here."

    They still had faith in Warren Jeffs, but FLDS life was weighing on them.

    Lyle Jeffs had been interviewing every member, seeking out their sins and deciding who was worthy of what leaders called a "new United Order."

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  53. Announced at the start of 2011, the new order removed as many as 1,000 people who were told they weren’t worthy to join the new church. While those people were allowed to stay in their homes with their families, they were considered "nonmembers," a lower class separate from those in the new order.

    While Allie and Helen were admitted into the new order, Heidi was found lacking — apparently for an earlier, innocent relationship she’d had with a boy. She confessed and was eventually accepted.

    But conditions grew worse. Lyle Jeffs, they said, began to issue directives from the pulpit. Unmarried women had to give up their cellphones, then any jobs where they dealt with the public. Those who were married couldn’t have sex. Children had to give away or sell their bicycles, trampolines and other toys. Women couldn’t be treated by male doctors or wear ribbons or flowered bobby pins. In fact, nothing with flowers on it.

    Members had to wake up at 5 a.m. No naps. Women had to use reusable feminine hygiene products. Camping was forbidden. Members could clean house with only homemade soap and a bucket for rinse water. Only the right hand could touch that water.

    "You can’t even be human," Helen said.

    Church security began watching her, she said, after she talked to her apostate mother during a visit to her workplace. And worshipping at the massive meetinghouse every Sunday, hearing the directives streaming from the pulpit, became almost physically painful.

    "It started to feel like bullets in your chest," Helen said.

    The quieter, more contemplative of the twins, she suffered under the new rules. A capable, high-tech seamstress and manager at work, Helen would come home and lie in her bed, staring at the ceiling. After the women were pushed out of their jobs, all three girls were relegated to making soap.

    Thinking of her parents as apostates ate at Helen, but she yearned to be good, righteous and obedient to the faith. When she sought advice from church elders, they’d tell her to tune out conflicting emotions.

    "I think that’s why I can’t cry anymore," Helen said. "So many times I wished I could just go to my grave."

    Leaving the fold »The three friends were eager to marry and start their own lives. But no members of the FLDS have been allowed to marry since Warren Jeffs’ arrest in 2006.

    "I would always wonder why I was never so blessed as to get married," Heidi said. Now, though, she knows that if she had been married with children, it would have been more difficult to leave.

    There are other indignities for married couples: Allie’s sister was tossed from the new United Order for being treated by a male doctor. Her nonmember status combined with a new edict to keep people of opposite genders away from one another means she is allowed to care only for her young sons, not her own 1-year-old daughter, Allie said.

    Eventually, more cracks started to show in all three girls’ resolve to stay true to the FLDS church. Instead of following the rules that required all members of the new United Order to go to the bishop’s storehouse for everything they needed, they drove to Walmart to buy shoes and disposable feminine hygiene products.

    In September, they hatched a plan for the twins to see their mother for her birthday: Allie dropped them off, but stayed in the car and kept driving around town so everyone would think the friends still were with her.

    Another time, all three girls snuck in the back door while mother Helen was playing piano.

    "I said, ‘Give your mother a hug,’ " Allie said.

    "And I said, ‘Can I do that?’ " Heidi said. She could and she did — even though her mother was an apostate.

    Heidi reached her breaking point about a month ago after a marathon church meeting in which Warren Jeffs’ "revelations from God" were recited for about seven hours.

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  54. One edict in particular broke her resolve: the command not to "have sympathy for apostates," she said.

    "It was like a knife in my heart," she said. "I ran away."

    When she rejoined her parents, Heidi said, "I felt so at peace. I felt like I was lifted up."

    Her sister Helen wasn’t ready to go yet. She was still trying to help another friend leave. But she did do something that drew the faithful’s ire: She accepted a car from her mom, who had previously helped her secure credit to finance a new Buick.

    When her mother decided to leave the sect and stay with her father, however, the younger Helen gave back the car to sever the apostate connection.

    Her mother pushed her to keep it, parking it at the caretaker’s house.

    In early November, after her sister was gone, daughter Helen relented and took the Buick.

    "People yelled ‘apostate’ at me," she said. And when Heidi left, the bullying increased. Helen was carrying a load from her car one day when she felt a torrent of water soak her. It was her half-sister with a pitcher. " ‘Did you wake from the nightmare?’ " the half-sister asked.

    That did it for Helen. She decided to join her twin.

    Taken away »Allie had remained faithful to the church. About two weeks ago, she got the call she’d been waiting on for months: It was her own father, who also had been excommunicated in August 2011. She’d been begging church leaders to let her speak with him.

    He asked if she’d like to visit him in Kansas. She was elated to hear from him, but feared the trip was engineered by church leaders to remove her from Colorado City indefinitely for breaking the new church rules.

    When her father arrived to pick her up,he had aged. His hair was grayer. She hugged him, then took pictures with her mother, brothers, sisters. "I just had a feeling it was going to be the last time I’d see them."

    Allie and her sister got in the car with him, but somewhere around Albuquerque, N.M., he asked for their phones, saying he wanted them to give up "worldly possessions."

    "After he asked for the phones, I said, ‘What happened to you, father?’ " Allie said. She refused to give it up, instead sending a frantic text to Helen and Heidi, who made plans to return her to Colorado City.

    Allie arrived in southwest Kansas with her father and sister at a house, where seven FLDS men were living while working construction jobs. She and her sister were shown to a near-empty room. She’d brought her sewing machine, but had no fabric or patterns.

    With nothing else to do, the Steed sisters turned to something forbidden: Watching movies on their phones.

    The twins arrived two days later in Lorin’s Escalade, and the Steed sisters slipped out while the men were away at work.

    "It was mixed emotions because here I was leaving my mother, brothers, sisters, everyone," Allie said. "But I’ve got to move on. Here I go."

    Once they were hundreds of miles away, Allie called her father to say she’d gone. He said she could pick up her things — her mother would leave them on the other side of the fence at their Hildale home.

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  55. Living their lives »One of trio’s first orders of business after leaving the FLDS was to look up some young men they’d known since childhood. The men were working construction in North Dakota, but they renewed a friendship over phone calls and texts and recently met them in Salt Lake City.

    People stared at the girls’ long hair. Although they still wear their signature FLDS prairie dresses at home, they changed into conservative mainstream skirts and tops for a trip to Salt Lake City, where they checked out City Creek Center, The Gateway and South Towne Center malls. The men bought them curling irons, then they watched the movie "Red Dawn." It was a bit too violent for Allie.

    The three women are not sure what’s next. They’re living with Lorin and mother Helen, helping them keep the house clean. Allie and Heidi have their GEDs, so they hope to get jobs; Helen was sick on test day and doesn’t have hers yet. They plan to draw unemployment, for now, and hope their budding relationships lead to families of their own one day.

    "All my other friends have been married for years. I want my own babies," Allie said. In a break from FLDS tradition, where a dozen children isn’t uncommon, Helen wants to have two kids.

    "I’m going to go live my life," Heidi said. "I can’t live that way. I’m just going to go live my life and be happy."

    Holm father wins custody battle

    Lorin Holm won custody Friday of his eight minor children from his two wives who remain in the FLDS. Fifth District Judge James Shumate ordered the children, ages 3 through 16, to be dropped off at Holm’s house no later than 6 p.m. Saturday, said attorney Roger Hoole.

    “Nobody wants to take the kids from the mothers, but the mothers are just not able to protect their children right now,” Hoole said. Though the two women are “very good mothers,” Hoole argued in court documents that Holm’s daughters could be married underage and his sons were at risk of expulsion from their families.

    The children’s mothers will have visitation three times a week for two hours, Holm said — though Shumate warned both sides to avoid the topic of religion.

    “I’m pretty excited,” Holm said, who filed for custody in September 2011. “If we don’t stand up for this thing, who’s going to?”

    An attorney for the mothers could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Lindsay Whitehurst


  56. New Utah attorney general: No shift on polygamy prosecution

    Attorney General-elect John Swallow says he’ll uphold law but won’t actively enforce it.

    By Lindsay Whitehurst | The Salt Lake Tribune December 15 2012

    Set to take over as Utah’s top lawman at a pivotal time for polygamists, Attorney General-elect John Swallow said he doesn’t plan to prosecute consenting adults in plural marriages but will defend the law that makes the practice a felony.

    "I’ve thought about that a lot," he said in a recent interview. While Swallow said he’s concerned about child abuse, domestic abuse and fraud, "otherwise law-abiding partners are not going to be prosecuted while I’m attorney general."

    There are an estimated 38,000 people in polygamous communities, many in Utah, and the state doesn’t have the resources to prosecute all those in plural marriages or deal with the ripple-effect consequences, Swallow said. His approach to prosecuting polygamy will continue that of Mark Shurtleff, his predecessor and boss until Jan. 7.

    But there will still be plenty of polygamy-related issues drawing Swallow’s attention: He will defend the state from a lawsuit challenging Utah’s polygamy ban that has progressed further than any other case of its kind, seek an end to a massive case involving a polygamous community’s multimillion-dollar property trust, and deal with the fallout from a time of intense turmoil among followers of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs.

    Swallow, who served as a state lawmaker in the 1990s, was appointed head of the civil divisions of the Utah Attorney General’s Office about three years ago. He also worked as a lobbyist and corporate counsel after twice running unsuccessfully for Congress.

    Some activists, though, say the state could do more to prosecute abuses within polygamous groups.

    "I definitely have felt frustration and anger of what I feel has been ignored for way, way too many years … the abuse in the guise and name of religion," said Kristyn Decker, who grew up in the Apostolic United Brethren and wrote the book 50 Years in Polygamy.

    When Jeffs was tried last year for sexually assaulting two girls he took as polygamous wives, Texas prosecutors presented seized sect records of dozens of underage marriages from Utah.

    Swallow said he isn’t yet privy to that evidence, but "as I get into the office of attorney general and have that authority, we’ll do everything we can to uncover any type of abusive practice going on in any community."

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  57. The FLDS, meanwhile, is now in the midst of turmoil apparently imposed by Jeffs from his Texas prison cell, with hundreds of members cast out in recent years and others subjected to increasingly bizarre and controlling edicts. Swallow said he’s committed to helping ease the effects of what’s been called a humanitarian crisis at the sect’s home base along the Utah-Arizona border through Safety Net, a committee established by Shurtleff to ensure polygamists have the same access to education and justice as the rest of the state.

    "All that we can do, that we can afford to do, we should do," Swallow said.

    He’ll also inherit one of the state’s longest-running legal battles touched off after Shurt­leff moved to take control of the FLDS communal property trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by sect trustees. Last month the state won an important victory when a federal appeals court ruled the approximately $114 million trust should stay under state control, but the fight won’t come to a full halt until there’s a plan for the state to give up that control.

    "I feel it’s important for us to help [people who contributed to the trust] reclaim those assets if possible," he said, "then let the state step out of it and let that community … move forward with their own lives without state interference."

    He also has to straighten out the millions of dollars in debt owed to Bruce Wisan, the private accountant appointed to run the trust seven years ago, and his attorneys. A judge ordered Shurtleff to help pay some $5.6 million of that money earlier this year — funds Swallow will now have to ask the Legislature to appropriate.

    "We cannot force the Legislature to appropriate money," he said. "I’m going to do all I can to encourage the Legislature to comply with the court order and get [funds] into the hand of the special fiduciary so he can pay his bills."

    And even as the Utah Legislature meets next month, state attorneys will fight at a hearing Jan. 17 to keep the state law banning polygamy on the books. The polygamous Brown family, stars of the highly rated reality TV show "Sister Wives," is suing to strike down the statue that makes bigamy a third-degree felony. It’s not the first attempt to challenge the law, but the Browns’ case — argued by a nationally known constitutional attorney — has made more headway than any other.

    For pro-polygamy groups, the case is about winning the freedom for consenting adults to marry and conduct their personal lives how they see fit.

    "We’re definitely hoping something positive will come from it," said Anne Wilde, head of the advocacy group Principle Voices. "What we have tried to do in the last 12 years is try to educate people about the diversity and the fact that we’re not all lawbreakers in any other way."

    The Browns are relying on the same right-to-privacy principle at the heart of the growing movement to legalize gay marriage, an issue that the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up. Swallow said he hadn’t yet decided whether the state would file an amicus brief to weigh in on that national case.

    "We have no choice but to defend the law and that’s why we’re doing it vigorously," he said. "Our job is to protect the laws of the state of Utah."

    The Polygamy Blog: blogs.sltrib.com/polygblog


  58. Foster children in polygamist enclave raising concerns

    By Mary K. Reinhart The Republic | azcentral.com January 11, 2013

    Arizona is placing foster children in the polygamist enclave of Colorado City, raising concerns about their future and state Child Protective Services’ judgment in finding homes for abused and neglected kids.

    Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson identified one foster parent as Dan Wayman, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose family was “reassigned” some years ago by church leader Warren Jeffs.

    Johnson, a longtime opponent of the FLDS Churchlifestyle, this week notified Gov. Jan Brewer and asked Attorney General Tom Horne for help to bring the child back to Lake Havasu City, where hismother still lives.

    The boy and his two brothers had been living with a foster family in Lake Havasu City since CPS removed them from their mother’s home, Johnson said, but CPS recently moved the youngest to Wayman’s home and his brothers to a foster home in Prescott.

    “His (Wayman’s) wife and children were taken away from him by the priesthood,” Johnson told The Arizona Republic. “They got reassigned, so he’s a single man now.”

    Johnson has prodded state and federal officials for years to dismantle the polygamist FLDS Church. He said foster children should not be placed in Colorado City, where he believes child labor, arranged marriages and abuse run rampant.

    “You’re putting them in an environment where you’re setting them up to fail,” Johnson said. “They’re pretty much cut off from the real world.”

    Horne said he had referred the matter to Nicole Davis, chief counsel for the Child and Family Protection Division. He said he could not discuss details of the case. “It has a very high priority,” Horne said. “We’re taking it very seriously.”

    The state Department of Economic Security, which oversees CPS and foster-care licensing, did not respond to a request for comment.

    A call placed to Wayman was not returned Friday.

    Among the factors DES considers when deciding whether to license foster and adoptive homes is the fitness of the parents, including mental-health history, lifestyle, domestic violence or past illegal practices.

    Johnson said Wayman is licensed to care for five children. He already has one adopted boy, he said, and plans to adopt more. CPS also is considering relocating the boy’s brothers to Wayman’s home, he said.

    The supervisor has long been frustrated by Utah and Arizona officials’ inaction against the polygamous sect, which has held sway for decades in remote communities along the Arizona-Utah line.

    Jeffs is serving time in prison in Texas on a number of polygamy-related convictions, but he is believed to continue to issue orders to his followers.

    In his letter to Horne, Johnson said Wayman was involved in a Las Vegas leasing company with ties to Jeffs.

    “As you are aware, these businesses owned by FLDS members have a long history of employing underaged children as slave labor,” he wrote. “I hope you would agree that this is not an appropriate environment for any child. This is a place where polygamy is the norm and the abuse of women and children is commonplace.”

    Last year, Horne agreed to pay for Mohave County deputies to patrol Colorado City after state lawmakers rejected a bill to abolish the Colorado City Marshal’s Office. Horne said the marshal’s officers are FLDS Church followers and put Jeffs’ orders above the law.

    Last June, the U.S. Justice Department sued the twin polygamist towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, alleging discrimination against residents who are not FLDS Church members. The case is pending in federal court in Utah.


  59. The Bean Fast: Breakfast Day 1

    Americans Against Abuses of Polygamy March 3, 2013

    I'd like to invite you to join me this week in a solidarity fast for the children of the FLDS. The FLDS is a fundamentalist Mormon group run by Warren Steed Jeffs, who was convicted here in Texas of the sexual assault of children. The FLDS practices polygamy, which is a recognized human rights abuse of women and children, worldwide.

    Jeffs has ordered his estimated 10,000 followers to restrict their children to a diet of beans and water twice a day. That's it. That's what they get, beans and water, twice a day. Even the youngest toddlers are on this "diet." There is no milk, no cheese, no meat or fruit, no sugar, no vegetables, no grains-nothing but beans and water. Their parents are still allowed to eat other foods but the children get nothing but beans and water. Remember, even though many members of the FLDS are very poor thanks to the practice of polygamy, which has been proven to cause poverty, that's not why these children are eating nothing but beans and water. They are restricted to beans and water because that's what their beloved leader Warren Jeffs, who they believe is a prophet, has ordered from his prison cell here in Texas. They are following his orders.

    Virtually every last family with children in the FLDS is on food stamp assistance, but the children are still being deprived of real food. Instead, all food is bought and then turned over to the community's "storehouse" and redistributed by FLDS leaders, as they see fit.

    In preparation for this project I have obtained a copy of the menu served to prisoners this week in the Poweledge Unit, in Palestine, Texas where Jeffs is serving his life - 99 plus 20 year- sentence for his crimes against children. Even though he is serving life in prison, he is still controlling the members of the FLDS from behind bars, right from his cell, just like any other two bit crime boss.

    Starting today I will post the meals that are being delivered to his solitary cell, three times each day, so you can see for yourself what Warren Jeffs has available to eat, compared to what the children of the FLDS in Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah are being given to eat.

    My purpose here is two-fold. First, as an act of solidarity with the children I will be restricting my own diet to theirs. I will have beans and water for breakfast and dinner each day, all week. I will be using this exercise as a reminder to pray for the children of the FLDS and for the leaders in Mohave County, Arizona and Washington County, Utah. I will be praying that they will be moved to finally have mercy on these children and to do something to protect them from parents who are obviously unfit.

    continued in next comment...

  60. The second goal of this project is to ask others to join me in the Bean Fast this week, for a meal, for a day or as long as they feel personally led to participate. I hope others who are participating will drop by and leave a comment or two during the Bean Fast this week. But most of all I hope they will share this post with their friends and family by email or on their social networking sites, so that more people will become aware of exactly what is happening to the children of the FLDS polygamist community. I hope it will lead them to contact officials in Arizona and Utah to ask them to follow up on this abuse.

    When I contacted a nutritionist this week to ask their opinion of such a diet for children, this was their professional opinion:
    "This would be very concerning. Such an extreme restricted diet would lead... to serious nutritional deficiencies in an adult let alone a child. Eating a single food item is never going to meet the nutritional needs of a growing child. Deficiencies over time can lead to a variety of medical conditions and seriously compromise the health of the child. With the exception of people living in a 3rd world country and experiencing a famine, there is no reason why anyone should raise their child on such a diet."

    Sunday March 3, 2013

    Warren Jeffs prison breakfast: Pancakes, Syrup,Oatmeal, Applesauce, Margarine, Coffee, Milk, Scrambled Eggs,

    FLDS Children breakfast: Beans and Water

    Warren Jeffs prison lunch: Grilled Ham Steak, Navy Beans, Sweet potatoes, Mixed vegetables, Corn Bread, Tea

    FLDS Children lunch: nothing


  61. Beans, Water Only For FLDS Kids?

    By Ladd Egan, KUTV 2 Utah March 7 2013

    Children inside Warren Jeffs’ polygamous sect are only allowed meals consisting of beans and water, an anti-polygamy activist alleges.

    “We believe the children of the FLDS have been on this strange bean diet now for about six months,” said K. Dee Ignatin, executive director of Americans Against Abuses of Polygamy.

    To draw attention to her cause, Ignatin has put herself on a week-long “bean fast” and is sharing her experience online.

    “While the children of the FLDS suffer this way we’re asking you to stand with us in solidarity this week,” Ignatin said in one of her daily YouTube videos documenting her fast.

    On her blog she asks others to join her in eating only beans and water and to contact the offices of the attorneys general in Arizona and Utah and demand they investigate the issue.

    The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is controlled by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, 57, who is serving a life sentence in Texas on convictions of sexually assaulting two underage girls.

    Ignatin says contacts inside the FLDS Church and others who recently left the church have confirmed that Jeffs ordered the bean and water-only diet.

    “We understand the children of the FLDS are required to eat every bean put in front of them,” Ignatin said. “There are families who are so incredibly loyal to Warren Jeffs that they are sticking like glue to this beans and water diet.”

    Ignatin also attributes her information about the bean-exclusive meals to Ruby Jessop, who fled the FLDS Church in January with her six children.

    “The children of the FLDS got no lunch today,” Ignatin said. “They do not get lunch right now; per Warren’s orders they only need breakfast and dinner.”

    As part of her crusade, Ignatin contacted the Texas prison where Jeffs is serving time and asked for a copy of the inmates' menu for the same week as her bean fast.

    “For lunch he had a baked sausage link, pinto beans, steamed rice, greens, sweet potatoes, corn bread, punch and peanut butter bars,” Ignatin reads from the menu. “You got to wonder as he sits there alone in his cell and he’s brought these meals, does he follow what he preaches?”

    Former FLDS member Isaac Wyler, who still lives in Colorado City, says Jeffs has recently mandated several strict dietary rules to his followers.

    “There’s not pork or dairy products,” Wyler said of some of the food restrictions. “He received a revelation, said they can’t eat it anymore.”

    Wyler said he has not heard that children can only eat beans but that “their main source of protein is beans.”

    As to what Jeffs is eating in prison, Wyler said: “He’s the prophet, he can do whatever he wants. He’s always right.”


  62. First look inside FLDS house, and theory on odd construction

    By Jim Dalrymple II, Salt Lake Tribune, April 26, 2013

    Hildale • The history of this sprawling southern Utah compound haunts its now-vacant rooms like ghosts.

    In a large upstairs room, the plush blue carpet bears divots from rows of narrow-legged chairs. Against a wall, piano wheels left tracks as someone pushed away the instrument. And in a soundproofed back room, the windowsill is covered with dust and construction debris.

    Willie Jessop, former spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), purchased the compound Thursday in an auction. Jessop, who has since parted ways with the FLDS and with imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, paid $3.6 million for two parcels in this small, predominantly poly­gamous town. Between the two parcels, Jessop now owns a school, a row of apartments, a warehouse and three large homes.

    Jessop’s bid resulted from a $30 million judgment he obtained against leaders of the FLDS church. The judgment came after FLDS leaders failed to respond to a lawsuit alleging they orchestrated a late-night break-in of Jessop’s business.

    The auction was held to begin paying off that debt by selling property owned by the FLDS leadership. Jessop was the only bidder, using his judgment in a credit bid rather than paying cash. He took control of the compound Thursday afternoon.

    By Friday, he was allowing members of the community inside.

    As he led the way into the rear of one building on a tour Friday morning, Jessop pointed out the heavy wood doors hanging from brass hinges on walls more than a foot thick. Even the interior doors were sealed with white weather stripping.

    Jessop believes the goal of the unusual construction was soundproofing, particularly in a room at the rear of the building. Though Jeffs’ criminal convictions prevented him from ever using the building, the plan, according to Jessop, was for the FLDS prophet to use it as a place to have sexual relations with underage girls.

    Jessop said it was going to be "another YFZ," referring to the FLDS church’s Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas, where Jeffs and other FLDS leaders sexually abused young girls taken as plural wives.

    "There are walls behind walls; it’s like an onion," Jessop said of the Hildale building. "The more you peel back, the more you cry."

    Calls to FLDS leaders seeking comment were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

    Jessop said the room that would have been the site of Jeffs’ "perversions" had been significantly remodeled before the auction.

    Hildale resident Phil Mackert toured the building Friday and agreed there were indications the room had been modified. Mackert, who did not work on the building but has construction experience, pointed to what appeared to be patch marks in the drywall. He also noted that the wall texture was seemingly oversprayed onto the windowsills.

    continued in next comment...

  63. Jessop said he was glad to own the building because it would never be used to harm young girls. "To me it’s like walking through Nazi Germany," Jessop said of the buildings and their past.

    But he would have preferred someone else purchase the compound. Cash would have been easier to deal with, Jessop said, and he has massive debt from Jeffs’ legal bills, which Jessop helped pay while still a member of the FLDS church.

    He denied he is taking control of the compound for personal gain, as others in the community have suggested. He said he hopes to use the buildings to help heal community wounds.

    Jessop also allowed visitors inside two other homes, including a mansion at the front of the property. A white metal staircase led up to the front door, which opened into a hall with bedrooms.

    The bedrooms were empty, but circles in the carpet marked where beds once stood. In some rooms, other shapes in the carpet showed where there had been desks, tables and other furniture.

    But the purpose of some rooms was clear, even without furniture. One large upstairs room included a small stage and a projector. The wall behind the stage had two windows. Jessop said the room would have been used to record Jeffs’ revelations, which he then would have sent out to his followers.

    The home also had several industrial-grade kitchens and utility rooms filled with water heaters and water softeners. Smoke alarms with dying batteries chirped occasionally. The carpet extended like wainscoting up the walls and, along with acoustic ceilings, muted most sound.

    "This was the blood drained out of a city," he said. "The people who paid for this are living in unfinished homes. The society is totally in crisis."

    In December 2010, Hildale resident Guy Timpson was still a member of the FLDS church and was called to work on the compound. Timpson said he did construction on the red brick building that was meant for Jeffs, and his company built trusses for the other structures.

    Timpson "consecrated" his time, meaning he was told to work for free. The financial strain was significant, he said, and he eventually lost his business.

    The large home at the front of the property was briefly occupied by Jeffs’ brother Issac Jeffs, according to Jessop, but has mostly been empty. In the yard, heavy sunflowers dangle from dying stocks. A series of raised garden beds were apparently abandoned midseason, and dried red peppers sagged on the vine.

    Jessop said he has no specific plans for the facility but expressed interest in turning it into a retirement home for elderly community members. And he hopes the school can be used again someday.


  64. Former child bride says decriminalizing polygamy may help end abuse

    by Ben Winslow, Fox13 Now June 7, 2013,

    SALT LAKE CITY — An increasing number of people are leaving polygamous communities after grappling with edicts and abuses, non-profit groups who deal with Utah’s fundamentalist communities said Friday.

    When they leave the closed societies, they often step out into a strange, new world — with few resources.

    “Living polygamy is a challenging lifestyle. Leaving polygamy is challenging,” said Shelli Mecham, a coordinator for the Safety Net Committee, a coalition of government workers, social service groups, activists, current and former members of fundamentalist groups created to provide resources to abuse victims within polygamous communities.

    The group, supported by the Family Support Center, hosted a conference on Friday for social workers, therapists and other government officials to get education on how to deal with people facing abuse and other problems inside an isolated society. Ex-members of some of the polygamous groups shared their stories of enduring years of abuse and finding the strength to leave.

    Tonia Tewell, the director of the non-profit group Holding Out Help, said she has seen a steady increase in people leaving the Fundamentalist LDS Church on the Utah-Arizona border. She said it is because of increasingly bizarre edicts being put down by imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

    “Warren is probably more in charge today than he’s ever been. He’s going to go down as a martyr,” she told FOX 13. “He hasn’t officially died but he’s definitely more powerful today than ever.”

    Jeffs is serving a life-plus-20 year sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault. Tewell said the steady exodus of people choosing to leave or getting kicked out is straining her group’s resources.

    “Once you’re kicked out, you lose your family, you lose your friends, you lose your entire support structure, your religion, you leave with the clothes on your back and if you’re lucky, your children,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

    continued in next comment...

  65. In an interview with FOX 13 on Friday, the star witness in the criminal prosecution against Jeffs suggested decriminalizing polygamy may help break the cycle of abuse.

    “I think it would possibly create some interesting solutions to problems,” said Elissa Wall. “And it would allow for people who choose to live that way to come out in the open and begin to have a generational impact on people (being) educated.”

    Wall was 14 when she was forced to marry her cousin in a ceremony presided over by Jeffs. She testified against him in a case that led to his conviction on a charge of rape as an accomplice. Jeffs’ conviction was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court.

    “Polygamy is the big blanket that covers up the child abuse, no education, spousal abuse, physical abuse, mental, all of these different things…,” Wall said Friday.
    In the years since Jeffs was convicted, Wall has been outspoken about the abuses inside polygamy, including child-bride marriages. She said she continues to work with people who live plural marriage and those who have chosen to leave the lifestyle. Wall said her focus now is not polygamy itself, but stopping abuse and stopping children from being harmed.

    She said decriminalization of polygamy may create an environment of “informed consent,” where people would choose whether to live the lifestyle, ending generations of secrecy.

    “If it was decriminalized, and you gave women and men the choice, you would create a much more healthy environment for both the community itself but also for the people living it,” Wall told FOX 13. “Because people could come in and out if they chose to. More than anything, my personal belief is that creating that foundation for a healthy polygamous lifestyle is the only way we’re going to impact the youth. It’s the only way we’re going to protect them.”

    Some of those who still live — and believe — in the principle of plural marriage insist decriminalization would allow people to freely report potential abuse without fear of the entire family being prosecuted.

    “People are scared to come forward because they’re scared of the prosecution and so that does kind of, in some instances, keep people from letting authorities know about some potential abuse,” said a woman named Leslie, a self-identified fundamentalist Mormon.

    Heidi Foster, a member of the Davis County Cooperative Society, said outreach efforts like the Safety Net Committee can only do so much if people still fear the entire family will be prosecuted.

    “We want to contribute to society. We want to be friends with our neighbors. Until we are not considered felons, we don’t really feel like we have the opportunity to serve our community the way we want to,” she said.

    The Utah Attorney General’s Office has had a longstanding policy not to prosecute polygamy itself because of religious freedom issues. But prosecutors have charged bigamy in concert with other crimes, such as abuse and fraud.

    The attorney general’s office has said decriminalization is something that polygamists should take up with their lawmakers. Some polygamists have recently lobbied the Utah State Legislature in an effort to get them to consider the idea.


  66. Lawsuit details how polygamy sect monitors and controls members

    In polygamous towns, it’s hard to distinguish FLDS leaders from civic ones.

    By Jim Dalrymple II | The Salt Lake Tribune November 3, 22013

    In 2012, the mayor of a mostly polygamous town reached out for help governing — from imprisoned FLDS Church leader and convicted sex offender Warren Jeffs.

    George M. Allred’s request for Jeffs’ insight is documented in a pair of letters filed in a Department of Justice civil-rights lawsuit against Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, collectively known as Short Creek.

    The lawsuit alleges the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints essentially runs the twin towns, not the elected leaders, not the civil authorities and not all that subtly. If true, it means the separation of church and state — a constitutional bedrock of pluralistic America — is nonexistent, replaced by an iron-fisted theocracy in which Jeffs’ edicts are enforced above the law.

    Attorneys working the case have raised specific allegations they say illustrate the blurring of lines between church and civic government. They argue in court documents that civic and religious leaders conspired to prevent a non-FLDS Short Creek family from getting water, conducted extensive surveillance and practiced housing discrimination, among many other things.

    The allegations are not new, but Allred’s letters offer the most explicitevidence to date of this complex, and at times convoluted, twining of civil and religious authority in the polygamous community.

    The Letters » Allred’s letters were sent to Jeffs via registered mail, prefaced by a cover sheet with the word "Private" scrawled on it. The first letter is dated June 6, 2012, and begins with praise for Jeffs.

    "As my spiritual leader I write to you today with joy and rejoicing in the Lord our God, even Jesus Christ," Allred begins. " It is my firm belief that you have all rights, power and ability to get the very word of God for all who desire it."

    Allred then explains that the town’s police chief has retired and he welcomes Jeffs’ suggestions on who should fill the post.

    "If the Lord had someone he would like to have in that position," Allred writes, "it would be very helpful to get his sure word on who he desires to occupy that position."

    He later asks if the "Lord" has anyone he wants to send to the police academy.

    The requests for Jeffs’ guidance strike at the heart of the lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 28. Plaintiffs Ronald and Jinjer Cookelive in Short Creek and believe they were discriminated against because they are not FLDS.

    In other court documents, attorneys for both the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Cookes argue Allred’s letters explicitly prove the church and the city are in collusion.

    "The two letters provide current, direct evidence of FLDS control of Colorado City," the attorneys write.

    continued below

  67. The letters also shed light on the conflict between the towns and other government agencies. Allred writes in the June 6 letter that then-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was trying to force the police to recognize an occupancy agreement in the town organized by Bruce Wisan, a judge-appointed accountant who oversees much of the property in the area as the special fiduciary of the United Effort Plan.

    In the second letter, dated Dec. 14, Allred asks Jeffs for guidance on rewriting the town charter.

    Later, in a bizarre twist, Allred ponders the prospect of minting his own currency when he writes about the possibility of instigating "lawful money (silver) in the city under the constitution."

    The June letter concludes with Allred asking if he is handling the city’s conflicts correctly before praising Jeffs.

    "I am so grateful the Lord has chosen You as his mouthpiece to all the world," Allred writes.

    Authorities intercepted the letters and delivered them to the A.G.’s office and the Cookes’ attorneys in September, according to court documents filed by those lawyers.

    Mixed power »The letters were filed in the case along with a declaration from Willie Jessop, who ran FLDS security until he left the church in 2010. In his declaration, Jessop reports that over multiple years he met with city officials to "convey to them the FLDS Church’s view on the events" in the Short Creek area.

    Jessop also says in his declaration that city officials tried to thwart Wisan’s efforts to subdivide property in the Short Creek area, attempted to prevent some people from occupying homes in the community and developed strategies to shift the legal costs of their actions from the church to the cities.

    Wisan’s name comes up repeatedly in the documents as someone whose actions FLDS and town leaders often opposed. If true, the allegations would fit with the FLDS Church’s pattern of behavior toward Wisan; earlier this year, church leaders refiled a fraud lawsuit against him, claiming he won an $8.8 million judgment based on misleading evidence.

    A judge dismissed the lawsuit in August.

    According to Jessop, church and city authorities also conspired to restrict new water hookups in the city — a complaint raised by the Cookes — unless the person seeking the tie-in could bring additional water to the city.

    "We developed this policy," Jessop explained, "knowing that the cities did, in fact, have the ability to make new connections regardless of whether the applicant brought new culinary water to the system."

    Jessop also reports in his declaration that Blake Hamilton, an attorney representing the towns, was present at some of these conversations.

    Doubts remain »Hamilton, however, called into question the veracity of Allred’s letters and Jessop’s declaration.

    In a phone conversation, he said George M. Barlow, not George M. Allred, was the mayor of Colorado City at the time the letters were written. Court documents filed by the A.G.’s office attempt to explain the discrepancy by saying that the same man used both names, but Hamilton remained skeptical. He said the A.G.’s office was relying on Jessop to connect the two names.

    "His claims in his declaration are not true," Hamilton added of Jessop.

    continued below

  68. Hamilton also does not believe the Arizona attorneys will be able to authenticate the letters, though handwriting experts will be called to examine the signatures.

    In court documents, an assistant attorney general states that Barlow used the name Allred and did in fact write the letters.

    Attorneys representing the A.G.’s office and the Cookes did not respond to requests for comment.

    The surveillance » Whether the letters can be authenticated, court documents include reams of information about the allegedly narrow gap between the FLDS Church and the administrations of Colorado City and Hildale.

    In one set of documents, for example, Patrick Barlow states he worked security for the FLDS Church and spied onmembers and nonmembers alike. Barlow reports in his statement that church security had access to city cameras and could link the church and city systems.

    "It is my understanding and belief that church elders and senior government officials knew of and authorized the linkage of the church surveillance system with the cities’ surveillance system," Barlow continues. "We could also broadcast church messages over the local fiber-optic network."

    Barlow goes on to say he spied on the Cookes for five years because he was told they were a "threat to the church." The objective was to prevent the family from getting a water hookup and to drive them from the community. And, like Jessop, Barlow reports that there was no water shortage in the community.

    Church security also was used to warn community leaders when outside law enforcement was approaching and to keep FLDS women from escaping.

    "I am aware that church security was also used to keep the FLDS ladies from getting away from the community," Barlow states in court documents.

    Barlow’s comments fit into the larger narrative about surveillance in the community that includes an extensive network of mounted cameras as well as hundreds of photos Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap received from a confidential informant. Though Belnap has little information about who shot the photos he received, Barlow’s description of church surveillance seems to offer the most logical fit for how the images were produced.

    Barlow eventually left the FLDS Church. According to court documents, he later approached the Cookes’ daughter to apologize "for stalking her and her family while working church security."

    The future »What exactly happens as a result of the lawsuit remains to be seen. Hamilton said he "strongly disagrees" with the claims in the lawsuit, even as court documents make it clear the Arizona attorney general and lawyers representing the Cookes disagree. The trial to be held in Prescott, Ariz., is expected to last as long as eight weeks.


  69. Racist FLDS Sect Hit With Multimillion Award in Arizona

    By Bill Morlin, Southern Poverty Law Center March 25, 2014

    A jury in Phoenix has returned a record $5.2 million award, concluding that two cities in Utah and Arizona controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) engaged in a pattern of religious discrimination and intimidation.

    The jury award went to Ronald and Jinjer Cooke, who brought a federal civil rights lawsuit. They claimed they were denied water, sewer and electrical service after moving in 2008 to the area of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah — twin cities known as Short Creek that are heavily dominated by the polygamous FLDS sect. Without the services, the couple was forced to live in a 35-foot travel trailer.

    Significantly, the state of Arizona joined in the couple’s lawsuit, helping to convince the jury that the cities are engaging in ongoing violations of the federal Fair Housing Act and Arizona Fair Housing Act.

    Elected and municipal officials in the two cities, including the police chief, are members of the FLDS, identified as an anti-black, homophobic and antigovernment hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FLDS is a breakaway from the far more mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints, which abandoned polygamy, or “plural marriage,” in the late 19th century.

    During the trial, evidence and testimony revealed the municipalities and their officials deliberately discriminate against non-FLDS members, hoping to drive them from the communities.

    “Clearly, this is the largest jury award ever against FLDS-controlled municipalities — the cities of Hildale and Colorado City,” the Cookes’ attorney, William G. Walker of Tucson, told Hatewatch today.

    “The claim was the cities were controlled by the FLDS and discriminated against the Cookes by denying them culinary water, sewer service and electrical power from 2008 to the present,” Walker said. “The discrimination continues to this day.”

    The jury award doesn’t end the case because the panel agreed with a claim brought by the Arizona Attorney General Office, finding that the Cookes aren’t the only victims, that the FLDS-controlled cities of Hildale and Colorado City engage in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against others. That finding allows the state of Arizona, which can’t get a monetary award, to return to court and ask Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg for an injunction ordering an end to the practice and statutory fines. Legal paperwork initiating that phase is expected to be filed in the next few weeks.

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  70. When the Cookes filed their discrimination suit in June 2010, the state of Arizona agreed with their claim and was allowed by a judge to join in the litigation as an intervener.

    But then the cities retaliated against the Cookes, the jury determined, using “coercion, intimidation and interference.” Evidence at trial showed those acts included having Cooke’s brother, Seth Cooke, arrested on criminal charges that were later dismissed, and filing a civil suit against Ron and Jinjer Cooke that was later dismissed.

    During the 23-day trial, the jury was shown evidence taken in two FLDS raids in Texas and Utah, Walker said. That evidence including written orders — so-called “dictations” — from the sect’s leader, Warren Jeffs, issued both when he was a fugitive and later, after he was imprisoned for sexual offenses against young girls. Jeffs, who is still in prison, has preached that black people are the descendants of Cain, “cursed with black skin” and selected by God to be the “servants of servants.”

    FLDS member and current Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred didn’t want to answer questions about Jeffs’ orders when he was subpoenaed as a witness during the trial. “He took the stand and invoked the Fifth Amendment [against self-incrimination] to more than 50 questions we put to him,” Walker told Hatewatch.

    Experts believe there are an estimated 10,000 FLDS members living in various communities throughout the United States. In the past, there also have been FLDS communities in Eldorado, Texas; in Edgemont, S.D.; and in the tiny Colorado communities of Cotopaxi, Florence and Mancos, in addition to Short Creek and in Boundary County, Idaho, at the Canadian border.

    FLDS members adhere to some of the early-day teachings of the Mormon Church, believing the only way to heaven is for men have multiple “celestial wives,” bearing as many children as possible. They don’t celebrate Christmas, nor do they condone rock music, comic books, cartoons or makeup.

    The modern-day LDS church renounced polygamy in 1890 to allow Utah to gain statehood. The church currently denounces the FLDS movement, even though plural marriage theology remains in its “doctrine and covenants.” It gave up its last anti-black policies in 1978.


  71. Trial begins in FLDS custody case

    by Kevin Jenkins, The Spectrum March 25, 2014

    ST. GEORGE — A child custody battle between an exiled member of a Southern Utah polygamous church and his church-faithful wives took a turn during the first day of a trial Tuesday when the father was allowed to introduce testimony about alleged sexual abuse by the church’s prophet.

    Colorado City resident Lorin Holm filed the civil action in September 2011, eight months after he was informed he had been judged unfaithful by the leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and would have to leave his home and family, which included three wives and more than a dozen children.

    Holm is seeking sole custody of his underage children out of concern that his estranged “spiritual wives” could be influenced by religious leaders to allow the children to experience sexual abuse, forced labor or forced exile.

    His ex-wives have stated they would not allow harm to come to their children. Court proceedings during the past two years have focused on whether Holm and the women could cooperate in raising Holm’s minor children despite the perception by the FLDS ex-wives that Holm had become a bad influence as an apostate.

    Holm is living with his first wife, who left the FLDS church shortly after her husband’s exile and her own investigation into media coverage of church prophet Warren Jeffs, who has been convicted in Utah and Texas on child sexual abuse charges.

    Judge James Shumate has consistently defied efforts by Holm’s attorney, Roger Hoole, to introduce evidence or witness statements about the FLDS leadership’s influence on its members out of concern it would create the stereotypical assumption that all members of the church behave and think alike, and that it would potentially lead the court into deciding the validity of the women’s constitutionally protected religious beliefs.

    “The culture is not on trial here,” defense attorney Rodney Parker repeated Tuesday. “If you step into that world where you start to pass judgment on the culture, where do you draw the line?”

    Shumate signaled he still regarded the case as a “straight” child custody matter as the day began and stalled Hoole’s efforts to present information about Jeffs’ conviction and life sentence in Texas as evidence that children within the FLDS community may still be in danger.

    Jeffs reportedly continues to lead the church from prison.

    Shumate reminded Hoole that he was not ignorant of the child sexual abuse evidence, however, having presided over the St. George trial in which Jeffs was initially convicted before being sent to Texas for trial on similar charges.

    Shumate resolved Hoole’s concerns by ordering that none of the minor children at the heart of the dispute could marry before the age of 18 without the court’s consent.

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  72. But as the day progressed and Parker questioned one of Holm’s polygamous wives, Lynda Peine, about the religious teachings in her FLDS household, Shumate allowed the attorneys for Holm and the children to delve deeper into the FLDS leadership’s influence on its members as well.

    “At this time, is anyone (in the FLDS church) allowed to get married?” Guardian ad Litem Nadine Hansen asked Peine. “Warren Jeffs said … an apostate is the most dark person on earth. They are a liar from the beginning. … Do you believe that? … Do you believe it desecrates a dedicated home if a mother brings her apostate children into her home?”

    Hansen, who was appointed by the court to represent the children in the custody battle, was addressing reports that even the youngest daughters were calling Holm an apostate during the temporary custody visits Shumate ordered last year, despite having been too young to understand the label at the time Holm left his family in response to the church order.

    Peine said she encourages her children to respect their father and that she doesn’t know why they would call him an apostate.

    Peine acknowledged that she and the family believe in being obedient to “the priesthood,” about which she said refers to Warren Jeffs.

    “You’ve also testified that you understand marrying 12-year-olds or 13-year-olds is against the law,” Hoole said. “If there is a conflict between the laws of God given by Warren Jeffs and the laws of the land, which is supreme in your mind? Which would you follow?”

    When Peine responded, “The laws of God,” Hoole asked if that meant belief in the prophet Warren Jeffs requires the belief that it’s OK for a 12-year-old girl to have sex.

    “He never said that, in my hearing,” Peine said. “I don’t believe it.”

    In closing the day’s testimony, Hoole called one of Jeffs’ sisters to the witness stand. The woman tearfully recounted her allegations Jeffs sexually assaulted her on six occasions when he was married and she was 14 years old.

    Hoole asked for the testimony to present Peine with a live witness to Jeffs’ behavior, but Peine sat through the testimony with her fingers in her ears.

    Hoole also called on one of Holm’s teenage nephews to testify about his exile from the polygamous community after he was caught talking on his cell phone with Holm.

    The teen testified FLDS bishop Lyle Jeffs called him into his office and played back a recording of the allegedly taped conversation the teen and Holm had on their phones.

    Jeffs was served a subpoena to appear at the trial, but he has filed a motion to quash it because it was served to his family in what he is calling an act of “burglary” on his property. He didn’t appear in court Tuesday, claiming a conflict with a medical appointment.

    Shumate said he will rule on the motion to quash when the trial continues Thursday morning.


  73. FLDS exile wins custody of kids from wives still in polygamous sect

    The Salt Lake Tribune and Wire Services March 27, 2014

    A man exiled by a polygamous sect has won permanent custody of his children from two ex-wives who are still members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Judge James Shumate on Thursday granted the custody to Lorin Holm at the conclusion of a 5th District Court trial in St. George, according to the St. George Spectrum. The judge said it’s more likely that Holm will allow his wives to visit the children. He said the wives would have been less likely to allow Holm into their residence if they had custody.

    Holm sued to get sole custody of the children in 2011 after he was kicked out of the sect based in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., earlier that year for being deemed unfaithful. He had three wives and more than a dozen children. Today, he lives with his first wife, who also left the church.

    At the conclusion of the trial, Shumate left door open for Holm and his estranged polygamous wives to agree on new family arrangement, the Spectrum reports.

    Holm argued that his children could be sexually abused, forced into child labor or kicked out of the church while being raised by Lynda Peine and Patricia Peine. The two women are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border.

    Lynda Peine said she tells her children to respect Holm, and she denied knowing why they call him an "apostate." Roger Hoole, Holm’s attorney, grilled Peine on Wednesday about her beliefs and the influence Warren Jeffs, the FLDS leader who is imprisoned in Texas on child sex abuse convictions, and others have on her children, the Spectrum reports.

    "You’ve also testified that you understand marrying 12-year-olds or 13-year-olds is against the law," Hoole said. "If there is a conflict between the laws of God given by Warren Jeffs and the laws of the land, which is supreme in your mind? Which would you follow?"

    "The laws of God," she said.

    Hoole then asked if that meant she subscribes to Jeffs’ belief that it’s acceptable for adult men to have sex with underage girls, the Spectrum reports.

    "He never said that, in my hearing," Peine said. "I don’t believe it."

    Hoole then asked if that meant she subscribes to Jeffs’ belief that it’s acceptable for adult men to have sex with underage girls, the Spectrum reports.

    "He never said that, in my hearing," Peine said. "I don’t believe it."

    Rodney Parker, Peine’s attorney, in Wednesday’s testimony voiced his opposition to the trial being about his client’s religious beliefs.

    "The culture is not on trial here," said Parker, the Spectrum reports. "If you step into that world where you start to pass judgment on the culture, where do you draw the line?"

    On Thursday, other exiled FLDS men hailed the ruling as a precedent-setting victory that will make it easier for them to get their kids back, if not their wives, according to the Spectrum.


  74. Landmark polygamy custody case prolonged by dispute over legal fees

    by Cami Cox Jim, Dixie Press Online May 17, 2014

    ST. GEORGE – What is being called a landmark custody case isn’t over yet for Lorin Holm, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who, in March, won legal custody of his nine minor children from former wives Lynda Peine and Patricia Peine, both of who are still active polygamists and current members of the FLDS church. Now that the custody issue has been settled, Holm faces potentially paying his ex-wives’ legal fees – to the tune of more than $76,000.

    “He has financial needs, and he’s not getting any child support from the mothers,” Holm’s lawyer, Roger Hoole, said. “He’s bearing 100 percent of the responsibility for the children and now they want him to bear more than 100 percent of the responsibility.”

    Payment for Holm’s former wives’ legal fees is being sought under Utah code 30-3-3, paragraph 1, which states that in a child custody case, the court may order one party to pay the other party’s legal fees if there is a financial need, regardless of who wins the case.

    Hoole said the statute is wise legislation and makes sense in many cases, to ensure there is no inequality when an impoverished spouse and a wealthy spouse are engaged in a custody battle. But in Holm’s case, he said, not only would the statute be unjustly applied – Holm’s wives had good legal counsel throughout the case, he said, and demonstrated no financial need prior to the ruling – but enforcement of the statute would place a burden on other ex-polygamous fathers; men who, like Holm, have been ejected from the FLDS community and would like to attempt to gain custody of their children.

    “Even if they win, if they have to pay the other side’s fees and they don’t have any money to start with, it puts a huge, chilling effect on their ability to protect their children – and their children need protection,” Hoole said. “It’s very difficult for them to access the courts; it’s expensive, and if they have to risk paying the other side’s bills even if they win, it’s just going to be untenable for them.”

    “It’s an important issue for a lot of people who have been forced out or left the FLDS group,” Hoole said.

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  75. Six former FLDS men who have watched Holm’s court case with interest were pleased when he won the custody case, Hoole said. The men have filed declarations with the court on Holm’s behalf in an effort to show that Holm’s former wives, and others still living within the FLDS community, have the ability, through the church, to pay their own legal fees.

    “When fathers are expelled from FLDS families,” a memorandum filed on Holm’s behalf said, “FLDS Church leaders control every aspect of the families’ life – including how they engage with courts, which lawyers are used and how the lawyers are paid.”

    “In our view, the church controls litigation involving its members,” Hoole said, “and since its members give everything to the church, basically, it takes care of the legal bills.”

    The men who filed declarations in support of Holm are Charles Spencer Johnson Sr., John Willis Barlow, Milton Otto Holm, Garth Spencer Warner, Harold Holm and Dan Timpson. Like Lorin Holm, the men were each told to leave the FLDS community and their families to “repent from a distance” and have been severed from their families and the church ever since. Though some of the men’s children are now grown, others still have minor children living within the FLDS community and are hopeful, in view of Holm’s court victory, that they may also be able to win custody of their kids.

    “These are men who have given everything they own to the church and they got pushed away, thrown out,” Hoole said.

    Hundreds of other FLDS members have been similarly ejected from the community and severed from their families, according to statements filed by the six men. The apostate church members are told to repent of their sins before they can return – sins that are often unspecified.

    “They’re sent away, they’re told to write letters of repentance and they just beat themselves up writing anything and everything they can possibly think of,” Hoole said. “In the meantime, their families are poisoned against them. You know, it’s just happened to hundreds of them.”

    Currently, the most commonly stated reason men are being sent away is for killing unborn children, Hoole said. He said he doesn’t know if that relates to FLDS members using birth control or exactly what it refers to.

    “Nobody really knows what that means,” Hoole said. “These men have no idea what that means.”

    The conclusion of Holm’s three-year-long custody case was the last ruling handed down by Judge James Shumate, who recently retired. The legal fee payment matter is being handled by Judge G. Michael Westfall and hasn’t been submitted for a decision yet. Ultimately, the attorneys fees issue will come down to a ruling and, possibly, an appeal.

    In the meantime, though Holm has physical custody of his children now, Hoole said that getting them back mentally and emotionally will be a longer process.

    “They’re coming around slowly,” he said.


  76. Warren Jeffs child-bride lawsuit halted, trial may be cancelled

    Judge issued a stay in the case until the Utah Supreme Court rules.

    By Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune July 01, 2014

    Though a judge issued a stay Tuesday which halted proceedings in a near-decade old lawsuit that pits a former child bride against a polygamous trust run by the state of Utah, a January 2015 trial date for the civil case stands — at least for now.

    In May, the Utah Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the MJ v. Warren Jeffs case, where attorneys will argue whether a polygamous trust should be held liable for what happened when a 14-year-old girl was forced to marry.

    "MJ" is Elissa Wall, who is suing the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, its imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs, and the United Effort Plan.

    Third District Judge Keith Kelly ruled Tuesday that it was appropriate to halt proceedings in the civil case until the Supreme Court rules on the issue, which will likely take several years. But the judge told attorneys that he was hesitant to issue the stay, because UEP’s assets could be dispersed by the time a new trial date could be set — leaving no money for Wall if a jury rules in her favor.

    Ultimately, Kelly issued a temporary stay, and did not immediately cancel next year’s trial. He opted instead to set an Aug. 19 hearing where he will hear from attorneys and then decide on an appropriate bond or security amount that will ensure assets will still be available after trial. If UEP does not wish to post a security amount, Kelly said the stay will be lifted, and trial will go forward in January as scheduled.

    Wall is seeking $30 million to $40 million from the trust and other defendants. But only the United Effort Plan is defending the lawsuit and is presumably the only defendant with any assets to pay a judgment.

    Wall was raised in the polygamous FLDS. She was 14 when she was forced to marry her 21-year-old cousin Allen Steed. Jeffs helped arrange the union.

    Wall later left the marriage. Jeffs was charged in state court in St. George with rape as an accomplice. Wall’s testimony helped convict him in 2007, and Jeffs received a sentence of life in prison. But in 2010, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the verdict due to faulty jury instructions.

    In 2011, Jeffs, 58, was convicted in Texas of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15, he took as spiritual wives. He is now serving a life prison sentence.

    Steed was later charged with sex crimes in Utah, but the criminal case was settled in 2011 when Steed entered a plea in abeyance to a reduced charge and served 30 days in jail.


  77. Polygamist prophets followers have their days in court

    Vancouver Sun Staff Blog, October 2, 2014

    Another of Warren Jeffs’s followers has gone to jail. Jeffs is the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who is serving a life term in a Texas jail for sexually abusing two girls.

    The latest convict is Nathan C. Jessop, 49. The Associated Press reported that on Tuesday, Jessop was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to abusing boys who were sent to Idaho on a “repentence mission”. Another 360 days in jail were suspended, KPVI-TV reported (http://bit.ly/YMOf3w ).

    Jessop told police the boys, ages 12 to 17, also were church members and were sent to him by their parents because they were disobedient. He acknowledged physically disciplining them, saying the boys were hard to handle and not well-behaved.

    Nathan Jessop acknowledged in court that he locked one of the boys in the furnace room. Prosecutors also said he failed to report that two other boys ran away. The nine boys were removed from the Pocatello home in July after a boy who escaped reported the abuse.

    Jessop is the son of high-ranking FLDS member Merril Jessop, who is serving 10 years in a Texas prison for presiding over the marriage of his then-12-year-old daughter to Jeffs.

    For those who have been following the FLDS story for a while, it bears noting that one of Merril Jessop’s wives is Carolyn Jessop. Since she escaped from his clutches, Carolyn has written two books — Escape and Triumph. She was also a witness in B.C. Supreme Court during the 2011 reference case that determined Canada’s polygamy law is constitutional. I wrote about her testimony during which she said that FLDS members often tortured babies.

    Not that far north of where Nathan Jessop was sentenced, three other FLDS members will be in court next week. On Oct. 9, four people from Bountiful will make their first appearance in provincial court in Creston.

    Among them are former FLDS bishop James Oler, FLDS followers Brandon Blackmore and one of his wives Emily (Gail) Crossfield and former FLDS bishop Winston Blackmore who heads a breakaway sect.

    Former FLDS bishop James Oler is charged with one count of polygamy and one count of child trafficking an under-aged girl from Canada to the United States under Jeffs’s orders.

    Brandon Blackmore and his wife are charged with one count of child trafficking, while Winston Blackmore is charged with one count of polygamy.


  78. The fight to escape polygamy: Valley man trying to free siblings in Colorado City, Arizona

    by Lauren Vargas, ABC15 Arizona January 10, 2015

    Even after four years, it’s the little things that still make Urban Stewart feel like an outsider.

    “I’m 20 years old, I’ve never been on a sports team, and I’ve never done [anything] a kid would do. I’ve never been to a prom,” said Stewart.

    Urban Stewart was one of countless young men banished from Colorado City; an FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) community clouded by polygamy and corruption.

    Their leader, Warren Jeffs, continues to head the church from prison where he’s serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting children.

    “Every day is regulated what you do,” he said. “You go to their meetings, you go to work, you don’t talk to any outside influences and you just do what you’re told.”

    Stewart’s mother was one of three wives. She married at 15 years old and had 10 children before she also escaped.

    “She was born there, you know, her whole life she was taught to cover up, wear a dress, ‘you can’t have your hair down.’”

    Now, Stewart is desperate to rescue his younger brothers and sisters who are still there. He fears they are not being educated, and that his sisters will be placed in polygamist marriages against their will.

    “Even since I’ve left it’s [gotten] harder and harder, it’s turned even more into control and fear,” he said. “The biggest thing is to give them the chance to be a regular kid.”

    Urban Stewart and his mother are trying to raise money for legal fees. They have set up a donation fund here.


  79. Polygamist leaders must answer some questions about labor practices

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune January 21 2015

    Labor-infractions case attempts to tie FLDS leaders to a 2012 nut harvest that allegedly employed women and children.

    A federal judge on Wednesday ordered two of Warren Jeffs' brothers to answer questions about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a southern Utah pecan harvest that used women and children as laborers.

    But the brothers, Lyle and Nephi Jeffs, will not have to answer certain questions about the actions they took or the orders they gave to execute the harvest, U.S. District Court Judge David Sam ruled.

    The ruling capped a day of testimony, motions and arguments for the Jeffs clan, who rule the FLDS and rarely appear in public.

    In the morning, Nephi and then Lyle Jeffs took the witness stand to testify they have "sincerely held religious beliefs," presenting a roadblock to the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts to extract information from them and the FLDS about a December 2012 nut harvest at the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch near Hurricane. Lyle and Nephi Jeffs refused to answer many questions in earlier depositions.

    Lyle and Nephi Jeffs' attorney, Jim Bradshaw, has maintained the FLDS church has a tenet forbidding discussion of the church with outsiders and followers should not have to answer questions about the workings of the church. Bradshaw also has argued that since the government believes a violation of law occurred, his clients have a Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions.

    Nephi Jeffs, 45, was asked by Bradshaw what his beliefs were.

    "I believe that I must live all of the laws Heavenly Father has established," replied Nephi Jeffs, who, the Labor Department alleges, receives Warren Jeffs' messages and instructions from a Texas prison. "I need to earn my eternal salvation."

    Later in his testimony, Nephi Jeffs offered to provide copies of FLDS doctrine.

    During cross-examination by Labor Department attorney Karen Bobela, she asked who authored the doctrines followed by the FLDS. "Heavenly Father through the prophets," Nephi Jeffs replied.

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  80. Bobela asked if that included Warren Jeffs, who is the current FLDS president. That spurred an objection from Bradshaw and a back and forth between the attorneys and the judge. Sam eventually said the witness didn't need to answer the question about his infamous older brother.

    "Whether it comes from Heavenly Father or Warren Jeffs, [the doctrines] are published and will be made available to the court, and that's all I need to know," Sam said.

    Like their older brother, both Lyle and Nephi Jeffs spoke in a soft monotone. At one point, the court reporter had to ask Lyle Jeffs to pull the microphone closer to him so she could hear his testimony. Both men also did not answer some questions right away, prompting Bradshaw to end the silence by jumping in with an objection.

    Bobela asked Lyle Jeffs, 55, who's believed to be the bishop of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, if he could identify a specific church tenet prohibiting him from answering questions about the FLDS.

    Lyle Jeffs said, "Not specifically, other than we just can't discuss our religion."

    Bobela went through a list of items with each brother and asked whether he could answer questions about them. Nephi and Lyle Jeffs each said they could not answer questions about profits from FLDS commercial interests, the sales of goods, commercial records, commercial supplies and names of church leaders.

    Both men said they could answer questions about criminal activities within the church, but claimed not to know of any criminal activities.

    For almost two years, the Department of Labor has sought the name, age and contact information for everyone who participated in the December 2012 nut harvest. The Labor Department has gone to court to obtain testimony and records from Paragon Contractors, the company that provided labor to the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch from the FLDS.

    Paragon and the ranch are owned by members of the FLDS. Labor Department investigators, according to court documents, believe that as many as 1,400 school-age children and their parents participated in the harvest.


  81. Followers of polygamist leader jailed for sex abuse divided as 'compound' becomes bed and breakfast

    The Associated Press January 23, 2015

    As polygamist leader Warren Jeffs awaited his fate in a Texas prison, he sent an order to his followers on the Utah-Arizona border: Build me a new compound.

    Hundreds of men worked around the clock for three months to construct a mammoth, two-story edifice with dozens of rooms. It was encircled by a 15-foot wall of special white cement. The carpets were turquoise, just as he liked.

    At the time, in 2010, Jeffs believed God would allow him to return to live with his wives and children in a village of 7,700 at the foot of picturesque red rock cliffs. But that never happened.

    Nearly four years after Jeffs was sentenced to life for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides, his compound is being converted into a bed and breakfast -- a symbol of the changes overtaking the community he once led. Today, the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, are split between loyalists who still believe Jeffs is a victim of religious persecution and defectors who are embracing government efforts to pull the town into modern society.

    Jeffs' compound is being converted by his former bodyguard, Willie Jessop, who for years defended the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. In defiance of some of Jeffs' rules, he now flies the American flag, keeps the gate open and has torn down part of the wall -- all meant as clear signals that there is life after Jeffs in this divided place 300 miles south of Salt Lake City.

    Down the block from the compound, kids can be heard on the playground at a public school that opened this fall for the first time in 13 years. Around the corner stand abandoned houses where the state recently evicted Jeffs followers who refused to pay $100-a-month occupancy fees.

    Twenty-four other families are receiving deeds to their homes -- a first for a community where nearly all the houses have belonged to sect leaders since 1942.

    Still, those small changes are overshadowed by indications that Jeffs' flock remains large and loyal. The Hildale and Colorado City town councils are filled with Jeffs loyalists. The 190 children at the Hildale public school are only a fraction of the town's estimated 1,200 school-aged kids. Many sect members still follow Jeffs' edict not to send their children to class.

    Towering brick walls with no-trespassing signs surround many of homes that resemble small motels. "Zion" signs hang above dozens of front doors in a nod to the religion's belief in creating a heaven on earth.

    Women and girls wearing prairie dresses with up-do hairstyles can be seen around town, pumping gas and driving tractors. They often run and hide when they see outsiders. Men drive trucks with windows tinted so dark you can't tell who is inside.

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  82. Though he has been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006, Jeffs is believed to still rule the FLDS through letters and phone calls from prison. One of his brothers, Lyle Jeffs, is here and makes sure Jeffs' commandments are carried out. To his followers, roughly estimated to be about 6,000, he is a prophet who speaks for God and can do no wrong.

    "To have it exposed that the leader was engaged in such horrific, immoral acts was a really dark place not only for me and my family but the entire community," said Jessop, who left in 2011. "That's why you see such a fractured situation as people try to come to grips with what he's in prison for. It's easier for people to put it under religious persecution than the reality of why he's actually in there."

    Doran Jessop, a member of the FLDS and the Hildale City Council, said Jeffs is in prison for advocating the principles of Christ. Asked about the sexual assault convictions, he said if Jeffs has "done anything like that, it was directed toward the Lord."

    The sect is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

    Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

    Uncertainty hovers over everybody, followers and defectors alike, because the homes they live in that used to be controlled by a church trust have been in the hands of Utah officials since 2005. A state judge recently created a board that will soon begin the messy task of sorting out who gets deeds to more than 700 homes in the community estimated to be worth more than $100 million.

    Sect leaders have been moving people from home to home for years, said Katie Cox, a longtime resident and member of the community's housing board.

    Cox was one of two dozen people recently given deeds to their houses. She said granting home ownership has offered hope that sect leaders will be unable to control people by way of their houses.

    "It's a symbol of freedom. It's a symbol that we are part of this United States," said Cox. "For so long, it seemed like we had our own little Soviet Union here."

    At a recent town hall meeting organized by the Arizona attorney general in Colorado City, sheriff's deputies instructed people to call specific dispatch numbers, rather than 911, to ensure they get help from county authorities rather than town police who they say are beholden to FLDS leaders. Attorneys for the towns have denied any wrongdoing and say there is no basis for the accusation.

    While many former FLDS say they'll never return to the community, some are coming back, said Cox and Darin Thomas, principal of the school that reopened.

    More changes lie ahead. The public school has plans to put a gymnasium in a giant building once used by the sect as a storehouse and field volleyball and basketball teams, hoping sports will convince more families to send their kids to school. More evictions of FLDS houses and businesses are scheduled, too, and the new board may begin redistributing houses.

    But nobody believes the Jeffs group will vanish anytime soon, if ever.

    Doran Jessop was recently evicted after failing to pay occupancy fees on his house. He has no home or plan but remains a loyal follower of Jeffs.

    "I don't know whether we are going to start living in tents or what we're going to do," Doran Jessop said. "Whatever it takes."


  83. Polygamist who officiated wedding of 12 year old daughter in Texas to receive parole

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune February 10 2015

    Texas plans to parole the man who officiated the ceremony marrying his 12-year-old daughter to polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs.

    Fredrick Merril Jessop, 79, will be transferred to a prison in Huntsville and released in two to three months, said Raymond Estrada, a spokesman for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

    Once he is released, Jessop may remain on parole until Nov. 4, 2021. Estrada said Jessop may be terminated from parole sooner if he receives credit for the good behavior he displayed in prison and continues it while on parole.

    "He's served his required time and kept his nose clean," Estrada said.

    Estrada said Jessop has submitted a plan for his life after prison, but that plan will not be made public until Jessop is paroled. No further rationale for Jessop's parole was given.

    Jessop was among the polygamous Utah and Arizona men who moved to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The property, called the Yearning For Zion Ranch, was the scene of a massive law enforcement and child welfare raid in 2008.

    Eleven FLDS men, including Jeffs and Jessop, were convicted of crimes related to bigamy, sexual assault and taking underage brides.

    In November 2011, a jury in the town of Robert Lee convicted Jessop of one felony count of conducting a marriage ceremony prohibited by law. The jury also gave Jessop the maximum sentence: 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    Evidence presented at trial showed that in July 2006, Jessop performed the ceremony that sealed his 12-year-old daughter and Jeffs in a polygamous, celestial marriage.

    Jeffs was convicted in August 2011 in San Angelo, Texas, of aggravated sexual assault of the 12-year-old and of sexual assault against a 15-year-old girl he also married. Warren Jeffs, 59, is serving a life sentence on the former count and 20 years in prison on the latter.

    Rebecca Musser, a former FLDS plural wife who testified as an expert witness at the Texas trials, on Tuesday pointed out that Jessop's conviction represents the first time an FLDS man was held accountable for giving his underage daughter as a bride. She called that conviction "progress."

    Yet Musser expressed displeasure at Jessop's parole.

    "I find it overly convenient that his punishment draws to an end, while the scars he caused his daughter will always remain," Musser wrote in an email to The Tribune.

    Jessop had two underage girls, both 16 years old, among his 22 wives, according to Texas court documents. Two of Jessop's sons also were convicted of sexually assaulting underage wives in Texas.

    Texas has paroled only one other FLDS man. Wendell Loy Nielsen was in 2012 convicted of three counts of bigamy. He received a 10-year prison sentence, but was paroled in 2013.

    Nielsen, believed to be 74 years old, has since returned to Utah. His parole is monitored by Utah officers.


  84. FLDS land auctioned

    Justice Dept claims taxpayer money given to polygamous church

    BY BEN WINSLOW, Fox13 MARCH 17, 2015

    HURRICANE, Utah — Hundreds of acres of land in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah; and Colorado City, Ariz., was auctioned as part of a long-running court battle involving followers of Warren Jeffs.

    The auction included a dairy, a fire station, a meatpacking plant, orchards and homes. Bidders were initially kind of shy, but warmed up and spent $1.2 million.

    Auctioneer Aaron Shelton told FOX 13 all but seven properties were sold. Guy Timpson, a former FLDS member, was not happy with the auction.

    “To see it destroyed in the manner it is, is very disheartening,” he said after the auction.

    The auction is to pay back debts owed to the court-appointed accountant of the United Effort Plan Trust, the FLDS Church’s real-estate holdings arm that was taken over by a judge in 2005 amid allegations that Jeffs and other top leaders mismanaged it.

    “It must be a pretty difficult job to manage the trust,” Shelton said. “There’s a need for them to generate some income from the trust, their objective is to minimize the footprints of the property they manage, they’ve got a lot of taxes that have to be paid and ultimately they’d like to give them back to the people inside and outside of the community.”

    As the court-controlled UEP Trust has moved to pay taxes and debts, FLDS faithful have apparently been preparing to abandon the land. FOX 13 reported last year that a mysterious “tent city” was being set up where it is believed people who will be evicted from the land will live.

    FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.” He is reportedly still in charge of the polygamous church, sending out edicts from his cell.

    Justice Dept. alleges millions taken from water utility and given to FLDS Church

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department alleges more than $1.7 million in taxpayer money has been diverted from the towns’ water utility and funneled to the FLDS Church for more than a decade.

    The allegations were made in a report by an accountant hired by the U.S. Justice Department. The report is part of a series of filings in a Justice Dept. lawsuit against Hildale and Colorado City, accusing the towns of discriminating against people who are not FLDS members.

    They accuse officials from Twin City Water Works of improperly diverting funds to FLDS members, businesses and suppliers to the polygamous church’s ranch in Eldorado, Texas.

    “Furthermore, had the funds not been diverted, TCWW would presently have substantial financial resources (retained earnings) for many operational activities including providing water to non-FLDS member residents in the Twin Cities,” wrote Mark LoManto.

    The report is being used in a case in Salt Lake City, where lawyers for the UEP Trust are asking a judge to put Twin City Water Works in receivership.

    Attorneys for Hildale sought to have the accountant’s testimony excluded, arguing that it is irrelevant to the case at hand.

    “It is irrelevant and unhelpful because it does not provide any opinions or analysis about any of the Defendants in this case, but instead is entirely focused on a separate entity, TCWW. It is unreliable because Mr. LoManto relies on inadequate facts and data as the basis for his opinions, and because he uses poor methodology consisting of broad assumptions and a disregard of contrary facts,” wrote Blake Hamilton.

    A federal judge has yet to rule if the testimony is relevant in the case.

    Read the report at:


  85. Fleeing the FLDS

    Followers are abandoning the notorious sect in droves

    by Joanna Walters, Al Jazeera America March 16, 2015

    Warren Jeffs’ polygamous sect crumbles in the face of a federal lawsuit and a mass exodus

    HILDALE, Utah — “I finally heard about this thing called Facebook, like, a year ago. I had no idea what it was,” says 22-year-old Brigham Johnson, rubbing his neat beard nervously.

    He’s embarrassed it took him so long to stumble upon the social-media site. But when he finally did, it was life changing.

    “I sneaked a look on a computer, even though that was forbidden, and I found some old friends who’d got out. I was, like, ‘Wow, they’ve been living here in town all this time.’ That’s when I knew I could leave,” he says.

    So he packed a bag one midnight in May 2013 and told his brother he was leaving. Then he walked out on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the outlaw religion he was born into in a remote town on the Utah-Arizona border.

    A secretive group who broke with Mormonism in order to practice polygamy, the FLDS became notorious for child abuse under its repressive leader, the pedophile “prophet” Warren Jeffs. Now serving life in state prison in Palestine, Texas, for aggravated sexual assault of minors, Jeffs continues to exert astonishing power over his flock from behind bars.

    It was only in his late teens that Johnson began to have doubts about Jeffs and his teachings and researched him on an illicit phone with access to the Internet. When he learned that Jeffs had been convicted of raping girls as young as 12 during secret group-sex rituals in an FLDS temple, his gut wrenched. Johnson had helped to build that temple in the desert near the one-horse town of Eldorado when he was 14.

    “Learning the truth hurt so bad,” he says.

    Johnson knew others who had left, including his brother, but had no contact information for them — until he found Facebook.

    Now, after two years of casual jobs in California, Kansas and Wyoming, he is a construction worker in Salt Lake City and sharing his story at a clandestine meeting in the remote settlement where he grew up. The 10 former church members in attendance have gathered on shabby sofas in a little community center in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. They straddle the state border and are often referred to by locals by the old settlement name of Short Creek or “the Crick.”

    Johnson’s audience is among hundreds of disillusioned followers who are believed to be abandoning Jeffs and the religion. Some have found new ways of getting out, such as connecting with others on the outside via social media. Others are seeking shelter in an expanding network of safe houses, where volunteers take the escapees into their homes in an echo of the historic Underground Railroad, which once helped slaves to flee. While the departures are weakening the religion from the inside, it is also under external pressure in the form of a federal lawsuit that is set to reach court this year, which some believe will deliver a lethal blow to the sect.

    “Sites like Facebook and Snapchat have become the new highway for those leaving so they can reconnect with ex-members. It’s easier to leave now than when I ran away 10 years ago and had no idea where I was going,” says Elissa Wall, who fled after Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin when she was 14. Now Wall helps others get out. Outsiders like her sometimes smuggle smartphones into the community to help people search the Internet.

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  86. There are no official statistics but Sam Brower, a Utah-based private investigator who has worked on local and federal probes into the FLDS, says that more are leaving “than we have seen for many years.” He believes that 500 to 1,000 members have left in the last one to two years and about 10,000 remain, mostly in Short Creek, with others scattered in small groups elsewhere.

    For the past two years, the Department of Justice has been conducting a civil-rights investigation into the Short Creek settlement, accusing the FLDS of running the town as a corrupt theocracy, enforced by a dishonest police department.

    “It is my understanding that it will go to trial … in federal court in Prescott, Arizona. I think the feds have a strong case,” says Gary Engels, a retired investigator with the Mohave County District Attorney’s office who was instrumental in getting Warren Jeffs onto the FBI’s Most Wanted list in 2005.

    Jeffs’ incarceration may have curbed the worst of the child abuse, but deep concerns linger about the sect. If the government wins the case it could lead to the church losing control of the town, where the mayors of both Hildale and Colorado City and members of their town councils are FLDS. In the federal lawsuit, even the local utility companies and the police department, known as the marshal’s office, are accused of answering to the church and discriminating against ex-FLDS and nonbelievers. With a government victory, local county authorities would assume municipal and law-enforcement duties and the FLDS-controlled towns would face heavy fines.

    Blake Hamilton is a Salt Lake City lawyer defending Hildale and the utility companies against the DOJ lawsuit. “This case needs to be about whether the activities of law enforcement, etc., are equitable or discriminatory,” he says. “It does not need to be about Warren Jeffs or the FLDS church and their religious practices ... Even if it’s not a popular religion, we have First Amendment protections and people would agree they would not want to be singled out for their religion.”

    The FLDS did not respond to a written request for comment sent to Lyle Jeffs.

    Brower welcomes the DOJ action. He has long been frustrated that elected officials, despite their tough talk, have not done more to clean out Short Creek, which he calls “the most lawless town in America.” Child abuse and polygamy have long thrived here, the church is accused of encouraging welfare fraud and tax evasion by authorities in Utah and Arizona, and some members use child labor in their businesses, all with minimal interference from the authorities.

    In 2008, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said that polygamist groups like the FLDS operate as “a form of organized crime” largely untouched by law enforcement. He accused them of using religion to conceal bigamy, child abuse, statutory rape, welfare fraud, tax evasion and “massive corruption,” as well as “strong-arm tactics” to control their people. But Reid’s effort to create a federal task force to crack down on the violations failed, and the current DOJ lawsuit does not address these issues directly. Still, if successful, it could effectively cripple the church’s control of the community.

    The FLDS is also being investigated by the Department of Labor in an attempt to root out the allegedly widespread use of child labor.

    Outside the community center where Brigham Johnson and his cohorts are meeting, there is no outward sign of turmoil in the sprawling, largely residential town. The streets feature unusually large houses, designed for polygamous families. When approached, residents stonily refuse to talk to “outsiders.”

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  87. They wear FLDS garb — prairie dresses in pastel colors for the women and girls, their hair in coiffed French braids, and for the men and boys, jeans and long-sleeved shirts, firmly buttoned down at the cuffs.

    The town backs up to vermillion-hued sandstone cliffs that are spectacular at sunrise and sunset. But in all other directions the arid wilderness stretches for miles without another building in sight.

    Almost a century ago, members of the FLDS began settling here because of its secluded location. They had been part of the original Mormon religion, which came into being in the United States in the 19th century. But in 1890, the federal government demanded that the Mormons outlaw polygamy in order for the territory of Utah, where they had settled, to be granted statehood. The main church assented, but purists who disagreed with the ban on their sacred practice broke away and formed splinter groups, calling themselves fundamentalists.

    The main church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS, and the best-known rebel group became known as the FLDS. Even though the two sides disowned each other at the time of the split and continue to reject each other today, they both revere Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith (a dedicated polygamist) and study his sacred texts, including the Book of Mormon.

    While the LDS expanded across the world in the 20th century and moved closer to the mainstream, the FLDS did the opposite, consolidating around a small, hard-core group that preferred isolation and the religious extreme.

    Today, the church elite in Short Creek, consisting of Warren Jeffs’ brothers Lyle and Nephi, among other chosen lieutenants, live inside a high-walled compound with security gates impenetrable to outsiders and even to lower-ranked church members.

    Another of the attendees at the secret meeting lived in the heart of that compound until he fled a year ago — one of Warren Jeffs’ sons.

    The pale, thin young man is in his 20s but prefers not to give his exact age or full name, fearing retribution from the church against him or his family members still in the sect.

    He is hunched down, baseball cap pulled low, almost as if he wants the big armchair to swallow him up, and he has been silent for most of the meeting. And when he does speak, in a halting voice, it is to reveal one of his earliest memories, of his time with his father.

    “I was sexually abused by him from the age of 3. The stuff he was on trial for — he started that with our family years before,” he says.

    It’s a startling allegation, even though Warren Jeffs was charged with aggravated sexual assault against minors in Texas, incest in Arizona and rape as an accomplice in Utah; he was handed a life sentence in the Lone Star State for taking underage wives as young as 12. During sentencing, a nephew of Jeffs testified that Jeffs had raped him when he was 5, and a niece said Jeffs had abused her when she was 7. Another nephew who said Jeffs had abused him committed suicide in 2001. And court documents detail how Jeffs admitted in prison that he had been “immoral” with one of his sisters and one of his daughters.

    Though Jeffs was charged with incest and sexual conduct with minors in Arizona, he never stood trial there, instead being convicted in Utah in 2007 of rape as an accomplice for forcing Elissa Wall to marry her cousin.

    Controversially, that Utah conviction was overturned in 2010 because of deficient jury instructions, and a new trial was ordered, but Jeffs was soon extradited to Texas to face the even more serious charge of aggravated sexual assault of minors. He was convicted there and sentenced to life in prison.

    “When my dad became leader, he had so much power he could do what he wanted. He was God on earth. When he walked into the room I was sure he knew what I was thinking,” says Jeffs’ son.

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  88. Men in the FLDS commonly take more than one wife, while those higher up in the church hierarchy take several, some dozens. But Warren Jeffs surpassed them all.

    “He had 80 wives,” the young Jeffs says. “When I was 14, I had ‘mothers’ who were two or three years younger than me — one was just 11. They were his wives and therefore they were regarded as my mothers.” Jeffs is rumored to have more than 250 children.

    It sounds astonishing to outsiders, but the others in the meeting just nod grimly.

    Girls in the FLDS were groomed from birth to want to marry young and, most of all, to want to marry the prophet. It did not dawn on Jeffs’ son until later how wrong this was. Now, he says: “It really hurts to know what my father did and to know that he is my dad. I feel shame.”

    He quit the religion last year for the same reasons that are prompting many others to leave. His faith in the prophet unraveled as he learned the details of his father’s depravity. Daily life became intolerable as Jeffs’ edicts, delivered from behind bars, became increasingly harsh and seemingly arbitrary.

    The FLDS has long been notorious for tearing families apart, most notably sending men away from the community to “repent,” sometimes for years, for breaking the rules or being seen to question orders from the leadership. In the interim, the men’s wives and children are handed over to other men.

    But many who have left recently say that since his conviction, Jeffs has become worse. Upon receiving his sentence in 2011, he issued an edict to his followers banning all marriages and even sexual relations among married couples. He is splitting families up on flimsier pretexts now, sending children away from their parents and separating husbands and wives, sometimes without explanation.

    It happened to Jeffs’ son, too, who was isolated from his family. “I wasn’t allowed to talk to my mother, and if I saw my siblings in town, they would not let me talk to them.”

    Last February, he was working construction, as he had been since the age of 14, and was on a contract in Des Moines, Iowa, with an FLDS work crew. (The workers are paid little or nothing for long stretches — which helps the FLDS win bids for lucrative contracts, but has also attracted the attention of the Department of Labor.) Taking advantage of being away from the watchful eyes of devout members of the FLDS, he cadged a cell phone and some of the pay he was owed from his boss, then slipped away to catch a taxi to the airport. He bought a ticket to Salt Lake City, where he went to Holding Out Help. A charity that assists people leaving polygamous situations, HOH is one of the main stops on the underground railroad that helps people leave the sect. It was thanks to Tonia Tewell, the group’s founder and executive director, that Jeffs’ son had food and shelter when he first arrived. Now, he has a job cutting concrete.

    “When people come to us for help, we don’t judge them,” says Tewell. She deals with many ex-FLDS members who are fragile, some ashamed of being victims of abuse or just for being duped by the sect for so long.

    Jeffs’ son, who says he is “very depressed,” thinks he would have gone crazy by now if he didn’t have the support of Tewell and HOH.

    Some of those attending the meeting have left the FLDS but remained in town. One of them is Isaac Wyler, ex-communicated by Jeffs 11 years ago, who now helps others leave.

    “The FLDS is crumbling,” he says now. “I estimate that 500 to 1,000 people have left in the last year, sometimes entire families.”

    He knows ex-FLDS members who offer their homes as safe houses in Arizona and Utah. But his greatest wish is for people to stay in Short Creek and help tip the balance of the tiny town’s population away from the church — which is already happening.

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  89. Since Jeffs shut down the church controlled supermarket a few years ago, there have been barely any stores in town, leaving most residents to go more than 40 miles away to the town of St. George for groceries. Now, however, the town sports a new hardware store, a health-food store and a coffee shop, all opened by non-FLDS residents.

    And in a sign of the changing times, the public school in town reopened last fall to cater to fresh demand from those who have abandoned the religion, 13 years after it closed down because Jeffs had ordered his followers to be homeschooled.

    Also last year, Short Creek was introduced to its very first major corporate brand when a branch of the Subway sandwich store opened on the main road into town. It’s proving very popular.

    Back in the community center Jeffs’ son suddenly lights up.

    A small group of his sisters, who he was not allowed to speak with while he was in the FLDS, have arrived to see him. The young women have also recently rejected their father as the prophet and walked out, but have decided to stay in town. Though they are not ready to talk publicly, they relay a message via a friend that they believe the truth about the FLDS “needs to be told.”

    The women fuss over their brother, smoothing his ruffled hair while he grins bashfully. The siblings laugh and hug, delighted to be together again — and free.

    [end of part one]


    ‘Deprogramming’ from the FLDS, Warren Jeffs’ secretive cult

    by Joanna Walters, Al Jazeera America March 17, 2015

    Former FLDS followers share their stories about why they left and how they are adjusting to life on the outside

    SALT LAKE CITY — The day Kenneth Thomas left his wife, Margaret, and their eight children, he hoped she would “wake up” from the spell she was under and abandon the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, the secretive religious sect they belonged to, so the family could soon be reunited on the outside.

    “Everyone was crying. My son asked me not to go. I said, ‘One day you guys will understand. Just know I sure do love you. I will make it all right.’ I gave them all a hug. I held my wife’s hand, then I got in my car and left,” Thomas, who goes by the name Ben, says now, choking up at the memory.

    It’s been nearly two years since his departure, and Thomas’ family is still under the spell of the FLDS. Margaret and Ben, who had been together 17 years when he left, are getting a divorce. Deep down, he says, they still love each other, but the church elders have driven them apart. His children, who range in age from 4 to 18, give him the silent treatment when he visits. They have been indoctrinated, he says, by the orthodoxy of the sect, which holds that followers who leave or are excommunicated are “of the devil” and must be condemned.

    A splinter group of the Mormon Church that broke away at the end of the 19th century, when the religion banned polygamy, the FLDS has survived as an outlaw sect ever since. Most of its roughly 10,000 followers live in the remote settlement that straddles the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Despite its attempts at seclusion, over the past decade, the FLDS has repeatedly made headlines around the world after its anointed leader, the “prophet” Warren Jeffs, was hunted down and jailed for aggravated sexual assault in 2011. To his flock, however, he remains the voice of God and relays his edicts from behind bars via his younger brothers Lyle, a bishop in the church, and Nephi, who used to be Warren Jeffs’ personal assistant.

    Thomas story is not unusual for families in the FLDS. They can be torn apart at a moment’s notice on the orders of the bishop, speaking for the jailed prophet and thus ultimately, Jeffs’ followers believe, from God. But the harsh religious rulings and the revelation of Warren Jeffs’ crimes are driving many of the faithful away.

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  90. FLDS members are abandoning the sect by the hundreds, in an exodus that is threatening the future of the fundamentalists.

    Thomas believes Jeffs is losing his mind in the state prison in Palestine, Texas, where he is serving a sentence of life, plus 20 years for the sexual assault of minors. (In his heyday as prophet, Jeffs had dozens of wives, some adult, many underage.) Now, his orders are much harsher than they used to be. Many feel he is trying to control every aspect of daily life for his followers — not just the details of the outfits they should wear but also what they can and cannot eat and exactly how they should wash their hands to remain “pure.” It’s crazy, Thomas says. Children are not allowed to play in the town park, and toys are forbidden. Nonreligious books, television and almost all access to the Internet are banned.

    The FLDS did not respond to a written request for comment sent to Lyle Jeffs.

    In a café on the outskirts of Salt Lake City where he is nursing a cup of soup, Thomas’ eyes fill with tears as he recounts the chain of events leading to his departure. He had been away for work at an auction near Las Vegas and was driving home to Hildale when Margaret called to tell him she had met with the bishop.

    “From the tone of her voice I knew something was going to be rocking my world big time,” remembers Thomas, smiling wryly. His voice has that edge of dark humor that the betrayed deploy as an alternative to bitterness.

    After he drove the last few miles across the expanse of barren wilderness that keeps prying eyes away from the religious settlement, he pulled up outside his home. He saw Margaret, her mother and two of her sisters engaged in tense discussion in the front yard. Inside the house, Margaret told him that the bishop had sent word that they were to be separated from each other and from their children and suspended from the FLDS until they received judgment on what punishment they would receive for having broken church rules.

    “I basically knew that meant until he kicked us out. I’ve seen it happen. It was inevitable,” says Thomas.

    The leaders would either excommunicate them or readmit them to the sect. But in the latter case, while the leadership was weighing its decision on whether to allow the family back, they would be forced to “repent from afar,” which meant the family would have to move away for a period of prayers that can last for years. Many who are suspended aren’t permitted to return; Thomas knew he was going to lose his loved ones.

    His primary sin was using contraception, forbidden within the sect. He also suspects his family had not been sufficiently devout. Thomas would take them hiking on Sundays when the sun was out, rather than to church. And when they did attend, he says, they didn’t pay close enough attention to the sermons. One, he remembers, went on for six hours. His wife had also had a miscarriage, Thomas says. “The church considers using birth control and [having] miscarriages as baby murder, and you will be judged for it.”

    Margaret Thomas wanted to stay faithful and take the punishment, Thomas says, but he had been growing disenchanted with the increasingly strict edicts issued by the elders and knew he couldn’t do it. So he left, hoping she would join him soon and bring the kids, but Margaret is still living in Logan, Utah, outside the FLDS fold and awaiting permission to return. He has tried to persuade them to break away, but they won’t listen, he says. The final straw in the estrangement came when Thomas asked why the children had stopped calling him “father” and Margaret told him, he says, that spiritually, Warren Jeffs is their father. “I decided I was done.”

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  91. Now Thomas is preparing to file divorce papers, and he is discussing terms with Margaret in an effort to avoid court. Thomas wants joint legal custody, but will allow the kids to live with their mother on the condition that he has visitation rights and that she puts the kids in public school rather than homeschooling them, as is the FLDS way.

    He wants to speak out about the pain the church elders are inflicting, Thomas says, and also show he is determined to survive on the outside. Though he occasionally has a meltdown, shaking and sobbing for what he has lost, he is building a new life, piece by piece. He recently got a job in a call center and cherishes listening to music and going to the movies. He still believes in God but is done with all organized religion. He wouldn’t go back to the FLDS, Thomas says, not even for his children: “It’s gotten too weird.” He looks around at the people in the coffee shop. “Despite the pain of the last few years, life just feels more normal out here.”

    Thomas says he has adjusted to his new life as well as he has, partly thanks to a cathartic experience he had last year when he met an old adversary from his FLDS days. In 2007, he testified for Warren Jeffs at the FLDS leader’s trial in St. George, Utah. Jeffs had been charged as an accomplice to rape for forcing 14-year-old Elissa Wall to marry her first cousin. (In the FLDS, “celestial” — i.e., unofficial — marriages are a common way to get around polygamy laws.) After fleeing the sect at the age of 18, Wall became prominent as an anti-FLDS activist. She was famously one of the few witnesses to testify against Jeffs at the trial.

    Late last summer, Thomas saw Wall for the first time since they were on opposite sides of the court battle all those years ago. Wall had contacted him to discuss a legal case in Idaho in which the FLDS was accused of sending adolescent boys away from their parents, sometimes for years, for “sins” as trivial as texting girls. Not long after, he called her and they met at a Starbucks in a suburban strip mall. “I did apologize to Elissa,” who was very gracious, Thomas says. “She told me she understands most of the people there don’t know what kind of man Warren is and they are just doing their best in life.”

    When she speaks about their meeting, Wall’s sympathy about what he is going through is evident. She reckons it took her about three years to feel a sense of stability and confidence after leaving the FLDS, and now she spends her spare time helping others who have gotten out. She puts people up in her cozy ranch house until they can get back on their own two feet and helps them get a driver’s license if they need one, legal advice, a job or enrollment in a GED course.

    With the FLDS’ encouragement of homeschooling, followers grow up learning holy scripture and Warren Jeffs’ pronouncements, but are sorely lacking in geography, math, history and other basic subjects. Many leave with a voracious appetite for knowledge.

    Wall is currently helping a young woman who left last summer to adjust to life on the outside. Now enrolled in college classes, the woman is not ready to be publicly named because her mother still lives within the sect, in Hildale, and fears the older woman would be punished if her daughter spoke out. When church elders discovered that the young woman’s relatives on the outside were trying to get her out, she was moved to secret locations and kept indoors so her family members couldn’t locate her. She finally managed to sneak a phone call to a sister who had left several years earlier and was able to get her out.

    The woman, in her early 20s, is sitting on the big sofa in Wall’s living room, scarfing down a turkey sandwich. She is smiling but exhausted. “I started community college this week. It’s overwhelming. So many people! And I just don’t know how to act,” she says, giggling nervously.

  92. She is finding her freedom exhilarating but also bewildering at times. “I’m having a hard time with simple choices. Before, the only choice was the pink dress or the blue dress or maybe the green dress — there were not many ways to express yourself,” she says.

    The young woman is living in a safe house for the time being; Wall, who lives nearby, is helping her catch up on her education. “When you leave, you are like a big baby with no idea how the outside world works. I feel like I’m starting from zero,” the woman says. She describes feeling like she is “deprogramming” from her previous life: “I still feel a bit alien.”

    But she is also excited by her freedom, not just for the new experiences it allows, but also for the chance to dream. “When I catch up on my education I think I want to study abroad, maybe London,” she says, beaming.

    This young woman is one of the lucky ones. She is adjusting relatively well to life on the outside. Shelli Mecham, a licensed clinical social worker in Salt Lake City who provides counseling for people who have left fundamentalist, polygamous groups, sees many who are more troubled. “Some people flounder for years after coming out of such a stifling psychological environment where you are constantly told what you can and cannot do and what to think,” she says. “Others find it easier to build a new life, step by step, getting used to making their own decisions, but it takes a lot of time and determination.”

    Many fall into drug or alcohol abuse, uncontrolled promiscuity or crippling depression. “There are a lot of attachment problems, especially if people have been ripped from their families. They have to go through a mourning process and feeling guilty for those they have left behind. Many feel shame because they have been abused or anger that they gave so much in their service to the church … and then it all fell apart.”

    The FLDS is not the only polygamous group in Utah that Mecham works with, but it is believed to be the largest and is certainly the most well known for its notorious prophet and for controlling the lives of its members. Mecham says she encourages ex-FLDS members to find their own identity, and building up their confidence is crucial. “They are constantly questioning themselves because their ego was all wrapped up in devotion to the authority of this religion.”

    If some start questioning themselves after leaving the sect, for others the self-doubt began long before. Ever since she can remember, Kathwren Steed has felt suffocated by FLDS strictures. As a child, she would get in trouble for being dissatisfied with reading the Book of Mormon over and over, as kids in the sect are instructed to do. But growing up in Hildale, everyone around her was devout and obedient, so she tried to follow suit. As a first cousin of Warren Jeffs, she was a high-profile member of the church, and she did her best to stifle her feelings.

    When she walked out 10 years ago, Steed buried herself in books and the Internet. She reveled in her unlimited access to Google, she says, which had been forbidden lest followers become corrupted by outside influences.

    Now, Steed, 26, lives in Salt Lake City, where she is sipping a beer in a downtown bar just a block or two away from the enormous Mormon temple that dominates the Utah state capital. This is the first time she has talked to the press, and with her smart bob and neat skirt and jacket, she could be any young professional in the after-work crowd. “Thank goodness for the Internet,” Steed says. “I learned how to put on mascara from watching YouTube.”

    Steed was almost 16, she says, when her father wanted to marry her off to a man who was in his late 40s to early 50s and already had three wives. So she stalled for time. “I told him I had prayed about it and I wasn’t ready.”

    But the problem wasn’t their age difference,

  93. the sister wives or whether or not Steed liked the man. The problem was that she was gay. In fact, she had a secret girlfriend within the sect.

    “We had been best friends for ages, then all of a sudden it had happened,” she says now. The two teens broke every FLDS taboo when they shared their first kiss. “I freaked out after,” Steed recalls. “I was on my knees the entire night, praying, ashamed.” But their attraction only got deeper. Soon they were parking in dark lanes at night in Steed’s car.

    “We pretty much did it all in my little Dodge Neon,” she says with a grin. They thought their secret was safe, but eventually rumors about the “best friends” began to swirl.

    Her parents confronted her with an ultimatum: be damned to hell or give up her forbidden love and get married. She told them she was leaving. Her mother broke down sobbing. Her father took her for a stern lecture from Lyle Jeffs and, when that didn’t work, a spin in his car.

    “We drove out into the desert, towards the Grand Canyon, until eventually we stopped outside a trailer in the middle of nowhere,” she says. She went inside and was amazed to see cousin Warren Jeffs there. Charged with child-abuse crimes, Jeffs was then a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted list and on the run from the law. But he had nonetheless been leading the sect from hiding places all over the western United States.

    Even the words of the prophet couldn’t sway her. Her parents eventually dropped her off in St. George, the small city where as a child she used to secretly buy novels and music CDs when shopping in the local Walmart with her mother. A few months later, Steed’s girlfriend joined her. The lovers stayed with relatives, also ex-FLDS, but Steed experienced vicious homophobia in St George, she says, including from some of her relatives. When she was 21, Steed moved to Salt Lake City with her girlfriend, though the couple split up soon after.

    Four years ago, Steed was working in a lesbian bar in town when an older woman walked in. Dixie Allen had a confident air about her, and Steed noticed her long legs and dark eyes. Allen, in turn, found Steed adorable in her jaunty black-and-white hat and kept calling Steed over to pour shots for her and her friends. Later that night, after Allen had gone, Steed went over to clear their table to find a napkin on it with Allen’s name and number. They’ve been together ever since. “I still have that napkin,” Steed says.

    Allen, 45, is a psychotherapist in Salt Lake City and Steed, now her wife, is her office manager. Allen was raised Mormon (though she is now atheist), so her partner’s FLDS culture was not unfamiliar. “Growing up, we knew where the polygamous families lived around town, and no one bothered them. That was the understanding: Leave them alone,” Allen says.

    The two have even had clandestine visits with Steed’s mother in Hildale, who sneaked out at night to meet them. “She was much friendlier than I expected. And she knew we were together. That was huge,” says Allen.

    Steed finishes her drink and pushes away from the bar. She looks at Allen and smiles. They’ve been through a lot, but have survived, partly because Allen has never condemned her for her FLDS history. “It was so great to find someone who understood my past and never judged,” Steed says.

    It’s a lesson that could prove beneficial to Ben Thomas, who is just now thinking of dating again. After his arranged marriage to Margaret at the age of 23, looking for a girlfriend for the first time in his 40s is a daunting prospect. “Finding someone that knows some of the culture would probably be helpful,” says Thomas with his knack for understatement. But he’s not looking for any particular type of person. “I would just like to find a woman who loves me.”



  94. Wife of Utah polygamist leader files for divorce, describes disturbing, allegedly ‘illegal’ practices

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune April 24 2015

    Charlene Wall Jeffs describes alleged illegal practices in the polygamous community, wants children removed from the FLDS compound.

    The legal wife of Lyle Jeffs, the man running the day-to-day operations of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has filed for divorce and wants custody of her minor children, in part because of some practices in the faith that she describes as "illegal."

    Documents filed by Charlene Wall Jeffs, 58, discuss life in the FLDS under her husband and his imprisoned brother, Warren Jeffs — from restrictive diets to sexual policies that she refers to as rape.

    "Under Lyle's reign as substitute Prophet, the FLDS Church has become even more disturbing than it was under Warren," Charlene Jeffs says in a petition filed in 5th District Juvenile Court in St. George.

    The petition asks that two teenage children she has with her husband be removed from Lyle Jeffs' compound in Hildale and placed with her or into protective custody.

    The documents in the petition show that Judge Paul Dame did not find the children were in imminent danger and declined a request to remove the youths immediately. A hearing has been scheduled to hear oral arguments.

    Attorneys for Charlene and Lyle Jeffs did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

    The petition was filed with the court April 10. Child-welfare cases are typically not public in Utah, but the Jeffs petition was fastened to the compound door in an effort to serve Lyle Jeffs and has been circulated among people who have left the FLDS.

    Lyle and Charlene Jeffs have been married since August 1983 and have 10 children together, the petition says. The two teenagers discussed in court documents, a 17-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, appear to be the youngest.

    Charlene Jeffs says she has been "excluded" from the teens' lives for about three years.

    "Of Lyle's multiple wives, I was never the favorite because I have a mind of my own," Charlene Jeffs wrote in the petition. "Lyle sent me away from the family to repent for the first time in November 2002 because 'I did not know how to properly treat the Priesthood in my life.' "

    FLDS leaders are referred to as "the Priesthood."

    Charlene Jeffs goes on to write that in the first year of her exile, she was allowed to live in the family home but not to mother her children.

    "I could cook and clean but do no more," she wrote. "In the FLDS Church, children belong to the Priesthood and can be transferred to different mothers or different parents all together upon an order from the Priesthood."

    In the second year of her exile, Charlene Jeffs said, she was moved to a guest house in Hildale. She returned to the family home after two years of repenting, but has not been allowed to rear her children since then, she wrote. Care for the children has been rotated among her husband's so-called spiritual wives, she wrote.

    Other members of Lyle Jeffs' family who have left the FLDS have said Charlene Jeffs was the first of nine wives. One of the spiritual wives is Pauline Barlow, and she is named as a respondent in the custody petition.

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  95. Charlene Jeffs said she was ordered to leave her husband's compound Sept. 27, 2014, for being "unrighteous." She has not been allowed to see the teens since then.

    Charlene Jeffs asked the judge to remove the children immediately before her husband realized she had no interest in returning to the FLDS.

    "The Jeffs family is the FLDS equivalent of the British Royal Family and they have their own FLDS 'secret service' to protect them from the outside world," Charlene Jeffs explained in her petition. "If Lyle had any idea that I have gone 'apostate,' he would make my children disappear to one of the many hidden FLDS communities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico or somewhere new altogether, and I would never find them."

    Charlene Jeffs described what she deemed two "illegal practices," including one adopted in recent years referred to as the "seed bearer" doctrine in which men no longer are allowed to have children with their wives. Instead, a group of seed bearers have been chosen.

    "It is the husband's responsibility to hold the hands of their wives while the seed bearer 'spreads his seed,' " Charlene Jeffs wrote. "In layman terms, the husband is required to sit in the room while the chosen seed bearer, or a couple of them, rape his wife or wives."

    It's not the first description of such a policy. In 2014, two University of Utah researchers published a paper on polygamy that, drawing on interviews, discussed how only 15 worthy men were allowed to procreate. That paper said the husband holds down the wife while one of the 15 men rapes her.

    Charlene Jeffs also describes the "Law of Sarah" in which FLDS women perform sex acts on one another to prepare for an encounter with a man in the Priesthood. Charlene Jeffs says a sister wife made advancements on her, but she refused. In her petition, Charlene Jeffs worries her daughter will be made to participate in the practice.

    Charlene Jeffs also is concerned about a lack of education for FLDS children and orders from Lyle and Warren Jeffs forbidding certain vegetables, milk and ocean fish. She checked a box on the petition indicating she had made a report to Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

    Ashley Sumner, a spokeswoman for DCFS, declined Friday to discuss whether that agency had any involvement, citing a confidentiality policy.

    The divorce petition was filed April 17 in a separate case in 3rd District Court in Tooele.

    Warren Jeffs, 59, is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in Texas for convictions related to taking two girls as child brides. He is still considered the president and prophet of the church and communicates orders through his family. His former followers say Lyle Jeffs, 55, runs the church in his absence.

    During the past 15 years, hundreds of people have stopped following Warren and Lyle Jeffs, either after being evicted or because of the edicts the brothers have handed down.

    Charlene Jeffs is a half sister of Elissa Wall and Rebecca Musser. Elissa Wall, known as "MJ" when she was a juvenile, was the alleged victim in Warren Jeffs' 2007 trial in St. George in which he was convicted of being an accomplice to rape. The Utah Supreme Court later overturned the conviction.

    Musser was a wife to Rulon Jeffs, Lyle and Warren's father. She later testified for the prosecution in the Texas trials where Warren Jeffs and nine other men were convicted of sex crimes or bigamy.


  96. A polygamous community's cop is spilling its secrets

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune MAY 3, 2015

    Helaman Barlow, former Short Creek law officer, has turned witness, offering insights into church’s influence.

    Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. • What's the worst thing Helaman Barlow did as a marshal of the polygamous towns here on the Utah-Arizona border?

    He knew men who took 16-year-old girls as plural wives. The marriages were sanctioned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so Barlow didn't report them.

    He looked up license plates for church security so they could track dissenters and their families. He obstructed the FBI when it came to town.

    When a church leader said he wanted another marshal demoted, Barlow watched for and reported a minor transgression made by the marshal, so officials of Colorado City and adjacent Hildale had cause for the punishment. Barlow said a similar tactic was used to fire him when he fell out of favor with FLDS leaders.

    But the worst thing Barlow did as a marshal? When asked that Wednesday in his workshop in Colorado City, he grimaced behind his white Fu Manchu mustache.

    "I better not tell you that," Barlow said.

    What ever it is, local and federal prosecutors have not yet given Barlow immunity for it, he explained, though they have given him that clearance for a lot of other things he has confessed in the past year.

    Those confessions have affirmed what many in and out of Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, have believed for decades — that the FLDS run the towns, down to making hiring decisions for the local governments. Barlow, 49, said he tried to walk a line between protecting his faith and providing the same type of policing you would expect to find in any town.

    "This community," Barlow said, "has always been a theocracy."

    "Church calling" • The Barlow family has been integral to Short Creek. Barlow's grandfather was John Y. Barlow, one of the community's founders and, from 1935 until his death in 1949, the prophet of what would become the FLDS.

    Barlow's father, Sam Barlow, was a deputy sheriff for Mohave County, Ariz., and later a Short Creek deputy marshal during the 1980s, during which he also acted as a church spokesman.

    Helaman Barlow said he has never been a polygamist. He was married and divorced once when he was young. He married his current wife when they were in their early 20s. They have 11 children.

    Barlow said he wanted to be a Short Creek marshal. In 1994, when another candidate failed the physical-fitness requirements at Utah's police academy, Colorado City's mayor went to Barlow and asked if he wanted the job. (Prospective Short Creek marshals go to Utah's police academy then gain certification in Utah and Arizona.)

    Barlow did. But first, he wanted someone's advice — that of Rulon Jeffs, then the FLDS president and prophet and the father of current FLDS President Warren Jeffs. Barlow called him and asked what God wanted him to do.

    Rulon Jeffs told Barlow that, yes, he should attend the police academy; he would do a good job as a marshal. The day Barlow graduated from the academy in June 1994, his father and Rulon Jeffs took him to lunch at Rulon Jeffs' favorite restaurant, the since-defunct New Hong Kong in Sandy.

    Barlow asked the prophet what advice he had for a new marshal. Barlow couldn't remember the exact words Wednesday, but said it was along the lines of "stand between the church and all harm."

    "It was very well understood in my mind," Barlow explained, "that it was a church calling."

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  97. Short Creek bridge • For the most part, Barlow said, there were no conflicts between his role as a marshal and that of an FLDS follower. He still enforced laws, though he was more inclined to issue warnings for traffic offenses than to write someone a ticket. When a teenage boy in a passing vehicle mooned Sam Brower, the private detective who has been investigating the FLDS for a decade, Barlow tracked down the youngster and cited him for lewdness.

    Barlow said he tried to be a bridge between church leadership and law enforcement. When a warrant was issued for someone in the FLDS hierarchy, usually for some misdemeanor offense or contempt of court, Barlow would go to the leader and explain that the warrant wasn't going away.

    Barlow then would drive the man to the Washington County Jail, stop, handcuff him, take him into the lockup, book him and have him pay the fine.

    For the last eight years of his career, Barlow investigated crimes against children.

    Patricia Sheffield, director of the Washington County Children's Justice Center, said Barlow would bring children there to be interviewed about abuse allegations.

    There, Sheffield said, Barlow would try to persuade the kids — who distrusted outsiders — to be honest with the staff.

    "He trusted us as staff here," Sheffield said, "that we would be honorable with the children."

    Barlow saw a paradigm shift in Short Creek when Warren Jeffs took charge in 2002 and began evading process servers, sheriff's deputies and, eventually, the FBI. By the time Jeffs made the FBI most-wanted list, Barlow tried to distance himself from law enforcement and FLDS higher-ups.

    Barlow said he told everybody he didn't want to know where Jeffs was and that no one should tell him. Barlow didn't communicate with Jeffs while he was on the run.

    His brethren weren't so careful.

    "Slow walking" • Two other marshals wrote Jeffs letters professing their loyalty. When law enforcement intercepted the correspondence, Utah and Arizona stripped the pair of police powers.

    Four other Short Creek marshals lost their badges or quit during that decade over allegations of bigamy or failing to answer grand jury questions.

    Barlow said he and other marshals also received instructions from the church on how to block the FBI and other law enforcement that came to town. If another law enforcement agency arrived in Short Creek to serve a search warrant or subpoena, the marshals would announce it over their radios, knowing every marshal, firefighter and search-and-rescuer would hear it.

    One of those people would warn the person about to be served. The marshals' term for this tactic: "slow walking."

    Barlow and his colleagues also helped church security, dubbed the "God Squad" by former FLDS members. Security would spot a car entering the towns and ask the marshals to whom the license plates belonged.

    "We were one of the tools in their belt," Barlow said.

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  98. The God Squad sometimes would reciprocate and tell the marshals about teens drinking alcohol or other crimes.

    Wanting to leave • In 2008, Texas authorities raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado. Two of Barlow's sisters were there, and Texas Child Protective Services removed their children. Barlow went to Texas to try to help his siblings.

    Barlow said he and Willie Jessop, Jeffs' chief protector at the time, learned from their attorneys and Texas Rangers about what was found on the ranch — records of Jeffs taking 12- and 15-year-old girls as brides and having sex with the younger one in the temple.

    Barlow knew of FLDS marriages to 16-year-olds. Marshal Rodney Holm was convicted of bigamy in Utah for taking a teenage bride. Barlow, he later testified in a deposition, heard that Marshal Jonathan Roundy had taken a 16-year-old as a wife. Since the church approved the marriages, Barlow didn't investigate or report them.

    But 12- and 15-year-old brides? Barlow had never seen anything like that in the FLDS. He decided he wanted out. His wife, Enid, wanted to stay.

    So Barlow continued going to church and taking orders from the Jeffs family. He and his wife were admitted into the United Order — Warren Jeffs' elite subset among his followers.

    About a year after the Texas raid, Lyle Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' brother, wanted one of his handpicked followers to be a full-time marshal in Short Creek. To facilitate the move, Barlow reported deputy marshal Shem Jessop for misconduct after the latter searched a juvenile's car in a way that violated policy.

    "We basically made a mountain out of a mole hill," Barlow said.

    Shem Jessop was demoted to part time.

    In May 2012, Barlow has said, he was appointed interim chief of the Short Creek marshals. That July, Barlow went to the then-bishop of Short Creek, John Wayman.

    Wayman approved of Barlow being appointed permanent chief and said he would let the town governments know, according to a Barlow deposition.

    That same month, Lyle Jeffs stood up in church, told the congregants they were unworthy of the United Order, needed to repent and would be interviewed again for inclusion.

    This time it was Enid who had enough. Barlow told his wife, "Good." Then he started telling her what he learned in Texas.

    Warren Jeffs and his brothers had ordered their followers not to read or watch anything about the Texas findings. That became a conflict for Barlow when he was asked — during a Nov. 21, 2013, deposition for the U.S. Department of Justice discrimination lawsuit against Hildale and Colorado City — to read aloud some of Jeffs' dictations seized by Texas authorities.

    Barlow was evasive and downplayed the church's involvement in the towns. Then a Justice Department lawyer showed Barlow some of Warren Jeffs' writings seized by Texas and had Barlow read them aloud. Colorado City Town Manager David Darger, who was at the deposition, left the room when the Jeffs documents appeared.

    Confessions • Barlow said FLDS and town officials were already suspicious of him and his wife for having stopped attending church. He also had quit answering phone calls from church leaders. Reading the Texas evidence appeared to be the last straw.

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  99. Four days after the deposition Darger accused Barlow of drinking the morning of the deposition and having beer on his breath. Barlow, who denied the allegation, received a written reprimand. More write-ups followed. Darger also was curt with him, Barlow said, and wouldn't travel with him on town business anymore. The towns placed Barlow on administrative leave in early April 2014. He eventually was fired.

    Barlow went to the Justice Department. On April 22, 2014, at a motel in St. George, Barlow gave a new deposition, telling the government, among other things, about how the towns and the FLDS operate, alleging that Darger told him to alter a police report to make it less favorable to an FLDS critic and about the retaliation he suffered after the earlier deposition.

    In that same deposition, under questioning from Hildale lawyer Blake Hamilton, Barlow admitted to lying in his previous deposition and to failing to investigate or report a number of crimes or policy violations committed by other marshals. The lying and omission was later cited by the towns as cause to terminate Barlow.

    Hamilton also has argued, in court documents and in interviews, that employees of Hildale and Colorado City have the right to their religion; that the Justice Department must show specific violations of the law and then must show a pattern that caused injury to people alleging discrimination. The Department of Justice lawsuit against the towns is continuing.

    Barlow also has spoken with investigators from the Washington County Attorney's Office and the Arizona attorney general — all under promises of immunity. Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap on Thursday declined to discuss details of his interview with Barlow and said it would be speculation to say whether the new information would lead to any criminal charges.

    Barlow said he didn't want to leave policing but surrendered his police certification rather than have Utah and Arizona take it away. He has started a print shop, where he also stores motorcycles for his friends and family. Motorcycles have been a hobby of his since he was old enough to drive.

    He grew the Fu Manchu and let his white hair grow to his shoulders to announce his defection from the Jeffses. Loyal FLDS men have short hair and no whiskers.

    "I don't have to explain anything," Barlow said of his look.

    Like a cop looking for a clue, Barlow watches the reactions people give him in Short Creek. If passers-by see him, put their heads down and walk away, they are still loyal to church leaders.

    If they peer at his locks and facial hair and smile, Barlow said, either they, too, have left the FLDS or want to.


  100. Former FLDS Follower Describes Tense Standoff With FLDS Members Over Her Kids


    When a throng of praying, hymn-singing polygamous women of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints confronted Sabrina Broadbent while she was getting her four children out of the church-dominated community, she tried to stay as calm as possible.

    “I knew my kids were watching,” she told “20/20.” “They needed to see me have courage. … I did not want them to see me cry.”

    Broadbent is a former member of the FLDS, a polygamist sect that dominates the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, which straddle the Arizona-Utah border. The church community is still allegedly controlled by their imprisoned prophet Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for the sexual assault of two girls, including a 12-year-old he counted among his more than 70 wives.

    The tense standoff, which caught national attention when it happened in early April, lasted for more than 15 hours.

    “Everybody that was surrounding the van… they’re all for Warren,” Broadbent said. “They kept yelling and they were singing and praying and I’m like, ‘Oh, I have got to get out of here, I feel so uncomfortable with you guys right now.’”

    Broadbent left the group eight years ago, leaving her four children behind because she believed the church would make it impossible for her to win custody.

    “There was nothing I could do at that point because I didn’t dare go up against the church or anything,” Broadbent said. “I could never do that. … I didn’t have money for attorneys. I didn’t know anybody back then … never thought I could have a chance.”

    Once someone leaves the community, she said, they are ostracized.

    “To them, someone leaving the community, it’s like death to them,” Broadbent said. “So once they leave, they’re cut off. They can never see those people again.”

    The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a radical polygamist sect that splintered off from the Mormon Church, or more formally called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more than a century ago. FLDS ancestors broke away from the Mormon Church over the issue of polygamy after the church renounced its practice.

    Since leaving the church, Broadbent has remarried and has a 3-year-old son with her new husband, but she never lost touch with her four other children, now ages 8 to 13. She kept a journal and photo album of her court-ordered visitations over the years.

    But by Christmastime 2014, Broadbent said it became painfully obvious that her FLDS children viewed her as an evil outsider. Broadbent sought full custody this year and on April 2, a Mohave County judge awarded her legal custody of all four children.

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  101. But when Broadbent her brother and her husband showed up with a court order at her former sister-in-law Samantha’s house, where her kids had been staying, Broadbent said they were suddenly surrounded by more than a dozen “God Squad” vehicles.

    “I just got a bad feeling in my gut. I’m like, ‘Lock the doors,’” Broadbent said.

    “The God Squad” is the FLDS Church’s security team, which watches for outsiders and is known to have an extensive network of cameras and spies across the FLDS community.

    Broadbent said they left and returned early the next morning. When she spotted two of her sons, Isaac, her oldest, and Rulon, she called out to them, but the kids kept their distance.

    “I said, ‘Isaac, come here, let me talk to you,’” Broadbent said. “And he’s like, ‘Get away from me, get away from me, you apostate.’ And he jumped the fence and ran.”

    Broadbent said her kids turned their backs on her because “they’ve been poisoned against me” by other FLDS Church members because she left.

    “They called me the devil a few times. ‘You’re the devil,’ you know, ‘You’re going to hell.’ All this stuff,” she said.

    Broadbent tried to negotiate with her former sister-in-law, but she just stalled, telling Broadbent, “Warren is coming, he will deliver these children,” referring to the imprisoned Jeffs.

    That’s when Broadbent said scores of church members started showing up. Although FLDS Church members are forbidden from watching videos or television, many were carrying cameras.

    “They just tried to intimidate you,” Broadbent said. “They all had cameras … they had come right up to your face … they’re obnoxious.”

    Her sons joined the crowd of FLDS members videotaping Broadbent. At one point, the boys even threw a chicken into her van.

    Hours into the standoff, Broadbent said she received a handwritten note from her children, which laid out demands on behalf of their aunt. “We will only get in this car if you will sign this paper saying we will have visitation with Samantha.”

    Broadbent refused to sign the document and the standoff dragged on.

    Eventually, Broadbent said she had enough and gave permission to the local sheriff’s department to use force if necessary to remove her children. When they arrived, the deputies reviewed Broadbent’s court order and went up to the house to get the children.

    But before the deputies could act, FLDS women in prairie dresses paraded the kids out. The children got up to Broadbent’s van doors, but didn’t want to get in. Finally, a sheriff’s deputy told the children it was time to leave. The kids climbed into the van, and the family drove away.

    While she finally had her kids back, Broadbent said her troubles at home with them were just beginning.


  102. FLDS Church Members Fined $2 Million for Alleged Child Labor Violations

    By CHRIS KILMER, ABC NEWS 20/20 May 8, 2015

    The brother of the controversial Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs is among several high-profile FLDS church members facing nearly $2 million in fines for alleged violations of federal child labor laws, ABC News has learned.

    The U.S. Department of Labor confirmed fines totaling $1,964,450 were filed against FLDS church members Lyle Jeffs, Dale Barlow, Brian Jessop, the FLDS and Paragon Contractors Corporation. The department launched an investigation in December 2012, after private investigator Sam Brower uncovered what he called FLDS-organized child labor at orchards near the town of Hurricane, Utah.

    On a recent visit to the area, ABC News’ “20/20” found children at work, using forklifts and shoveling dirt to build fences. Former FLDS member Joe Broadbent told “20/20” that when he was in the church years ago “the schools would stop, and we would all load up and go pick pecans.”

    The FLDS is fighting the Department of Labor’s investigation in court. Officials said the church, along with Paragon Contractors, Brian Jessop, and Dale Barlow, are also contesting the latest round of fines.

    “On April 20, 2015, WHD assessed civil money penalties jointly and severally against Paragon Contractors Corporation, Brian Jessop, Dale Barlow, Lyle Jeffs, and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is incorporated as the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the FLDS Church and the Corporation of the President of the FLDS Church, in the amount of $1,964,450 for violations of the child labor prohibitions of the Fair Labor Standards Act related to the pecan harvest. DOL continues to consider other appropriate enforcement actions related to this investigation. To date, Paragon Contractors, Brian Jessop, and Dale Barlow have contested the penalty assessment, ” a Department of Labor official said in a statement to ABC News.


  103. Amy Berg Tackles Cult Leader and Child Rapist Warren Jeffs in 'Prophet's Prey'

    By Laura Berger | Women and Hollywood July 17, 2015

    Prolific filmmaker Amy Berg has yet another movie set for release in 2015. It was only last month that the Academy Award nominee debuted the documentary "An Open Secret" and her first narrative feature, "Every Secret Thing."

    Berg's latest, "Prophet's Prey," focuses on Warren Jeffs, the former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and current convict. The one-time leader of the most prominent polygamous Mormon sect in North America was charged and found guilty of sexually assaulting underage girls.

    The disturbing trailer features an interviewee, Jeffs' nephew, saying that the so-called prophet "was abusing these kids, and then he'd go right back on top of that stage and preach the word of God." In 2010, Jeffs landed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List when he tried to flee from prosecution in Utah.

    Berg received her Oscar nom for "Deliver Us from Evil," a documentary about a defrocked Catholic priest who raped children in his parish. "An Open Secret" chronicled Hollywood's long and sordid history of exploiting its most vulnerable performers: child actors. Berg has a clear interest in sex-abuse scandals and a deft hand with telling the stories of people whose lives have been affected by these predators. Her films also offer salient critiques of the institutions and legal systems that allow perpetrators to thrive.

    "Prophet's Prey" opens in the fall in theaters and will also air on Showtime.

    Watch the trailer for Prophet's Prey at:


  104. Warren Jeffs son and daughter allege sexual abuse

    By Tricia Escobedo, CNN September 29, 2015

    Learn more about the allegations and the polygamous Mormon sect on "This is Life with Lisa Ling," Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Check out a 10 minute preview of the show on CNNGo.

    (CNN)For the first time, two children of Warren Jeffs have alleged that the imprisoned leader of the polygamous Mormon sect sexually abused them as children.

    Becky and Roy Jeffs, both adults, made the revelations to Lisa Ling on her upcoming CNN show "This is Life," which premieres Wednesday night. They both recently left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS.

    Becky told Ling that she first told one of her sisters, after her sister revealed she was abused as a child.

    "I thought, I'm not the only one molested, he's done it to her it must be something that was in his nature," Becky Jeffs says on the show. "Where does it end? If he had this in him, how can I trust him? How is he really our prophet?"

    CNN reached out to Warren Jeffs' attorney who did not have an immediate response from his client.

    Becky and Roy are among four of Jeffs' children who have left the FLDS, which is based in the twin cities of Colorado City, Utah, and Hildale, Arizona, where recent floods devastated the community.

    Warren Jeffs fathered some 60 children with some of his estimated 78 wives. The elder Jeffs is serving a life sentence, plus 20 years, after he was convicted in 2011 of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl who Jeffs claimed were his "spiritual wives."

    Despite his imprisonment, Jeffs is still firmly in control of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The FLDS is a breakaway Mormon sect that openly practices polygamy, something the mainstream Mormon church renounced more than a century ago.


  105. New details released about Polygamist sect leader, ‘seed bearers’


    COLORADO CITY, Ari — It’s hard to imagine that a convicted child rapist would be allowed to lead a church from prison, but that’s exactly what’s going on with Warren Jeffs.

    Jeffs leads a polygamist sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It gained worldwide attention in 2006 when authorities accused Jeffs of sexual offenses against girls he took as wives. At one point Jeffs disappeared, prompting the FBI to put him on its 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list until he was captured.

    In 2008, authorities raided the church’s sprawling Texas ranch. Police removed more than 460 children from the property, including mothers under 18 years old. Authorities seized and shut down the ranch last year.

    Eventually, Jeffs was convicted in 2011 of “sexual assault” and “aggravated sexual assault” of two girls ages 12 and 15. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

    The FLDS broke away from the mainstream Mormon church more than a century ago because its members refused to renounce polygamy.

    The church allegedly exercises control over the adjacent towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah — an area informally known as Short Creek. Other enclaves exist in Mancos, Colorado; Boise City, Oklahoma; Custer County, South Dakota; and a Canadian community known as Bountiful, British Columbia.

    FLDS leaders seldom speak with the news media and did not respond to CNN’s multiple requests for comment on this story.

    So, what’s the status of FLDS today? Several key issues continue to play a role in the church’s future:

    ‘Seed bearers’ and ritualistic sex

    Although day-to-day leadership of the church is run mostly by Jeff’s brother, Lyle Jeffs, Warren Jeffs actively directs church matters from prison, said Sam Brower, a private investigator who’s been closely following FLDS activities for 10 years.

    Brower’s New York Times best-selling book “Prophet’s Prey” inspired a documentary of the same name, which debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. He played a key role in the FBI’s investigation of Jeffs’ and his eventual conviction.

    First obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, a child custody petition filed in a St. George, Utah, juvenile court by Lyle Jeffs’ estranged wife Charlene Jeffs describes a group of followers called “seed bearers.” “A seed bearer is an elect man of a worthy bloodline chosen by the Priesthood to impregnate the FLDS woman,” according to Charlene Jeffs’ petition. Under a new doctrine, “FLDS men are no longer permitted to have children with their multiple wives. That privilege belongs to the seed bearer alone,” the petition said. “It is the husband’s responsibility to hold the hands of their wives while the seed bearer ‘spreads his seed.’ In layman terms, the husband is required to sit in the room while the chosen seed bearer, or a couple of them, rape his wife or wives,” according to the document.

    Utah juvenile court records are not usually available to the public, so it’s unknown if anyone filed documents disputing any details in Charlene Jeffs’ petition, or the veracity of the petition’s allegations. Lyle Jeffs eventually agreed to share custody of their two teen children with Charlene Jeffs — the Salt Lake Tribune reported — with the children living with their mother.

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  106. Brower said he was able to confirm similar reports of “seed bearers” through his own sources. “It’s ritualistic procreation,” Brower said, “performed on a ritualistic bed-slash-altar.” As part of this new system, Warren Jeffs has withheld any relationships between husbands and wives, Brower said. Any touching between spouses outside rituals like these, even a simple handshake, can now be considered adultery in the church.

    When asked about his sources for this information, Brower would only say he didn’t want to violate confidences. “I’m 100% satisfied as a private investigator that it exists,” he said.

    There has been no response to CNN’s multiple attempts to connect with an FLDS representative to get their side of the story.

    A convicted child rapist still leads the church

    In the midst of his legal troubles, Jeffs resigned as church president in 2007. He retook control of the church four years later, after followers said he appeared to get more access to phone calls outside prison.

    Chris Wyler — a lifelong church member until his expulsion in 2012 — told CNN that he witnessed instances when Jeffs was “patched in” by phone so he could speak with church leaders.

    Also, members were instructed to pray for God to free Jeffs, whom they call “the Prophet.”

    “We were told to pray for our Prophet’s deliverance,” said Wyler, age 38. “It meant the Lord would deliver him however he’d be delivered. Even if somebody was commanded to go get him out.”

    Federal crackdown in full swing

    All these years after Jeffs’ arrest, the FLDS continues to be targeted by federal law enforcement officials.

    A 2012 Justice Department civil rights lawsuit accuses Hildale and Colorado City of operating “as an arm of the FLDS, in violation of the … United States Constitution.” Town marshals are practicing “illegal discrimination against individuals who are not members” of FLDS, according to Justice documents.

    Brower stopped short of saying the federal government is trying to take the church down. “But, when you start chipping away at them like that, that starts causing problems,” he said.

    Brower, who likens the FLDS network to a crime syndicate, isn’t the first to make that comparison. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has described polygamous sects generally as “a form of organized crime” that goes largely unchecked by law enforcement. Brower said this wave of federal action simply reinforces that idea.

    The governments and marshals of Hildale and Colorado City have been “deployed to carry out the will and dictates of FLDS leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs and the officials to whom he delegates authority,” the Justice complaint said.

    Town marshals committed various offenses, including “returning at least one underage bride to a home from which she had fled,” according to the complaint. They failed to investigate crimes against non-FLDS members and refused to arrest FLDS individuals who committed crimes against nonmembers, the complaint said.

    The towns now face a federal trial, which is set for January.

    Allegations of illegal child labor

    In an exclusive report in 2012, CNN recorded video of the FLDS using women and children to harvest pecans at a ranch not far from Hildale. That story spurred a federal lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Labor against church leaders, alleging child labor law violations. The suit seeks payment of $1.9 million in penalties and back wages for the women and children workers.

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  107. Children who were put to work included at least 125 who were younger than 12, at least 50 between ages 12 and 13, and at least 25 between 14 and 15, according to the suit. All performed tasks during school hours such as mowing, pruning and bagging pecans, the suit said.

    Wyler, the former FLDS member, said his two oldest children — both under age 16 — took part in a pecan harvest a few years ago — working 12 or 13 hours a day for about four days. His feelings about the practice are “mixed,” he said.

    “I think it’s cool that people could go and help,” Wyler said. “But if they’re turning a profit, then the kids should be paid. Also, they shouldn’t be taken out of school for that.”

    $100 million church fund

    Since the 1940s, the church has been depositing real estate assets into a religious charitable trust called the United Effort Plan, which is now estimated to be worth around $100 million. Utah took control of the trust in 2005 after authorities began investigating the church. Many of these homes are owned by the trust — but are occupied by FLDS members.

    FLDS funds itself through ownership of various businesses. The church’s major sources of revenue come from huge farming operations and widespread manufacturing and construction companies, said Brower.

    The FLDS also raises money through tithes — a practice where followers make mandatory donations of 10% of their income. Church members have been asked to give “consecrations” — special monthly donations, sometimes around $1,000, Wyler said.

    It was a financial disagreement that led to Wyler’s departure from the church three years ago. He said he was told to give all his “earthly possessions” to the church — or face expulsion. “I had a concern with that.”

    Dwindling membership

    The number of followers in the secretive church is impossible to know for sure. At its peak many years ago, total FLDS membership may have been as high as 15,000, Brower said, but by his educated guess the number now — in the wake of Jeffs’ imprisonment and the civil lawsuit — is somewhere near 10,000.

    Brower said several thousand have left the church or been expelled within the past few years.

    FLDS members did not send their children to public schools, which may explain reports of skyrocketing enrollment in public schools. Enrollments have been rising, as more members are expelled or leave the church.

    Some members have been leaving FLDS with the help of advocacy groups in the region, such as Holding Out Help. “I’ve served hundreds of people here,” Holding Out Help’s director Ruth Olson told CNN’s Lisa Ling. “We try to establish ourselves here so they can feel safe.”

    Jeffs’ fourth child, 31-year-old Becky Jeffs, recently left the church. She said she had suffered abuse at the hands of her father. “So many people in the FLDS said, ‘Oh you have the neatest father in the world,'” Becky Jeffs told Ling. “Now I just think, ‘If you only knew…'”

    It’s hard to offer the FLDS perspective on all the allegations. The church didn’t respond to multiple requests by CNN to defend itself.

    For the leaders, Brower said, “it’s about sex, money and power. And that’s what drives them. But they also convince themselves … that there’s some meaning to their madness.”

    He said many rank-and-file members desperately want to stay with the church and follow the religious traditions of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. “They want to believe that the horrible things that are happening to their church are just a test that’s being placed on them.”

    As for Wyler, he expects the church to survive.

    “There’s always going to be people that believe in it,” he said. “No matter what evidence is presented to them.”


  108. Warren Jeffs son wont pursue sex abuse charges against the FLDS leader


    SALT LAKE CITY -- The son of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs continues to speak about about the child sex abuse he claims he suffered at the hands of his father.

    In an interview with FOX 13 on Friday, Roy Jeffs said he wants to share his story to help others within the cloistered Fundamentalist LDS Church.

    "I'm just hoping that somehow my story will put the point across to them that it's actually true," he said.

    Jeffs alleges he was sexually abused as a child by his father. Now 23, he said he finally broke away from his family and his church after years of isolation.

    "In my mind I still believed my father. So I thought, 'You know, either I can live the rest of my life absolutely miserable in here or maybe get a little more joy out there.' Either way, I'm going to be destroyed," he said, referring to FLDS beliefs that people who leave are "apostates."

    Warren Jeffs is serving a life, plus 20-year sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage "marriages." Roy Jeffs said he did not believe his father's crimes until he left the church, and also confronted his own past.

    "The way he did it is he made me feel like I was the one at fault," he said. "I always thought it was my problem."

    Most recently, others in the Jeffs family have accused their father of sexual abuse. Roy Jeffs said three of his siblings have said it happened to them.

    "There's probably hundreds of victims out there that have been abused by him," said Tonia Tewell, the executive director of Holding out Help, a group that helps people leaving polygamous communities.

    But Roy Jeffs told FOX 13 he is not interested in pursuing criminal charges against his father.

    "I feel like my father's got what he's deserved. As far as justice, he's got a life sentence," he said, referring to Warren Jeffs' conviction in Texas.

    Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said in an email to FOX 13 that he would be interested in speaking with Roy Jeffs and his siblings to determine if a criminal case could be leveled against Warren Jeffs. It is unknown if there would be a statute of limitations issue until more was known about the allegations, Belnap said.

    Roy Jeffs said he wrote a letter to his father in prison confronting him about the abuse -- a letter that went unanswered. He said what he would like to see is his father's communication from the Texas prison cut off, saying he believes his father's visitors record his messages and replay them to his followers.

    "That's how he's still affecting so many people's lives," Roy Jeffs said.

    Tewell said with Warren Jeffs' edicts and rules becoming increasingly strict and fracturing families, many are choosing to break from the FLDS Church. She said her group now has a "waiting list" for people seeking help after leaving.

    "People need to step up, the state needs to step up," Tewell said. "We need to get some funding in place to get some housing and counseling services that can help all the people that want to leave and are waiting to leave."


  109. Kids from polygamous sect say they harvested pecans for years at leader’s orders

    by Nate Carlisle Salt Lake Tribune, The Polygamy Blog October 1, 2015

    When it was time to pick nuts at a ranch near Hurricane, a bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would hand out the assignment as a church work project and make young children work — even when they had nut allergies — according to a new affidavit.

    A company located on FLDS property held the contract to perform the harvest. The man who owns that company, Brian Jessop, isn't just anybody in the FLDS.

    Jessop, according to Alyssa Bistline, works closely with FLDS bishop Lyle Jeffs. A U.S. Department of Labor court filing says the agency believes Jessop is head of church security.

    Bistline's affidavit is among the new documents filed in the Labor Department case against Paragon Contractors. The Labor Department contends that Paragon — the company court documents say resides on FLDS property — used children and unpaid labor during harvests at the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch near Hurricane.

    The case began when CNN aired video of children working at the ranch in 2012, but the Labor Department contends that kids worked there for years.

    Bistline, 21, says in her affidavit that she began working at the ranch harvests at age 13.

    "For five years, I was part of the main crew," Bistline's affidavit says, "and along with other girls would work every day in the sorting shed, where we would sort, hull and bag and nuts. I also sometimes helped the crews on the ground, pruning and picking up nuts.

    "When working in the sorting shed, we began work at 7 or 8 a.m. and worked until around 10 p.m. During the 2012 summer, there were five to 10 other girls working with me between the ages of 12 and 20."

    Jeffs, the brother of imprisoned FLDS President Warren Jeffs, handed out the ranch assignments, Bistline says.

    Bistline says she also worked in the office for Paragon. She describes how Paragon would collect sign-in sheets of who worked at the ranch that day and file the sheets with the office.

    That could be an important detail. Paragon's officers have refused to disclose employment records from the harvests or have claimed there are no records, according to court filings.

    "… I was instructed by Brian Jessop and my step-father, James Jessop, that if anyone ever asked me if Paragon is associated with the nut harvest to say no and pretend I didn't know anything," Bistline says.

    Bistline says she left the FLDS in 2014.

    The new court filings have affidavits from other people — some of them still minors — who say they or their family worked at the ranch. One girl who is now 14 says she worked at the ranch when she was 10 to 12 years old. Even girls with nut allergies had to work, the girl says.

    "And they were told to keep picking nuts until it gets bad enough that you can't work anymore and then maybe you can help with bagging nuts," she says in her affidavit.

    An 11-year-old girl described the working conditions at the ranch when she worked there. She was 7 and 8 years old at the time.

    "… In November and December, it was really cold and sometimes there were lots of people clogging up the restrooms just trying to get warm," her affidavit says. "It kept a line going for hours. A lot of people were getting sick because the ground was always damp and people were crawling over the ground, picking up nuts."

    A boy who is now 9 years old submitted a brief affidavit. It says he worked at the ranch when he was 6.


  110. Utah Cites Warren Jeff as Reason Polygamy Should Be Illegal


    SALT LAKE CITY — The state argues in a filing Tuesday to a federal appeals court in Denver that Jeffs' actions show what can happen when polygamy is allowed. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered wives.

    The state is challenging a 2013 ruling that struck down a key part of Utah's law banning polygamy, bringing the state's law in lines with other states.

    About Jeffs, state attorneys wrote: "That is what the boots on the ground fact of bigamy and polygamy can look like."

    They added that the sect he still leads from prison on the Utah-Arizona border is "a community ravaged by untold fraud and other crimes associated with larger polygamous groups. The harms are real," wrote Parker Douglas, the federal solicitor for the Utah Attorney General's Office.

    Kody Brown and his four wives, who brought the case, argue in court documents that their reality TV show "Sister Wives" shows polygamous marriages can be as healthy as monogamous ones.

    The Browns have never been followers of Jeffs, who leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of FLDS. The Browns belong to a different polygamous group, Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB, that has a better reputation.

    The state's filing comes after Jonathan Turley, an attorney for the Browns, argued in a filing that the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage shows that laws restricting consensual adult relationships are outdated, even if certain unions are unpopular.

    It's unclear when the appeals court will rule. No hearing has been set for the case.

    Turley has said the family is prepared to take the legal fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

    Unlike same-sex marriage advocates, the Browns are not seeking full legal recognition of polygamous marriages.

    The December 2013 ruling decriminalized polygamy, but bigamy — holding marriage licenses with multiple partners — remains illegal. In his decision, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that a portion of Utah's bigamy law forbidding cohabitation with another person violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of religion.

    If the ruling stands, Utah's law would be identical to most other states that prohibit people from having multiple marriage licenses. In most polygamous families in Utah, the man is legally married to one woman but only "spiritually married" to the others.

    Advocacy groups for polygamy and individual liberties called the ruling a significant decision that removed the threat of arrest for the state's plural families.

    Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes appealed, saying courts have long upheld laws banning polygamy because they prevent abuse of women and children.

    The teaching that polygamy brings exaltation in heaven is a legacy of the early Mormon church, but the mainstream Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today.

    The state points to Utah's prohibition on polygamy in the late 1800s, which allowed it to finally earn statehood, as another reason why the ruling should be overturned. Laws passed that prohibited plural marriages should make the court's decision an easy one, the state contended.

    "Utah has ever since lived with that condition and found that it curtails public harms that flow from polygamist and plural marriages," the state filing says.


  111. Why Is American Culture — Still — So Obsessed With Fundamentalist Mormonism?


    This weekend, Showtime aired Prophet’s Prey, Amy Berg’s riveting documentary about now-jailed fundamentalist Mormon “prophet” Warren Jeffs, who has been tried and convicted of aiding and abetting child marriage in his polygamist cult. Many worse accusations against Jeffs are floated throughout the film, including rape, embezzlement, child abuse, and maybe even bumping off his aging father so he could assume the mantle of prophecy.

    Berg’s film — also playing in select theaters — is harrowing, exploring the influence Jeffs still exerts over 10,000 followers in places ranging from off-the-grid Mexican refuges to compounds around the American West to his community’s stronghold in a border area between Arizona and Colorado where the FLDS controls everything. One place no longer under the Prophet’s jurisdiction? The “Yearning for Zion” ranch in Texas, which was controversially raided when Child Protective Services found a number of pregnant teens on the compound. Years of legal back-and-forth later, the compound is government property.

    Watching a documentary about a religious sect’s child abuse, brainwashing, and law-skirting might not seem like a leisure activity, but it’s part of a recent cultural fascination with the smaller world Jeff runs, and the larger world he runs in. The past decade has seen an explosion of media about the thousands of fundamentalist polygamist Mormons still living Joseph Smith’s original creed of plural marriage (the regular LDS church outlawed polgyamy in the late 19th century). There have been a number of sensational memoirs by escaped polgyamist wives, as well as documentaries, nonfiction books, and long-form journalism. All this is supplemented by popular shows like Big Love and Sister Wives, as well as quite a few Lifetime movies and a surprisingly dark and gritty reality series.

    I’ve been personally hooked on the topic since I read Jon Krakauer’s true-crime book Under the Banner of Heaven and started watching HBO’s Big Love. I started dropping lingo like “living the principle” “the prophet,” and “the priesthood.” I paged through the escape memoirs and blogs, read all the articles on Big Love‘s backstory. I became particularly fascinated by the idea that if I accidentally drove through Short Creek (technically the twin cities Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah), I’d be followed by cameras and possibly harassed, deemed suspect for merely passing through a community that’s more forbidding to outsiders than any neighborhood I can think of in my native New York City. That’s what sucked Krakauer in, initially — he took a wrong turn in Colorado, got followed, got the creeps, and has been “chasing” this story ever since. He, along with investigator Sam Brower, are our two guides through this world in Prophet’s Prey, although the emotional centerpiece is the handful of ex-FLDSers who talk angrily, tearfully, and wisely about the life they left behind.

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  112. Interestingly, this explosion of media interest in the FLDS mirrors the rise of “ex-Orthodox” memoirs that similarly offer a lurid look into a closed and often inhumane religious community. It also has arisen at the same time as a newfound effort to puncture a hole in the secretive (and also dangerous) practices of Scientology. And Berg herself has investigated the child abuse in the Catholic Church. No religion is immune to a tendency towards zealotry, control, and evil, it seems, with women and children as the primary victims. And no audience is immune to being preternaturally fixated on the stories of our neighbors who have been sucked in, or born into, these cult-like societies.

    What makes fundamentalist Mormonism particularly captivating to me, among all the scary religious sects in the world, is how bizarrely American this particular way of life is. The mixture of a sort of libertarian ethos with a blind, irrational, and zealous adherence to a leader — not to mention a deep, abiding misogyny — makes the FLDS very much feel like “our” homegrown cult.
    A combination of rejecting government interference in private medical practices, education, and business while simultaneously relying on government aid (since all the polygamist wives are technically single mothers) is one of those American qualities. Not to mention the leaders’ own practice of mythologizing the Western frontier, dressing like pioneers, and living in what Krakauer notes, in the film, are stunning, remote locations ringed by majestic mountains and fruited plains. Add to this the final ingredient of absolute belief in an obviously batty authority figure peddling harmful ideas, and this certainly reflects something in the larger American society. Sure, it seems outlandish, but look no further than Donald Trump to see the tendency.

    In Prophet’s Prey, allegiance to Jeffs mean his followers are doing things that cannot be interpreted as anything but deeply harmful, including choosing to give up their children willingly, to surrender their daughters to old men as wives, to kick their sons out of the community for infractions that are really an excuse to even out the gender ratio, and to continue producing a rare and severe birth defect by allowing cousins to marry and refusing to get genetic testing. Watching and learning what kind of harm other people will willingly endure rather than question their dearly held beliefs is a sobering reminder that we humans aren’t quite as evolved as we think we are.

    So people like me, who read everything we can about the FLDS, are drawn in perhaps in part because we feel superior — but, surely, also because we can’t help but wonder, if we were born in Colorado City, whether we would have the strength to leave our families, our way of life, behind forever. What would win out? Our sense of injustice or our desire not to rock the boat?

    In recent years, I watched my sophisticated, urbane high school get caught in a horrible child abuse scandal — and observed that it’s hard for even the most (self-described) rational people to move out from under the deep cloak of denial. Understanding the FLDS, or Scientology, isn’t just about gawking at one outlaw sect; it’s a way of looking into the intractability of human belief, even in the face of the worst infractions.


  113. Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, in a cage and under oath


    In a cell inside the Texas prison where he'll spend the rest of his life, polygamist leader Warren Jeffs raised his hand and took an oath.

    "Do you affirm that the testimony you will give today will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" Jeffs was asked.

    "I do," he replied.

    "Will you please state your entire name?"

    "Warren Steed Jeffs."

    The leader of the Fundamentalist LDS Church was being forced to sit for a deposition last year in a St. George child custody case involving an ex-follower and his two wives. The videotaped testimony, which lasted hours, was recently obtained by FOX 13. It is the first glimpse of the polygamist leader since he was sent to prison for child sex assault related to underage "marriages."

    Jeffs appeared pale and gaunt. His speech was slow, and those who were present for the deposition said he appeared "out of it."

    "It reminded me of, like, Hannibal Lecter. Somebody that's in a cage and completely insane," said Sam Brower, a private investigator who works for attorneys suing the FLDS Church.

    At first, lawyers tried to ask Jeffs about the case at hand. Lorin Holm, who was suing for custody of his children, had been branded an "apostate" by FLDS leadership and kicked out of the church.

    "Their children have been told their father is a wicked man, that he's an apostate and he's lost the priesthood?" Nadine Hansen, the guardian ad litem for Holm's children, asked Jeffs.

    He wouldn't answer.

    "I refuse to answer based on the Fifth Amendment right under the United States Constitution," he said.

    Jeffs stuck by that answer throughout most of the deposition, despite lawyers' attempts to rattle him. They strayed from the subject of the custody case, asking about the inner-workings of the FLDS Church.

    "Is it correct that in 2012, you ordered all males among the 'priesthood people' to be circumcised?" Hansen asked.

    "I'm going to instruct my client not to answer," Jeffs' attorney, Travis Walsh, interjected.

    Jeffs was asked about an edict that "select men" were told to "father all the children in the community." Again, Jeffs was instructed by his lawyer not to answer the question.

    When Jeffs would answer, he would cite his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

    "I will not be answering your question, thank you," he said. "Fifth Amendment."

    Roger Hoole, Holm's attorney, told FOX 13 he expected Jeffs to refuse to answer. In the three depositions he's conducted of Jeffs, the polygamist leader asserts both his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and his First Amendment religious freedom rights.

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  114. But in civil court case -- such as child custody matters -- sometimes the questions are more important than the answers.

    "We want the judge to be able to see the questions, and understand he's taking the Fifth Amendment because whatever answer he has for that would not help him and reveal, probably, crimes," Hoole said. "The judge can draw inference from that in a civil case."

    In the deposition, Hoole grilled Jeffs on polygamy and underage marriages. He played back tape-recorded sexual encounters made by Jeffs involving teenage girls. Those recordings were used as evidence in Jeffs' Texas trial, that led to his conviction on child sex assault for the underage "marriages."

    "You described them, did you not, as 'heavenly comfort wives?' And you described these sexual activities as 'heavenly sessions?'" Hoole asked Jeffs on the tape.

    To each question, Jeffs retorted "same answer," citing his Fifth Amendment right to not answer.

    "There are many examples of these young girls you married, is that correct?" Hoole asked.

    "Same answer," Jeffs replied.

    As the deposition went on, Hoole became more direct in his questioning.

    "Mr. Jeffs, isn't it true that this has nothing to do with religious persecution?"

    "Fifth Amendment."

    "Doesn't all of this boil down to raping little girls?"

    Jeffs' attorney chimed in.

    "Objection. Harassing," he said.

    Brower, who wrote the book "Prophet's Prey" and has been promoting a documentary film based on his book, said in an interview with FOX 13 that Jeffs remains in charge of the FLDS Church.

    "He's still in there causing so much human suffering," he said.

    Hoole said he wished people inside the FLDS Church would see the deposition--but they will not.

    "It's important for people to see what is happening in our own backyard, in terms of the abuses that are taking place in the name of religion," he said. "It's important for there to be opportunities for people inside the religion to learn about this. They are commanded not to look at this information."

    Hoole told FOX 13 he would like to continue to depose Jeffs as part of other ongoing lawsuits he has pending against the FLDS Church. In other civil lawsuits, lawyers have sought permission from judges to make Jeffs sit down to answer their questions.


  115. Feds: Polygamous Group's Kids Worked Regularly on Pecan Farm


    A Utah contracting company frequently used kids from a polygamous group as unpaid workers on a pecan farm during school hours, according to federal labor lawyers pushing back against the company's contention that the hours were legal because the kids were home-schooled.

    The U.S. Labor Department attorneys argue in new court documents that children worked long days harvesting nuts for years, and also did pruning, trimming and watering of the trees and cleaning of the fields.

    "Instead of going to school, hundreds - if not over one thousand - of children were performing the duties related to Paragon's contract," federal labor lawyers say in court documents. "Some children were taken out of school to perform these duties on a year-round basis to prepare the ranch for the harvest. Other children were taken out of school for weeks at a time to perform these duties during the actual harvest."

    The agency wants a judge to order Paragon Contractors to pay back wages and stop the practices described by alleged former child workers and captured by news cameras during a harvest in 2012. A hearing in the case is set for Jan. 25.

    Paragon denies doing anything wrong. They say that the harvest manager invited families from the group led by Warren Jeffs to gather nuts left on the ground after the mechanized harvest was done and keep half of what they gathered for their own use.

    They have said the work wasn't forced, and the women and children were not employees.

    Farm work is generally exempt from child labor laws in Utah as long as it's done outside of school hours, and Paragon says the 2012 pecan harvest can't be considered a school day because children in the group are homeschooled and minors who worked on the farm were with their parents.

    Federal attorneys disagree. In court documents filed Tuesday, they say that under the law, it doesn't matter whether the children were taught at home, they still shouldn't have been working during public school hours.

    A lawyer for Paragon didn't immediately return messages Thursday seeking additional comment.

    Pointing to sworn statements from adults who say they worked on the farm when they were children, the government says children as young as 6 years old worked on the ranch for long hours, got sick from crawling over the damp ground and were sent to work with the nuts even if were allergic

    Federal lawyers say the company violated a 2007 order involving underage labor and should be held in contempt for failing to pay 1,400 workers — including 175 children— who worked at the direction of church leaders who told parents to take days off from homeschooling during the 2012 harvest.

    Paragon and several members of the polygamous group have already been fined a total of $1.9 million after a labor investigation found that sect leaders directed the harvest that took place in Hurricane, about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City.

    Authorities say those leaders are loyal to Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life prison sentence in Texas after being convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides. Members of his sect, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.

    Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice more than a century ago.


  116. Here are the other brothers in Warren Jeffs’ inner circle

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune January 02 2016

    Warren Steed Jeffs has perhaps 65 siblings. He relies on a few of his full brothers to help him run and administer the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints while he serves a sentence of up to life in prison for crimes related to taking underage girls as wives.

    He is most dependent upon on Lyle, but there are other brothers closest to him. None has been charged with any crimes related to bigamy or sex abuse.

    LeRoy Steed Jeffs, 63 • He's the oldest son of late FLDS President Rulon T. Jeffs and his fourth wife, Marilyn Steed. LeRoy followed his father into accounting, earning his license in 1976, according to testimony he once gave in a court case. He sat on the board of the United Effort Plan, a trust operated by the church, before the state of Utah seized it in 2005. He also has served on the boards of numerous FLDS-related companies.

    LeRoy sat in prison for four months in 2006 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury convened in Arizona to investigate Warren and the church. He remained silent despite the fact that a year earlier, he had been sent away by Warren to repent and his wives were reassigned. LeRoy was later allowed back into the FLDS. Evidence gathered by Texas law enforcement lists LeRoy as having married four girls between ages 14 and 16 from 1998 through 2004.

    Nephi Steed Jeffs, 46 • Warren has long felt he can trust and confide in Nephi. In the late 1990s, when the brothers were still living at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Warren is said to have selected Nephi to serve as secretary, replacing the woman who had long served him and his father in the role. In 2007, when Warren was at the jail in Hurricane awaiting a trial in Utah on charges of being an accomplice to rape, it was Nephi to whom Warren denounced himself as not being the true FLDS prophet. (Warren later reversed that position.)

    Nephi and Isaac Jeffs have visited Warren in his Texas prison and couriered messages between him and Lyle, according to court documents. Documents from Texas listed Nephi as having 14 wives as of 2008.

    Seth Steed Jeffs, 42 • A former courier for Warren, Seth was arrested in 2005 in Colorado with a car full of letters for Warren as well as $142,000 in cash. Seth was charged in federal court with concealing a person from arrest. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation.

    Since then, Seth has been given responsibilities at the FLDS compound near Pringle, S.D. He has appeared at public hearings in South Dakota seeking approval to draw more water from the compound's well. The Texas evidence lists Seth as having five wives as of 2006.

    Isaac Steed Jeffs, 41 • Isaac will always be remembered as the brother who was with Warren in 2006, when a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper pulled over their Cadillac Escalade and ended Warren's run from the law. Warren also placed him on the board of trustees for the United Order of Texas, the legal entity that owned the ranch raided by authorities in 2008.

    Evidence from Texas lists Isaac as having had nine wives as of 2006, including two listed as being underage at the time of the marriages.


  117. A century in the making the federal government goes to trial against two polygamous towns

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune January 17, 2016

    Feds allege Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., discriminate against those who do not follow the FLDS church.

    The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., goes to trial Tuesday in Phoenix, and there are some specific things that Colorado City resident Margaret Cooke wants out of it.

    For one thing, she wants a judge to order Colorado City to allow parcels to subdivide the way other towns do.

    The other thing Cooke wants goes to the heart of the lawsuit: She wants Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, to hire municipal employees and police officers who are not members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    "We then get our freedom from the bondage of the FLDS religion," Cooke said. "Basically, the whole government is FLDS and they want to keep us from living here peacefully."

    No one denies that the Short Creek municipal governments are filled with FLDS followers. The issue at the trial is what people have complained and argued about for a century: whether those municipal governments discriminate against people who do not follow the church and its imprisoned leader, FLDS President Warren Jeffs.

    Neither Jeffs nor the church is a party in the case. Yet the trial will put the towns up against the one group that consistently defeats anything FLDS — juries.

    While the FLDS and its members have had some successes in front of judges and appeals courts during the past decade and a half, jurors in criminal and civil trials have consistently delivered guilty or adverse rulings, whether it be the Texas trials that convicted Jeffs and 10 of his followers on sex abuse and bigamy charges, or the civil jury in Phoenix in 2014 that ordered Hildale and Colorado City to pay $5.2 million to a couple denied utility services for five years. All sides later settled the lawsuit for $3 million.

    Blake Hamilton, an attorney representing Hildale, acknowledged the problem during a recent interview. In those previous trials, the prosecutors or plaintiffs piled on as many unsavory topics as they could — from polygamy to underage marriages to the eviction of boys and men to questionable use of public money — to try to make the FLDS look bad.

    Those topics are fair game at this latest trial — so long as they relate to the discrimination allegations — and Hamilton worries they will prejudice the jury.

    "The biggest concern I have is that this case is going to be decided by people's bias against the FLDS," Hamilton said, "and not because of supposed acts of discrimination."

    Hamilton and Colorado City's attorney, Jeff Matura, will argue that while Utah and Arizona removed the police powers of some Short Creek marshals almost a decade ago, there has been no pattern of discrimination. If there have been isolated cases, the defense will argue, they did no harm.

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  118. The Justice Department will point to multiple examples of the Short Creek marshals protecting church interests, refusing to investigate reported crimes, and ignoring things such as marriages to underage girls even when another marshal was the groom. Federal attorneys will call former FLDS members, including a former marshal and the former Hildale town manager, to testify about how the towns operated and what was said and decided out of earshot of the public.

    That former marshal and town manager, half-brothers Helaman and Vincen Barlow, respectively, testified on the towns' behalf in that 2014 trial. They then left their municipal jobs and confessed to prosecutors they had lied under oath. They have been granted immunity from prosecution in connection with their testimony in this latest trial.

    The Justice Department also will tell the jury the history of the towns and the FLDS.

    The Short Creek community was established in 1913. Residents continued practicing polygamy even after the mainstream church to which many of them previously belonged, the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, banned it. The FLDS have other tenets, too.

    The FLDS adopted belief in a "One Man Rule," in which a prophet has supreme authority over the faithful and can determine whether they reach heaven. Since 2002, that "One Man" has been Jeffs, and much of the Justice Department case is built around conversations and correspondence between him and Short Creek's municipal officials.

    The Justice Department plans to show that those elected and appointed officials sought Jeffs' guidance on the towns' business and would do anything to please the FLDS leader and keep intact their own salvations.

    If the jury finds a pattern of discrimination, it can award monetary damages. Then Judge H. Russel Holland can order changes in the towns, including a dissolution of the police force and amendments to specific ordinances found to be discriminatory.

    Matura said the Justice Department filed its lawsuit in 2012 to "exterminate a religion" it doesn't like.

    "We find that very, very dangerous," Matura said, "because it might be the FLDS religion today, and tomorrow it might be my religion or your religion."

    Cooke grew up in the FLDS. She left in 1994 at age 35 after an Easter sermon in which one leader asserted men on the priesthood council were guaranteed a higher place in heaven than other followers, even if they didn't live as righteous a life.

    Cooke said her husband threw her out of their Colorado City home after she left the faith. Cooke was later able to reclaim that home, but still doesn't have the deed because Colorado City's municipal government won't allow her to subdivide her house from other homes on the parcel.

    She said she hopes the trial results in fair laws and treatment in Short Creek.

    "I'm talking about making it a community where the government doesn't rule everybody based on religion," Cooke said.


  119. Arizona Trial to Scrutinize Polygamous Community

    Government alleges city leaders, law enforcement serve at bidding of church leaders

    By SARA RANDAZZO, Wall Street Journal January 18, 2016

    A trial starting this week in Phoenix will pit a polygamous religious community against the U.S. government, which claims the community’s public officers discriminate against people who don’t share the sect’s beliefs.

    The Justice Department in 2012 sued Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, adjacent border towns populated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, which broke away from the mainstream Mormon Church after it rejected polygamy in 1890.

    The government alleges that city leaders and law enforcement in the towns serve at the bidding of church leaders and routinely fail to protect the constitutional rights of all residents. Opening statements are slated to begin Wednesday in what is expected to be a five-week trial.

    Testimony from current and former residents, police department members, public officials and outside experts is likely to offer a rare view into the inner workings of the roughly 10,000-person community, located about an hour’s drive from mountainous Zion National Park.

    The alleged discrimination, according to the Justice Department, includes refusing to arrest church members who committed crimes against nonmembers, destroying crops on nonmembers’ farms and failing to fairly provide housing and utility services like water to nonmembers, in violation of federal laws.

    The fundamentalist sect follows the teachings of Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls. He was convicted in 2011 after years of scrutiny. At one point he appeared on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

    Jeffrey Matura, an attorney for Colorado City, said religion played no role in the actions cited in the complaint and that “this case is an effort of the government to try and eradicate a religion that it finds distasteful.”

    Blake Hamilton, an attorney for Hildale, said the town plans to show there was no pattern or practice of discrimination. There have been a few isolated incidents in the past, he said, that led to some officers being removed from duty. “This is an overreach by the federal government,” he said.

    A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, said through a spokesman that it has no connection to various fundamentalist groups in the Southwest and would excommunicate any member who practiced polygamy.

    A judge denied a request from government lawyers to force Lyle Jeffs, an FLDS bishop and brother to Warren Jeffs, to testify in court. Testimony from a video deposition could still be played for a jury.

    Amos Guiora, a law professor at the University of Utah who has studied the fundamentalist sect for several years, said that if the government is able to prove the community’s law enforcement isn’t independent but instead an arm of the church, “it raises incredibly powerful questions on the separation of church and state.”

    Separately, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments this month over the legality of polygamy in Utah. A lower-court ruling in 2013 struck down a criminal ban on polygamous cohabitation, saying the state failed to demonstrate the harms associated with it. Issuing multiple marriage licenses to a single person is still prohibited.


  120. Ex-sect member testifies about leaving polygamous church

    By Associated Press New York Post January 21, 2016

    PHOENIX — A former member of a polygamous religious sect that is the focus of a discrimination trial in Arizona described on Thursday how he suddenly became the victim of vandalism and intimidation after he left the church.

    Isaac Wyler said he complained to local authorities hundreds of times after his horse property was vandalized, including water lines and fences being cut, but the police did nothing because he was no longer a member of the church. He also described finding a dozen dead cats on his property after leaving the church.

    “There are two sets of rules depending upon who you are,” Wyler told the jury in US District Court.

    Wyler is the second former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to testify at the trial on behalf of the U.S. Justice Department. The sect broke away from mainstream Mormonism when the latter disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

    The Justice Department accuses Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, of functioning as an arm of the church and discriminating against nonbelievers by systematically denying them housing, water services and police protection.

    Police officers are accused of failing to investigate crimes against nonbelievers and assisting leader Warren Jeffs while he was a fugitive on charges of arranging marriages between girls and older men.

    The communities deny the allegations and say religion isn’t a motivating factor in their decisions. They believe the government is discriminating against them based on their religion.

    The case marks one of the boldest efforts by the government to confront what critics have said was a corrupt regime in both towns.

    Wyler on Thursday provided a look into life in the towns. He says his hometown of Colorado City had parades, fairs and other happy social gatherings when he was growing up, but those activities ended after Jeffs took over as the church’s top leader.

    “Everything changed,” Wyler said.

    Wyler said although he was forced out of the church in 2004, he actually started to turn against it after he heard Jeffs call for the executions of the attorneys general of Arizona and Utah.

    “That shook me up real bad,” Wyler said. “I don’t feel like I signed up for any religion like this.”

    After leaving the church, Wyler went on to work part-time as a consultant for a communal land trust that was once run by Jeffs but was seized by the state of Utah in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by church leaders. The fund is now controlled by the state and controls the housing within the community.

    Wyler cited his work for the trust as evidence of how town leaders treat non-believers differently. He was once charged and convicted of trespassing for carrying out an eviction in his work for the trust, but noted that none of his complaints about vandalism at his property ever led to arrests.

    “I feel like my complaints go into a bin that says ‘garbage’ on it,” he said.


  121. Ex-Member: No Ranch Work Meant Ouster From Polygamist Sect


    A federal judge began hearing evidence Monday in a child labor case involving a Utah polygamous sect, including testimony from a former member who says she would have been kicked out of the faith if she didn't work on a pecan harvest.

    Alyssa Bistline said she started work on the pecan ranch at age 13 at the direction of polygamous leaders. She said she was expected to work harvests on and off until she left the sect in 2013.

    "I well understood that if I didn't go, I was in big trouble," said Bistline, 21. "They said, 'If you rebel or disobey, you will lose your family or you will removed.'"

    Federal labor investigators say Paragon Contractors used 1,400 unpaid laborers, including 175 children, from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints during a 2012 harvest captured by news cameras about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City. The Hurricane-based company is closely affiliated with the FLDS church, prosecutors say.

    Paragon denies wrongdoing, saying women and children from the sect led by the imprisoned Warren Jeffs were volunteering to collect fallen nuts, not working as employees.
    "We're not here to try the church. That's another case for another day," company lawyer Rick Sutherland said.

    The harvest manager, not company leaders, made the arrangement, and families were allowed to keep half of what they gathered, Paragon attorneys say.

    The U.S. Labor Department is asking a judge to hold Paragon in contempt of court for violating a 2007 order against using child labor and wants the company to pay back wages. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell is set to hear three days of testimony.
    Farm work is generally exempt from child labor laws in Utah as long as it's done outside school hours. Paragon says the 2012 pecan harvest can't be considered a school day because children in the sect are homeschooled and minors were with their parents.

    Federal attorneys disagree. They say it doesn't matter whether the children were taught at home; they still shouldn't have been working during public school hours.

    The government says children as young as 6 worked for long hours, got sick from crawling over the damp ground and were sent to work even if they were allergic to nuts.

    Paragon and several members of the polygamous group already have been fined a total of $1.9 million after a labor investigation found sect leaders directed the harvest.

    Authorities say those leaders are loyal to Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides.

    The sect, a radical offshoot of Mormonism, does not have a spokesman or a phone listing where leaders can be contacted.

    Two of Jeffs' brothers declined to discuss church business when they were called to testify in the child labor case in January 2015. A lawyer for Nephi and Lyle Jeffs said then that the government was trying to go beyond the pecan farm and into other FLDS activities in a way that bordered on harassment.

    The hearing comes as federal prosecutors are suing members of the sect in a separate case in Phoenix. They contend two towns on the Arizona-Utah line that are dominated by the FLDS church have discriminated against nonmembers and are serving as an enforcement arm of the sect.

    The towns deny the allegations and say religion isn't a motivating factor in their decisions.

    Sect members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. It is a legacy of the early teachings of the Mormon church, but the mainstream faith abandoned the practice more than century ago.


  122. Siblings Testify in Child Labor Case With Ties to Polygamy


    A federal judge heard Tuesday from five children and teenagers who say they were pulled out of class to work long hours picking pecans at a Utah ranch while they were growing up in a polygamous group.

    The testimony in Salt Lake City came after labor lawyers asked a judge to hold in contempt a company accused of using used 1,400 unpaid laborers, including 175 children, during a 2012 pecan harvest taped by TV news cameras.

    The U.S. Department of Labor is also seeking back wages against Paragon Contractors.

    U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell is expected to hear another day of evidence in the case. No deadline has been set for her decision.

    A total of six brothers and sisters ranging from age 9 to age 18 said Tuesday they participated in the annual pecan harvest in Hurricane, about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City. They said they worked when they were as young as 6 and were exposed to cold rain, barred from resting in nearby vans and given little food some days. The Associated Press is not naming them because they are considered victims in the case.

    Federal attorneys say Paragon Contractors has deep connections to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and broke a previous 2007 order against using child labor.

    The company denies wrongdoing. They say the women and children volunteered to collect fallen nuts and kept some for their own use. Paragon has also submitted documents from people who say they chose to work in the fields to help build up food supplies for the needy, and their children looked forward to the outing after they finished their school work.

    The harvest manager, not company leaders, made the arrangement with the families, who were allowed to keep half of what they gathered, Paragon attorneys say.

    Farm work is generally exempt from child labor laws in Utah as long as it's done outside school hours. Paragon says the 2012 pecan harvest can't be considered a school day because children in the sect are homeschooled and minors were with their parents.

    Federal attorneys disagree. They say it doesn't matter whether the children were taught at home; they still shouldn't have been working during public school hours.

    Paragon and several members of the polygamous group have already been fined a total of $1.9 million after a labor investigation found sect leaders directed the harvest.

    Authorities say those leaders are loyal to Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting girls he considered brides.
    The sect, a radical offshoot of Mormonism, does not have a spokesman or a phone listing where leaders can be contacted.

    The hearing comes as federal prosecutors also sue members of the FLDS in Phoenix. They contend two towns on the Arizona-Utah line that are dominated by the FLDS church have discriminated against nonmembers and are serving as an enforcement arm of the sect.

    The towns deny the allegations and say religion isn't a motivating factor in their decisions.

    Sect members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. It is a legacy of the early teachings of the Mormon church, but the mainstream faith abandoned the practice more than century ago.


  123. Police vow loyalty to polygamous leader in letters feds say

    by Jacques Billeaud, The Associated Press St George News January 26, 2016

    PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors at a federal trial against two polygamous towns in Utah and Arizona heard testimony Monday about the influence that sect leader Warren Jeffs still wields over the communities from his Texas prison cell.

    An FBI agent testified about letters in which local police officers pledged loyalty to Jeffs while he was on the run from charges of arranging marriages between girls and older men. A prison mailroom administrator described how Jeffs tried to send coded messages to his followers from prison.

    The federal government offered the letters as proof of its allegations that Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, are serving as an enforcement arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect broke away from mainstream Mormonism when the latter disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

    “I view Colorado City, Hildale and FLDS as one in the same,” testified FBI agent Robert Foster, who helped search for Jeffs when he was a fugitive during the mid-2000s.

    The U.S. Justice Department alleges in a lawsuit that the towns discriminate against nonbelievers by denying them housing, water services and police protection. The communities deny the allegations and say religion isn’t a motivating factor in their decisions.

    On the stand, Foster said Colorado City officers claimed to have no information on Jeffs’ whereabouts while he was a fugitive. A handful of the officers later were decertified, including one who refused to answer a grand jury’s questions about Jeffs’ whereabouts.

    Attorneys for the towns have acknowledged past problems with the police department but pointed out that the officers who didn’t cooperate in the search for Jeffs are no longer working in law enforcement. They say no officers have been decertified since then.

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  124. Some of the letters written to Jeffs were found during a 2005 traffic stop in Colorado of a vehicle carrying his younger brother, Seth Jeffs. Inside the vehicle, officers discovered $200,000 in cash, prepaid credit cards and a donation jar with Warren Jeffs’ photo and a label saying, “Pennies for the Prophet.” Authorities say the items were intended for Jeffs.

    Some letters professing allegiance to Jeffs were written by then-Colorado City Mayor Richard Allred, other town officials and two police officers, including Fred J. Barlow, who was leader of the towns’ police department.

    “I want my work in the town government, as town clerk, to be an extension of priesthood,” then-Colorado City town clerk Joseph Allred said to Jeffs in an October 2005 letter.

    Colorado City attorney Jeff Matura repeatedly pointed out that Jeffs didn’t respond to the letters in question.

    Jeffs was captured during an August 2006 traffic stop outside Las Vegas. Investigators found more than $50,000 in cash, cellphones, laptop computers, a police scanner and wigs inside the SUV in which he was traveling.

    He is now serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting one of his 24 underage brides, prosecutors said.

    In other testimony, Jennifer Smith, an administrator for the mail system at Texas’ prisons, described the huge volume of letters that Jeffs still receives. Jeffs would get 1,000 to 2,000 letters per day when he was first locked up, though that number now tops out around 500 per day, she said.

    Some letters written by Jeffs in prison weren’t actually mailed because they were written in code, Smith said.

    The trial ended for the day after a juror experienced a health problem. Testimony is expected to resume Tuesday.

    It comes as a federal judge began hearing evidence Monday in a separate child labor case involving the sect. Federal investigators say a company tied to the faith used 1,400 unpaid laborers, including 175 children, from the sect during a 2012 pecan harvest in Utah.

    Paragon Contractors says women and children were volunteering to collect fallen nuts, not working as employees.


  125. Ex-Wife of a Leader of Polygamous Church Testifies in Trial


    The ex-wife of a leader in a polygamous church teared up in court Wednesday when recalling how she was isolated from her children and feared even authorities would help hide them from her.

    Charlene Jeffs, who was married to ex-Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader Lyle Jeffs, testified at a trial in Phoenix in which the federal government alleges that two towns in Arizona and Utah served as an enforcement arm of the sect.

    Jeffs said she was kicked out of a sacred group within the church called the United Order in 2012.

    "I was exiled into a trailer," Jeffs said. "I was not allowed to see my children, talk to them or associate with them in any way."

    She left the community altogether in October 2014 and pursued custody of three children.

    Jeffs says Curtis Cook, a member of the Colorado City Marshals Office, approached her at an April 2015 custody hearing and told her "the way I was going about getting my children was illegal." According to her, Cook said she should have notified marshals that she wanted custody.
    "I said: 'We both know what would've happened.' They would've disappeared, and I never would have seen them again," said Jeffs, who says Cook nodded in agreement.

    Colorado City attorney Jeff Matura disputed Jeffs' testimony, getting her to confirm two instances where Cook and another deputy helped her.

    They included a welfare check and the day Jeffs was to receive her children after a judge ruled she was entitled to custody. Cook even escorted Jeffs and her children to the county line to make sure they left without interference, Matura said.

    "He acted as you hoped he would act as a police officer," Matura said.

    Lyle Jeffs is a brother of church leader Warren Jeffs, who was on the run from charges of arranging marriages between girls and older men before being captured during a 2006 traffic stop outside Las Vegas in an SUV with $50,000, cellphones, a police scanner and wigs. He is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting one of the 24 underage brides.

    The towns are accused of discriminating against nonbelievers by denying them housing, water services and police protection. The communities deny the allegations and say religion isn't a motivating factor in their decisions.


  126. Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs calls the Utah State Legislature into repentance

    BY BEN WINSLOW, Fox 13 News FEBRUARY 2, 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY — Imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has sent every member of the Utah State Legislature a book of his “revelations,” calling them to repent for their sins and to set him free.

    The book, which is more than 1,000 pages long, was mailed to the home of every single member of the legislature. Some lawmakers were puzzled by the books, others shrugged and threw them in the trash (or handed them to FOX 13).

    In the books, Jeffs sounds off on the news of the day.

    “Repair they sin, now, of legal consent to murder of unborn child order; also of same gender union legal way upheld, Sodom and Gomorrah upheld, a sin unto murder of unborn child order. Amen,” he writes.

    Jeffs also rails against his conviction for child sex assault related to underage “marriages” calling on authorities to free him from the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence. He calls on those reading his “Book of Warning” to repent.

    “I shall hold all leader order over every nation eternally responsible to give this, my word, saith Jesus Christ, also Book of Warning now mailed to all nations of both leader order, also churches, also libraries in all nations allowing my mailed word to stay in own land; verily, I shall undermine leadership order of any nation who do not give my word to own people for their own eternal salvation sake. Amen,” he writes.

    This isn’t the first time Jeffs and his followers have sent the legislature revelations. Books and pamphlets have been mailed to lawmakers in years past. Because the value of the books exceeded state law on gifts to lawmakers, the legislature would have to spend money to mail them back. Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, got a law passed last year that allowed lawmakers to trash them.


  127. Towns Marshal Ignored Underage Weddings

    By JAMIE ROSS, Courthouse News Service, February 4, 2016

    PHOENIX (CN) - The former chief marshal of two towns run by a fundamentalist Mormon sect testified Wednesday that he looked the other way when men in Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah took underage girls as their "spiritual wives."

    The Department of Justice sued the twin towns in 2012, claiming they denied non-church members police protection, water and housing. The towns are dominated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leader, Warren Jeffs, is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting 12- and 15-year-old girls, whom he called his spiritual wives.

    A federal jury trial against the two towns began in January and is expected to last through the end of February.

    The government accuses the Colorado City Marshal's Office of selectively enforcing "laws and regulations against non-FLDS individuals on the basis of religion."

    On Wednesday, Helaman Barlow, chief marshal from 2012 through 2014, acknowledged in court that the Marshal's Office did not investigate claims that members of the FLDS church, including Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred, were marrying underage girls.

    "If it was a church marriage, I as a church member saw it as a valid marriage," Barlow testified.

    Barlow was born and raised in Colorado City, in the FLDS faith, until he left the church in 2014. He acknowledged that the Marshal's Office did not take action on claims that a marshal, Jonathan Roundy, married a 16-year-old.

    When a Mohave County investigator began looking into child abuse allegations in the community, Barlow said, he felt anger.

    "It felt like he was there to attack our marriages, our beliefs," Barlow said.
    When Barlow became a deputy marshal in 1994, he said, he asked Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' father, if he had advice for a new cop.

    "He told me, 'No. 1, you aren't a cop. You are a peace officer. No. 2, your calling is to stand between the church and harm,'" Barlow testified.

    Rulon Jeffs, referred to as a "prophet," led the FLDS church from 1986 until he died in 2002. His son, Warren Jeffs, then assumed command. According Jon Krakauer's 2004 book "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith," after Rulon died, Warren Jeffs married most of his father's more than dozen widows, thereby becoming the stepfather of as many of his 60 siblings and half-siblings.

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  128. Barlow testified that over the years he and other city marshals did protect the church. For example, he said, he would submit names to incarcerated FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and his brother, Bishop Lyle Jeffs, to pick who should be called to serve as deputy marshal.

    Warren Jeffs was arrested in 2006 and sentenced in 2011 on two felony counts of child sexual assault.
    Applicants needed a high school diploma or a GED to be hired by the Marshal's Office, but the agency hired three FLDS applicants who had not yet received a GED, Barlow said. Two of the three were on church's security team, which tracked members and former members and kept an eye out for visits from outside law enforcement.

    Hildale's attorney Blake Hamilton objected: "Nowhere there does it say you have to meet the criteria to apply. To actually hold the job they would need to have a GED."

    Barlow testified that he had to act in the best interests of the church, for fear of excommunication from the community.
    "The church had total control of me and my family," Barlow said. "I was very aware that to implicate the church was to lose my family."

    Barlow and his wife, Enid, have been married for 27 years and have 11 children.

    Barlow acknowledged that he committed perjury during a number of depositions in the lawsuit, falsely claiming he had no knowledge of underage marriages or any other illegal acts by church members.

    "I've admitted to perjury and other things I'm not too proud of," Barlow said.

    Just before he was fired by the Marshal's Office, Barlow reached out to the Justice Department with information about the FLDS, and was granted immunity.

    "I only have immunity in regard to this proceeding," Barlow said. "Even then it's limited to if I tell the truth."

    The trial continues today.


  129. A Polygamist Cult's Last Stand: The Rise and Fall of Warren Jeffs

    The largest polygamist community in America is run by a madman in jail. Now he's started a civil war

    BY JESSE HYDE ROLLING STONE February 9, 2016

    Short Creek, the largest polygamist enclave in America, is run by its prophet Warren Jeffs, even as he serves a life sentence in Texas for multiple convictions of child rape.

    On a January morning in Phoenix, Willie Jessop enters the courtroom through a side door, nods at the lawyers and saunters up to the witness stand. He's a big man – six feet three, well over 200 pounds – and, as usual, is dressed in black. He glances at the jury, a faint smile crossing his lips. In the past, Jessop has been the staunchest defender of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a polygamist offshoot of Mormonism. When he used to take the stand to explain their way of life, a few sister wives in pastel prairie dresses would always be on hand to show support. But today, they're gone. That's because Jessop, the former spokesman for the FLDS and one-time bodyguard to its jailed prophet, Warren Jeffs, has turned against his church. He's not here to defend the FLDS; he's here to take it down.

    The prosecutor asks why Jessop would turn on FLDS leadership to become a key witness for the Department of Justice. Jessop's face reddens as he leans forward. "Because those sons of bitches were raping girls in Texas, and they knew it and I knew it," he says, "and that battle is still raging today."

    It's Week Two in a federal trial currently underway against the adjoining towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and increasingly disturbing and bizarre revelations are coming to light. Known collectively as Short Creek, the two towns have a total population of about 8,000, the majority FLDS, making the community the largest polygamist enclave in America. For generations, the FLDS leadership has had total control over this desert outpost on the edge of the Grand Canyon, selecting the mayors, the city council and even the town marshals without any problem. But in recent years, the DOJ has been investigating allegations that the two towns have been violating residents' civil rights, allowing the church to use public officials to run members who left the faith – "apostates" in FLDS parlance – out of town, denying utility hookups and even spying on citizens. The trial is slated to end in late February or early March and, if the feds are successful, criminal charges could follow, helping to end FLDS control over Short Creek.

    But the FLDS isn't expected to go without a fight. Once a fringe religious community seemingly stuck in time, Short Creek has fallen into a spell under its prophet, Warren Jeffs – a spindly, hollow-eyed man who allegedly runs the town despite serving a life sentence in Texas for multiple convictions of child rape. Jeffs has banned all TV and the Internet in Short Creek. His private security force roams the streets in SUVs with blacked-out windows, enforcing church discipline and tailing anyone who passes through town. FLDS members who disobey his word are banished.

    But not everyone is following Jeffs' orders anymore. Jessop is part of a growing band of outcasts numbering in the hundreds who have refused to leave town, and the rising tension between the faithful and these exiles has pushed Short Creek to the brink of civil war. Former church members claim they have been driven off the road, seen FLDS children peeing on their lawns and found dead animals with their throats slit left on their porches. In September, the office window of a victim's advocate was shot out. A week later, someone blew up an apostate's truck. There are even rumors that Jeffs is trying to create a master race, loyal only to him, through a secret breeding program known as the "seed bearers."

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  130. "This is a community that has been controlled by a madman now sitting in a jail in Texas," says Sam Brower, a private investigator who worked on the Jeffs case and is the author of Prophet's Prey, a penetrating look inside the FLDS. "That's the really scary thing about this. This guy is crazy. The more power Warren Jeffs loses, the more desperate he becomes."

    As Jeffs' former bodyguard, Jessop is one of the DOJ's most important witnesses, a key to taking down the FLDS. And today, he's spilling the church's secrets.

    During a break in the trial in Phoenix, Jessop sighs – he may have helped light a fuse no one can control. "How far is this going to go?" he says. "That's what's got everyone on pins and needles. Could it end in a Waco or in a Jonestown? I hope not, but I don't think we've seen the climax of this thing."

    For most of its history, few outsiders even knew of Short Creek's existence. A remote polygamist town off a two-lane desert highway, it was the sort of place where no one locked their doors or even built fences. Boys rode their horses bareback down dusty unmarked streets, and girls in lavender prairie dresses walked arm in arm to church, humming Mormon hymns.

    And then Warren Jeffs came to power in the late Nineties, and everything changed. The ambitious, twisted son of the previous FLDS prophet, Jeffs took control and became obsessed with the idea of "perfect obedience." He started kicking people out of Short Creek that he deemed sinners: young men who came to be known as Lost Boys, teenage girls he considered too rebellious and men no longer "worthy of priesthood," reassigning their wives and children to loyalists he felt he could trust.

    Beginning in 2002, he came under investigation for child rape in Utah. He then began evading authorities while marrying off teenage girls to the sect's leadership. He also ordered the construction of a new FLDS compound, the Yearning for Zion ranch, in the West Texas desert. In May 2006, he landed on the FBI's 10 most-wanted list for multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors, and went on the run with his favorite wife, Naomi (code name: 91). With the help of Jessop, who ran the church's security force – called the God Squad by detractors – Jeffs communicated through coded letters and burner phones and shuttled between the church's "houses of hiding" scattered throughout the West (in particular, he often visited his favored brides at the compound in Texas). In August 2006, he was arrested during a routine traffic stop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, carrying 16 cellphones, three wigs and $56,000 in cash in the lining of a suitcase.

    Convinced God would liberate him from his prison cell in Utah, he had his wives record his sermons when he called them, to be played for his followers in Short Creek. The end of the world was coming and they must be ready.

    For a time, with various cases against him falling apart, it seemed like Jeffs might actually be released. And then in the spring of 2008, responding to a complaint, Texas police breached the gates of the FLDS compound in West Texas, seizing evidence that resulted in the temporary removal of more than 400 children. The raid made international headlines and sparked the largest child-custody battle in U.S. history.

    Suddenly, news trucks from around the country were descending on Texas and Short Creek to talk about Jeffs' taste for young girls and what life was really like inside the secretive cult. In the meantime, investigators had uncovered evidence that Jeffs had taken several teen brides and married one girl who was only 12, consummating their marriage on a temple bed. Jeffs was eventually extradited from Utah to Texas and in August 2011 was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years.

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  131. Yet despite being in jail, Jeffs was still the prophet and determined to keep his stranglehold over Short Creek, where the majority of his estimated 10,000 followers lived. But the town was changing. During Jeffs' years on the run, an obscure legal case made its way through the courts, challenging FLDS control over something called the United Effort Plan. Created by the town elders in the 1940s, the UEP was a charitable trust designed to allow FLDS members to live communally and keep outsiders at bay. All FLDS members gave ownership of their property to the church-controlled trust, on top of paying a percentage of their incomes. By the time Jeffs took over the church, in 2002, the FLDS owned nearly all of the land in Short Creek, which meant he could kick out whoever he wanted from their homes, a power he regularly abused.

    But that all changed when several Lost Boys sued the church in 2004 for kicking them out. "Answer them nothing," Jeffs told his lawyers. Any kind of response, he reasoned, would be an acknowledgment of the unholy power of the government. As far as legal strategies go, it was a disaster: Ignoring the lawsuit put the church's assets in jeopardy. The state stripped Jeffs of his control over the trust, eventually revising it to benefit anyone who'd contributed time or money to building the community. Soon, apostates started trickling back into Short Creek, taking up residence in their former homes. "Leave them alone, severely," Jeffs instructed, which meant don't shop at their stores, speak with them or even wave while passing in the street. By the time Jeffs was sentenced in 2011, the apostates were returning in droves. The town was bitterly divided. Brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews were forced to choose sides.

    The battle for Short Creek had begun.

    Short Creek sits at the base of towering vermilion cliffs, a few miles from a rusted collection of trailers occupied by meth tweakers and end-times preppers. Hemmed in by the Grand Canyon and a winding mountain pass known as Hurricane Hill, it is one of the most isolated places in America, bracketed by red-rock mountains on one side and a dusty expanse on the other.

    It's a chilly November morning, and as I drive through town, the divisions between the FLDS and nonbelievers are apparent. Church members have built tall fences around their homes, making them look like mini-fortresses, and affixed Zion signs above their doors to separate themselves from the rest of town. Every once in a while, I can peek beyond a fence and spot a little boy playing in his long pants and shirtsleeves, or a girl in a prairie dress. Because pretty much all games have been banned, "fun" amounts to something like jumping back and forth over a large rock. I see a few women, sister wives presumably, but mostly the streets are empty, other than the large SUVs and pickup trucks with darkly tinted windows that rumble through town.

    Since the FLDS started losing ground to the apostates, it shuttered almost all church-owned businesses, especially those open to the public, which included the pizza place and the only grocery store in town. While I could have patronized any of those places as a "gentile," or nonbeliever, they were off-limits to apostates, who could be threatened with arrest for trespassing if they so much as walked through the door. Now, only FLDS members can enter the few remaining church-owned shops in town, and they must call ahead and use a password. To further limit contact with outsiders, the church had also selected a small number of men who were allowed to drive to a nearby Costco to stock up on food and deliver it to members.

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  132. I stop at the apostate-owned Merry Wives Cafe, which is one of the few places in town to get a cup of coffee, to meet Isaac Wyler. Other than Jessop, Wyler may be the most hated man in town among the FLDS. A farmer with a ruddy complexion, he grew up here in the FLDS, although, like many in the lower echelons, he never took more than one wife. He was always wary of Jeffs, but the last straw came when he heard his prophet pray for the execution of his neighbor Jason Williams. Not long afterward, Wyler says, Williams' truck blew up in his driveway. Wyler went online, started researching the church and began secretly recording Jeffs' sermons and leaking them to law enforcement. In 2004, Wyler was kicked out for reasons that were never explained to him. He was told to leave his property and hand over his farm. He refused and says he has since suffered constant harassment: His fences were torn down, his tires slashed nearly every week. "They started leaving dead animals on my property," he says in a wry desert drawl. "Chickens, cats, dogs, ducks, you name it. They'd splatter their heads all over my porch, hang them with their throats slit."

    Today, Wyler works with the accountant in charge of the UEP to help those exiled by Jeffs return to their homes, which have sometimes been taken over by FLDS members. The state's legal backing comes from a 2014 judge's order mandating the eviction of FLDS members who refuse to comply with the UEP. This is the true front line in the battle for Short Creek, and it has law enforcement on edge. Wyler tells me he's carried out more than 100 evictions in the past year alone, and the threat of violence is constant. A few weeks ago, he says, an FLDS woman pulled a knife on a member of his team during an eviction. He also claims the town police show up and tell him he's trespassing, even though he's carrying out state law. Wyler has begun asking deputies from nearby Mohave County to accompany him for his safety.

    Wyler takes me to a property he recently vacated: a large brick house with stately Greek columns. Wyler says that when he starts the process of eviction, the FLDS sometimes sends "guards" over to take up temporary residence in the home. These squatters are usually women and children, and if possible, Wyler's relatives. "It's a sort of psychological warfare they're trying to pull," he says. "They call me a traitor, say I'm turning on my own."

    He points to a closet where the water heater should be. It's missing. He explains that when the state takes possession of a house, they often find it stripped of anything of value – the water heater, the furnace, the light fixtures – before the state can sell it. "Sometimes you can't find a doorknob," he says.

    "So why don't you report this to the police?" I ask.

    "The town marshals?" he says, laughing. "I have. Nothing happens. Heck, they're probably the ones doing it."

    Next, Wyler takes me by a tent encampment within the town limits that some have taken to calling Lyleville, a not-so-subtle jab at Jeffs' brother Lyle, the current bishop of Short Creek. Wyler explains that the properties carry years of unpaid taxes. A state judge empowered the UEP to work with the FLDS members so they can stay in their homes if they pay their back taxes and a $100-a-month occupancy fee. But Jeffs' code of silence still rules. So instead of cooperating with the state in any way, the evicted have set up what looks like a U.N. refugee camp surrounded by 10-foot-tall metal walls. It's hard to see what's going on inside, but through the slats we can see a cluster of trailers and huge white tents. Before long, snow will dust Canaan Mountain and temperatures will plummet to near freezing. "I can't believe they would rather have women and little kids sleep out here than cooperate with us," Wyler says.

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  133. How a place like Short Creek even exists is rooted in early Mormon history. The mainstream church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS – banned polygamy in 1890, but some Mormons kept practicing it in secret for years, sending prominent members like Mitt Romney's great-grandfather to places such as Mexico to start polygamist colonies. When the church finally decided to excommunicate polygamist families, they went underground. In the 1930s, several of these clans established Short Creek.

    Jeffs was born in 1955, the son of Rulon Jeffs, who later became the FLDS prophet. Born premature and near death, Jeffs was so small, it's said he came home in a shoe box, but his survival was a sign that he was God's chosen one, his mother insisted. As one of his father's favorite sons, he lived a life a world apart from the kids in Short Creek.

    Growing up in his family's well-appointed compound in suburban Salt Lake City, 400 miles north of Short Creek, he eventually became the principal of Alta Academy, the church's private school for the 90 or so families who lived in the city and secretly practiced polygamy, like the family in HBO's series Big Love. Tall with a pale complexion, Jeffs wore thick Coke-bottle glasses and spoke in a flat nasal monotone that rarely moved an octave.

    Former students have described Jeffs as an exacting taskmaster who had little tolerance for those who broke his rules. "Perfect obedience requires perfect faith," he taught. Jeffs would sneak up behind students in class, grabbing them by the neck and whispering things like, "Are you keeping sweet or do you need to be punished?" But there was nothing more terrifying than walking up the stairs to Jeffs' office. For some students, the punishment that awaited was a beating with a yardstick, and for some the horrors were far worse. One of Jeffs' nephews would later sue his uncle for raping him repeatedly when he was between five and seven years old.

    In the late Nineties, Jeffs started spending more time in Short Creek. His father had become the prophet in 1986, but a series of strokes had left him mentally incapacitated, and over time, Jeffs became his father's most trusted counselor, and eventually his mouthpiece. At a meeting shortly after his father's death, Jeffs sat near the podium in the FLDS chapel, peering down at the congregation with a large portrait of his father propped up on a chair beside him. He explained that Rulon wasn't dead at all – he'd been "renewed," or reincarnated, and was standing before them. In other words, Jeffs was Rulon, which is why it was perfectly acceptable for him to marry his dad's wives. Jessop, by then the prophet's head bodyguard, fell in line.

    Jessop had grown up in Short Creek and remembers it as an idyllic desert town – 5 square miles bordered by sandstone cliffs where everyone knew one another. He hunted jack rabbits in the mountains, attended church dances and ice cream socials and, like all the other boys, participated in volunteer work projects (constructing barns, putting in water systems) without question or complaint, essentially building the town. Because the FLDS had so many children, it had a large and free labor force, allowing it to build big businesses, from dairies to hay farms to construction companies.

    But as he grew older, Jessop began to learn about the sacrifices required to maintain the town's way of life. At about 17, he was asked to become a bodyguard to protect Short Creek's leadership from rival polygamists who had created a hit list of state sects. By the time he got a call from Jeffs in 2004, Jessop had worked his way up to become head of the God Squad – and wouldn't hesitate to give his life in order to protect the church.

    "Can you meet me?" Jeffs asked.

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  134. It was a Saturday morning and the townsmen had gathered at the meetinghouse to get their assignments for work projects around the community, which were mandatory under Jeffs' rule. Jessop met Jeffs in the building's kitchen, where the prophet arrived with a few of his wives. He looked worried. "He was concerned about his ability to leave the meeting alive," Jessop recalls. Jessop unholstered his .357 Magnum and stood behind the curtain onstage while Jeffs walked to the lectern. "The work of God is a benevolent dictatorship," Jeffs said to the nearly 2,000 people gathered before him. "It is not a democracy." He read the names of 21 "master deceivers," which included four of his brothers and the mayor of Colorado City. These men, he said, would all have to go. And then he slipped out a side door. "It was a shot straight through the church," Jessop says. "That was when it changed from a church to a cartel."

    As prophet, Jeffs' father had instituted bizarre new rules to test the loyalty of his followers, such as no one could wear red or drive a red car, because Jesus would return in red. But Jeffs took it to a new level. He ordered everyone to turn in their guns, and then their tools. Holidays were banned and books burned.

    If Jessop had misgivings about any of this, he kept it to himself. "I very much believed in my religion," Jessop tells me. "I believed in our society. I believed in our ethics. Back then, a lot of these charges against Warren, I just didn't believe."

    And so, Jessop did whatever he could to protect the prophet and church leaders. When Jeffs wanted to meet with one of his wives, Jessop says he secured the perimeter, sometimes shivering outside the compound walls until Jeffs was done.

    "It's pretty hard realizing now what he was doing at the time inside, because I didn't know," Jessop says. "I didn't coordinate who was inside with him. I'm out there freezing my butt off in a snowstorm. I would've given my life in a heartbeat for him, and he's inside with little girls."

    After Jeffs' 2006 capture, he was tried in Utah and sentenced to 10 years to life as an accomplice in the rape of an underage girl. In 2010, that conviction was overturned on trial technicalities, but the state extradited him to Texas, where he was facing more-serious charges stemming from the raid of the church's Yearning for Zion ranch – allegations that would eventually land him in jail for life.

    Jessop went to Texas to review that evidence, trying to help build Jeffs' defense. But he came across something that stopped him in his tracks. A 12-year-old girl named Merrianne Jessop, Willie's niece, had told investigators that during her marriage ceremony in the YFZ temple, Jeffs had laid her down on a ceremonial bed and had intercourse with her while some of his other wives watched. The state also had an audiotape of the encounter.

    Jessop was incredulous. His niece's statement made reference to "the law of Sarah," the FLDS doctrine that allows for plural marriage, though here it had been grossly misinterpreted to cater to Jeffs' sexual perversions. It was so outlandish, Jessop figured the police were lying. He met with some of the young wives at one of the church's houses of hiding, in New Brunsfield, Texas. To be alone, they walked out to an orchard behind the house.

    "What's this law-of-Sarah stuff?" Jessop asked, expecting the girls to say they had no idea. Instead, they confirmed that Jeffs had raped Merrianne, while they watched.

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  135. Jessop felt like the floor had gone out from underneath him. He asked his driver to take him for a ride. After only a few minutes, Jessop asked to pull over, and he got out and threw up. "My whole world came apart," he says. "Everything I thought I knew was turned upside down."

    Jessop flew back to Short Creek and confronted Lyle Jeffs. He told Lyle he wanted the authorization to go public with what he'd found out about Warren. Instead, Jessop says, Lyle refused. "At that point, I knew I was done," Jessop says.

    Jessop went home and told his family, unsure of what they might say. Most FLDS members, when faced with a choice between family and the church, had chosen the church. All around their town were broken families where the husband had been exiled from the community and the wives and children had stayed behind. But Jessop was lucky. His wives and children stood by him, deciding to leave the church with him.

    The retribution was fast and fierce. "I had pieces of concrete slung through the front window of my house," he says. "I had my office raided, my vehicles raided. They said, 'God is going to kill and curse you, Willie. He's going to send fire from heaven and burn you.' That was a direct statement from one of my own family."

    For a while, Jessop carried his gun with him wherever he went. And then he decided God was on his side, and he didn't need it.

    "I think the best way to look at this is organized crime, not religion," Jessop says. "This town is basically run by one family, and everyone here has always done their bidding. They've been able to hide behind the First Amendment, claiming religious rights to protect what they do. When you see it for what it really is, the Mafia, everything starts to make sense."

    Like Jeffs himself, Jessop is a divisive character around town. Perhaps because he once headed the God Squad, there is some lingering distrust that Jessop has truly switched sides. The fact that he is still in contact with Lyle Jeffs, the de facto FLDS leader, only deepens the suspicion.

    "Willie will always be Willie," says Brower, the private investigator who was instrumental in bringing Jeffs down. "He hasn't changed from when he was with Warren. He says he didn't know about the sex? Of course he knew. He was enabling it. Other than Warren Jeffs, he's the most corrupt guy in Short Creek."

    Jessop knows people like Brower don't trust him, but he says that's of minor concern. "I get it, I was on one side one day, and now I'm on the other," Jessop tells me. "But that's this whole town. One day your neighbor won't talk to you because he thinks you're an apostate bound for hell, and the next he's calling you saying, 'Hey, how do I get out of this thing?' "

    Spend any time in Short Creek and it's hard to escape the feeling that things are getting darker and scarier. When I visit, walls are going up everywhere we look. Passing by the meetinghouse – the Walmart-size church at the edge of town – Isaac Wyler points to a big cement wall; again, too high to see inside. The church was once the gathering place for the community. Now, either to prevent apostates from seeing what's going on inside, or just to put them in their place, the nonbelievers can't so much as look at the church; the only thing visible is the roof.

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  136. At this point, seemingly nothing can be done to repair the fractured town. Case in point: In September, a devastating flash flood ripped through town, killing 13 members of the church, including 10 children. It was one of the worst natural disasters in Utah history. At first, it seemed the tragedy could unite families. Nonbelievers and the faithful worked long into the night, digging through waist-high mud in search of those who had been swept away. The FLDS leadership even begrudgingly accepted help and donations from gentiles. But a few days into the search, the FLDS announced it didn't want any further help, and anyone who didn't belong to the church would not be welcomed at funerals, even if they were family members of the victims. Many of the dead were secretly buried in order to ensure no outsiders were present.

    From prison, Jeffs is further dividing the town by building a cell of hardened zealots that he has christened the United Order, essentially an elite group within the faith. All over town, Wyler points out the homes of United Order members as we drive. They're easy to spot: an olive wreath above the Zion sign, and more often than not, a bunkhouse or a cargo container in the yard.

    "What's that for?" I ask Wyler.

    He says that if you're married to a United Order bride, you can't sleep under the same roof. "So the men get put outside," he adds. Jeffs has made all marriages null and void, explaining to the women of Short Creek that they are property of the priesthood. Even sleeping with your spouse is now considered adultery.

    For those who decide to finally leave, the road can be harrowing. Ben Thomas and his family were exiled from the community three years ago, even though his wife and seven of his eight children had been in the United Order. "It was just, 'OK, this is another test, you have to pass this and move forward,'" Thomas tells me. "You live there 40-some-odd years, and if you screw up in the last year, that really sucks."

    Gripped with guilt, his wife had begun writing confession letters to Lyle Jeffs, informing him of her perceived sins. Not long afterward, he told her that she wasn't worthy to live with her husband. They were no longer members of the FLDS, but could still live in the community and turn their paychecks in to the church. "But we wouldn't be able to talk to each other or to anybody, we wouldn't be able to talk to our kids or see them," Thomas says.

    Eventually, Thomas and his wife separated and left Short Creek. Now living in the Salt Lake area and working in IT support, Thomas tells me his wife and children are hoping the Jeffs brothers will allow them to return to the community. He calls his wife and children every day, but they refuse to talk to him. "Some days I get on the speakerphone and tell them I love them," Thomas says. "I get about 10 seconds, and then the phone hangs up."

    Like other people I talk to in Short Creek, Thomas is especially concerned about the rise of something called the seed bearers – perhaps the most disturbing of commands from the jailed FLDS prophet. According to former members who still have family inside, Jeffs has decreed that only men of a "royal bloodline" can reproduce, and only with women selected to the United Order. According to rumors, these men (there are said to be 15) are the seed bearers. To have a child, women must eat a special detox diet and apply to Jeffs in prison. Husbands are made to watch these breeding sessions, in which seed bearers wear a hood, and a sheet is placed between the man and woman during intercourse to keep their identities secret.

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  137. Any children born from these unions are put into hiding, likely at the FLDS network of secret compounds scattered throughout the West. They then become property of the church, with no knowledge of the identity of their parents. Several former members tell me they think Jeffs is trying to create a master race, loyal only to him.

    Thomas' worst fear is that his oldest daughter, who has returned to Short Creek, will become a United Order bride. "At my low point, I was sitting there with a gun on my bed," he tells me. "The pain is quite unbearable."

    It's a refrain I hear again and again. Virtually everyone I talk to in Short Creek knows at least one exiled family member who has committed suicide. Jessop says he has a brother who killed himself and an uncle who recently drove himself off Hurricane Hill after Jeffs dissolved his marriage and reassigned his family. Jessop tells me there were two to three suicides a month in the fall. These are the true casualties of the war over the town.

    "They call them Lost Boys, but it's more than that," he says. "It's lost children, it's lost mothers, it's lost women, it's lost men. It's a lot of hurt, and the magnitude of it's beyond my ability to even describe."

    Back in Phoenix, the lawyer for the city of Hildale is trying to take Willie Jessop apart on the stand, pursuing a line of questioning that seems designed to get the jury to wonder if they can trust him. After all, here's a guy who repeatedly lied for the church. Is he telling the truth now? But Jessop holds his ground. "I never left the church," he says. "The church left me."

    As strong as Jessop's testimony is, there's no telling what the jury will decide in the next few weeks. If the jury rules in favor of the DOJ, it is likely that Colorado City and Hildale would go into receivership, or possibly federal control. Nearby Hurricane, Utah, would take over police calls on the Utah side of the border, while police in Kingman, Arizona, would respond to calls coming from Arizona, even though it's a five-hour drive.

    During my time in Short Creek, I tried to talk to FLDS members to get their perspective on what was happening in town. I stopped by the Jeffs' family compound, which takes up an entire block, but no one answered.

    Hoping to meet with an official, I stopped by city hall, noticing the flag was at half-mast. When I asked why, I learned that it had been that way since Jeffs' incarceration, perhaps the most powerful symbol I'd seen of who really runs Short Creek. Inside Hildale City Hall, I was met by an FLDS woman wearing a green prairie dress and an elaborate updo, who worked as a secretary. She told me the town manager wasn't there but took down my name and number. She seemed nervous to be talking to me, and eager to see me leave.

    Eventually, I reached Blake Hamilton, a Salt Lake City attorney who represents the city of Hildale in the civil rights case brought by the DOJ. "What's happening here is very alarming," he tells me. "The federal government is doing exactly what they claim my client is doing, and that is discriminating on the basis of religion."

    Hamilton says that contrary to stereotype, not all of the FLDS answer blindly to Warren Jeffs and that not all city officials belong to the church. What's at stake, Hamilton argues, is whether a town can govern itself. "This case has pretty far-reaching implications," says Jeff Matura, a Phoenix attorney representing Colorado City. "Because it's an effort by the federal government to eradicate a religion it doesn't like. If it happens in a community in northern Arizona with 10,000 people, it could happen anywhere."

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  138. There are rumors the FLDS plans to abandon the town, possibly spreading to compounds in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. If it does, it would be following a pattern established by Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Polygamy pushed Smith's flock from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City. In both places, they tried to establish a theocratic society they called Zion, until it collapsed. The FLDS appears to be following the same script.

    But it seems that no matter where they go, the faithful will continue to answer to Jeffs, seeking meaning in his apocalyptic pronouncements. Even as a boy, Jeffs saw himself as messianic, believing the blood of Christ coursed through him. Ironically, his lasting legacy may be the destruction of the very cult that gave him birth. Criminal charges against the remaining FLDS leadership (nine church elders are already in prison with Jeffs) could possibly follow, depending on the jury's verdict. "He imploded this religion," Jessop says.

    While the DOJ has alleged that Jeffs continues to run the cult from jail, there's not much they can do to stop him. On the stand, Jessop says that Jeffs would send encrypted letters to Short Creek that only three of his wives could decode, and these orders were then passed on to the faithful. His wives also visited him while wearing watches equipped with recording devices, taping his commands. And when all else failed, he relayed instructions through his battery of well-paid defense attorneys, financed by the tithing of his humble followers.

    Still, despite his status as prophet, Jeffs lives in humiliating conditions compared with his former life. He spends almost all of his time alone in a cell deep in the pine forests of Palestine, Texas. Segregated from the general population, he never interacts with other inmates, even during the rare times he leaves his cell to walk around the yard. Mostly, he sits alone, reading letters from his followers and scribbling revelations. At one point, he was praying so much that open wounds began to fester on his knees, and prison officials had to chain him to the wall, forcing him to stand.

    Not long ago, Brower visited him in prison to assist in a deposition. Stooped and graying, Jeffs was no longer the towering figure who had once inspired fear in his followers. His skin now ghostly pale, he looked weak and feeble. Jeffs refused to answer a single question investigators asked that day, Brower says, quietly asserting his Fifth Amendment rights again and again.

    "He's got a boatload of mental illnesses," Brower says. "I believe he's schizophrenic, that he really hears voices."

    And yet, Jeffs' power over his followers in Short Creek remains absolute.

    "The control he has is monumental," Brower says. "I still worry deeply that he'll take it to some kind of violence, some kind of bloodshed, because what does he have to lose? He's in prison, and I think he'd like nothing more than to go out in a blaze of glory like some Old Testament story."

    Not long after my last visit to Short Creek, I hear about an alarming prophecy that Jeffs has recently issued from jail. The end of the world is coming, and soon. It's a prophecy he has made many times before. In fact, he had once predicted the world would end at the dawn of the new millennium, and had selected a few families to go out into a field known as Berry Knoll on New Year's Eve in 1999 to be "lifted up" as the pestilence and plagues rolled forth upon the land. FLDS apostates still laugh about it.

    But it turns out Jeffs had been right back then, he just hadn't realized one important detail: Man's calendar is 16 years different from God's. The world will in fact end as Jeffs had predicted, and God has even given him a date: April 2016.

    The faithful need to get ready. Only the most loyal will survive.


  139. As trial nears end critics of polygamous towns wonder whether verdict will matter

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune February 22, 2016

    Polygamy » Hildale and Colorado City can fight changes no matter what the jury decides.

    Last month, as a jury in Phoenix began hearing testimony in a six-week trial asking whether towns on the Utah-Arizona line favored members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a judge in Salt Lake City listened to witnesses who said the church required them to pick pecans as children.

    In 2007, a judge permanently barred Paragon Contractors Corp, a company owned by high-ranking officials in the FLDS, from employing children in ways that violate labor laws. Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, that is exactly what Paragon did during pecan harvests near Hurricane that began perhaps a year after the injunction.

    The defiance allegedly exhibited in the pecan case has some who watch the FLDS wondering how much can be accomplished in the civil rights trial against the towns.

    Without a decisive verdict from the jury followed by strong rulings from the judge and perhaps years of oversight, the century-old concerns that Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, discriminate against anyone who isn't loyal to FLDS leaders seem likely to continue.

    "Until the towns are not run by the church and until the police officers are not controlled by the church, it's going to continue to be a major problem," said Roger Hoole, an attorney who has represented dozens of people who have fled the FLDS.

    Hoole is among those who are hoping the Phoenix trial results in U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland disbanding the towns' police force and appointing a receiver to make decisions about finances and hiring until the municipal governments demonstrate discrimination has abated. The U.S. Department of Justice hasn't specified if those are things it will seek.

    First, the Justice Department has to persuade a jury that Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, discriminate in housing and policing. The towns deny there is discrimination and contend the federal government is pursuing a religion it doesn't like. Last week, lawyers for the towns called witnesses, including Colorado City's town manager and one of the towns' peace officers, who said FLDS leaders don't interfere in municipal affairs.

    The towns are expected to rest their case Tuesday. The jury is expected to begin deliberating later this week.

    If jurors find the towns have engaged in a pattern of discrimination, a new legal battle over making changes will begin. Holland is likely to take weeks to rule on motions from each side.

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  140. After a federal judge in Salt Lake City barred Paragon from the unlawful use of child labor in 2007, there was no active monitoring. The Labor Department took another look at Paragon after CNN aired video of a 2012 pecan harvest. A judge is now deciding whether Paragon violated the 2007 order and should pay back wages to the children; the Labor Department said last week that no one has paid 2014 fines totaling $1.9 million against Paragon, the church and church officials.

    If Short Creek faces specific orders after the discrimination case, giving a receiver authority will help ensure the towns comply, said Mohave County, Arizona, Sheriff Jim McCabe, whose deputies patrol Colorado City.

    "For so many years, [the towns] thought they could do things however they wanted to," McCabe said.

    McCabe acknowledged that no judge can change the hearts and minds of the FLDS, but an adverse ruling against the towns could be leverage for change.

    He doesn't see Short Creek becoming a conventional American community. He just wants it to be a place where people can live their lives without having to follow a church's rules.

    "You've got a lot of people living there now that are up for a little bit of a change, I hope," McCabe said.

    Courts have previously appointed administrators in Short Creek. In 2005, the state of Utah seized the United Effort Plan, a trust holding most of the land and homes in the towns. A Salt Lake City judge appointed fiduciary Bruce Wisan to manage the trust, and he encountered resistance to almost everything he did.

    Residents refused to sign agreements to live in the trust's houses or pay $100 a month. The town governments went to court to stop plans to subdivide property. While Hildale was subdivided after a Utah Supreme Court decision in Wisan's favor, Colorado City remains in litigation.

    Another receiver's experience was better, recalls former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. In 2005, his office was concerned that the Colorado City Unified School District was mismanaged and money was going to the FLDS church. He and the district agreed to put the district in receivership, replace the administration and sell superfluous assets, including an airplane, to improve its finances.

    Goddard, who is now in private practice, says that success shows a receiver can work in Short Creek.

    "I am certainly not naive enough to think that will make an overnight change in behavior that has gone on for 100 years or more," Goddard said last week, "but I think it's important that happens."

    Flora Jessop, who fled the FLDS as a teenager and helps women who leave the sect, attended one day of testimony early in the Phoenix trial. Jessop, 46, said she is waiting to hear the Justice Department's end game.

    Does it just want a victory in the courts? Whatever the judge and jury decide, will the department continue pursuing the towns to ensure change?

    "There's nothing new that's come out of this [trial] that we haven't been talking about for years and years and years," Jessop said.


  141. Law converges on Short Creek; arrests made on conspiracy, money laundering indictment

    Written by Joyce Kuzmanic, St George News February 23, 2016

    HILDALE – Local, state and federal law enforcement converged upon the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, Tuesday in actions related to a two-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court, District of Utah, Tuesday afternoon.

    The cities, traditionally known as Short Creek, are residence to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The indictment charges 11 leaders and members of the FLDS sect with conspiracy to commit “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” or SNAP benefits fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

    The indictment alleges church leaders diverted SNAP proceeds from authorized beneficiaries to leaders of the FLDS church for use by ineligible beneficiaries and for unapproved purposes.

    A large percentage of FLDS church members living in Short Creek receive SNAP benefits amounting to millions of dollars in benefits annually, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Tuesday.

    The indictment names leaders and members of the FLDS church including: Lyle Steed Jeffs, 56, John Clifton Wayman, 56, Kimball Dee Barlow, 51, Winford Johnson Barlow, 50, Rulon Mormon Barlow, 45, Ruth Peine Barlow, 41, and Preston Yates Barlow, 41, all of Hildale; Seth Steed Jeffs, 42, of Custer, South Dakota; and Nephi Steed Allred, age not specified, Hyrum Bygnal Dutson, 55, and Kristal Meldrum Dutson, 55, all of Colorado City, Arizona.

    Lyle Jeffs is the brother of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life-plus-20-years sentence in a Texas prison after being convicted in 2011 of felony sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children charges.

    In the physical absence of Warren Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs handles the daily affairs of the organization, including its financial matters, the news release states. Another of Warren Jeffs’ brothers, Seth Jeffs, leads a congregation of FLDS members in rural Custer County, South Dakota.

    “This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said Tuesday. “This indictment charges a sophisticated group of individuals operating in the Hildale-Colorado City community who conspired to defraud a program intended to help low-income individuals and families purchase food.”

    Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, who helped initiate the investigation and has officers participating on the FBI’s Public Corruption Task Force, emphasized the role his local investigators played in starting the investigation; according to the news release, he said:

    What started as a small investigation quickly grew to a point where it was important to work with federal agencies to build a case to present to a grand jury.
    Washington County Attorney Brock R. Belnap, whose office also participated in the investigation, will participate in prosecuting the case as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.

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  142. Arrest warrants were executed Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City, in Short Creek and in Custer County, South Dakota, for all the named defendants. Persons arrested are listed below.

    The case is being investigated by the FBI, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, IRS Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and the Washington County Attorney’s Office. The Arizona Department of Economic Security, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI’s Minneapolis and Phoenix Field Offices, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Dakota assisted with the case. In South Dakota, Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler also assisted with the investigation and arrests Tuesday.

    The Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service operates the SNAP program to provide assistance to low-income individuals and families to purchase food products. The authority to determine eligibility and to certify individual SNAP recipients who qualify for the program is delegated to individual states. Persons in need of benefits apply with the appropriate state agency. Approved applicants receive an electronic benefits transaction card similar to a bank debit card, that is linked to a SNAP account. EBT cards have a magnetic strip containing recipient information and the benefit amount. When a recipient presents a SNAP EBT card to a retailer to pay for eligible food items, the retailer debits funds from the recipient’s available SNAP benefits. SNAP benefits apply only to the purchase of eligible food items. Recipients cannot exchange their benefits for nonfood items, household goods or cash. Only members of the recipient household may use the program benefits.

    The indictment alleges that starting in about 2011, FLDS leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, instituted the “United Order” within the ranks of the church. Participation in the United Order purports to constitute the highest level of worthiness and spiritual preparedness in the church. Devout FLDS members aspire to eligibility in the United Order.

    According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office news release, adherents to the United Order must donate all of their material assets to the FLDS Storehouse, a communal clearinghouse charged with collecting and disbursing commodities to the community. The indictment alleges that United Order policy also dictates members must obtain their food and household commodities solely through the FLDS Storehouse.

    The indictment further alleges the defendants engage in a variety of overt acts in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the SNAP program by diverting SNAP proceeds from authorized beneficiaries to leaders of the FLDS church for use by ineligible beneficiaries and for unapproved purposes.

    Church leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, Seth Jeffs, John Wayman and Kimball Barlow, held meetings in which they disseminated storehouse protocols, according to the indictment. These protocols dictated methods for unlawfully diverting SNAP benefits to the FLDS Storehouse as well as instruction on how to avoid suspicion and detection by the government, according to the indictment.

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  143. FLDS members transferred their SNAP benefits to FLDS-controlled stores without receiving eligible food products at the time of the transactions. For example, according to the news release, on Oct. 16, 2015, an FLDS member conducted a SNAP transaction for $800 without receiving eligible food products at the time of the transaction. On one occasion, John Wayman collected EBT cards from legitimate beneficiaries, provided the cards to another individual and directed that person to use the SNAP funds to purchase food and goods for noneligible persons.

    SNAP fraud proceeds also financed ineligible purposes. For example, the indictment alleges that in March 2015, using SNAP fraud proceeds, Kimball Barlow signed a check for $16,978 to Orchid’s Paper Products Company for the purchase of paper products. During the period May 31, 2013, through September 22, 2014, the indictment alleges Ruth Barlow signed five checks totaling $13,561 made payable to John Deere Financial. The SNAP fraud proceeds were used for installment payments on a 2013 John Deere load tractor. SNAP fraud proceeds were also used for 16 checks totaling $30,236 payable to Ford Motor Credit for installment payments on a 2012 Ford F-350 purchased by Winford Barlow about Sept. 29, 2012.

    Money laundering, damages, potential penalties

    The money laundering count of the indictment alleges the defendants conspired to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of proceeds of a specified unlawful activity while conducting or attempting to conduct financial transactions.

    The indictment also seeks a money judgment equal to the value of the proceeds traceable to the alleged criminal offenses.

    The potential penalty for conspiracy count is five years in prison. The money laundering count carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.

    Arrests, initial appearances

    Lyle Steed Jeffs and John Clifton Wayman were arrested Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City. They are scheduled to make an initial appearance on the charges Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Room 7.1 of the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

    Seth Steed Jeffs was arrested Tuesday morning in Custer County, South Dakota, and will have an initial appearance in federal court in South Dakota.

    Defendants arrested Tuesday in the Short Creek area will appear Wednesday at 10 a.m. in federal court in St. George. As of 7:20 p.m., Ruth Peine Barlow, Winford Johnson Barlow and Kristal Meldrum Dutson have been booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility.

    Multi-agency action

    Spokesmen for several agencies involved in Tuesday’s action are quoted in the news release.

    Eric Barnhart, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office said:

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  144. Todays indictment is the culmination of the tireless efforts of the FBI Public Corruption Task Force, which includes the IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington County Attorney’s Office. The violations included in the indictment are especially egregious since they allege that leaders of the conspiracy directed others to commit crimes, for which only certain people benefited. This type of conduct represents nothing less than pure theft. The FBI and its law enforcement partners will actively pursue those entities or persons who unlawfully manipulate and control government programs for their own gain.
    IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Aimee Schabilion said:

    IRS Criminal Investigation uses its financial expertise to unravel complex financial transactions and money laundering schemes designed to conceal the true source of funds. We are committed to working with our federal agency partners in combatting frauds against the government.
    Washington County Attorney Brock R. Belnap said:

    I am grateful for the numerous partners who have worked diligently on this case. It is our shared hope that this action will help innocent families receive the food assistance that they genuinely need while holding people accountable who conspire to divert those resources to illegal purposes.
    Special Agent in Charge Lori Chan, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Western Region, said:

    Protecting the integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a major investigative priority for the Office of Inspector General. Vendors who engage in SNAP fraud exploit the program’s needy beneficiaries, and misuse the substantial funding that taxpayers provide. OIG is dedicated to ensuring SNAP funds are used for their intended purpose – feeding individuals and families. We look forward to continuing to work with our law enforcement partners to combat SNAP fraud.
    In a press release issued by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Sheriff Jim McCabe said the indictments were the result of many years of work and he was “happy to see it come to full term with the arrest of many people that have been taking advantage of the taxpayers and milking them out of millions of dollars.”

    Requests for comment directed to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office were referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office news release cited in this report.

    An indictment is not a finding of guilt. Individuals charged in an indictment are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.

    UPDATED 2:35 p.m. Booking photo for Ruth Peine Barlow added; 5 p.m. booking photos for Kristal Dutson, John Wayman and Lyle Jeffs added. 7:20 p.m. additional booking photos added.


    See the charging document, as provided by Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, here: US v Jeffs et al Indictment – unsealed – USDC-Utah-20160223


  145. Polygamous church leaders indicted arrested in investigation of alleged food stamp fraud

    By Erin Alberty, Jessica Miller and Nate Carlisle The Salt Lake Tribune February 23, 2016

    In a case that some say could destroy Utah's largest polygamous sect, federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced indictments against leaders and members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on charges related to food stamp fraud.

    Lyle Jeffs, who has been running the FLDS for his imprisoned brother, is one of nearly a dozen people named in an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday while FBI agents and sheriffs deputies searched businesses in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., that are owned by members of the FLDS.
    Also indicted was Seth Jeffs, brother to both Lyle and FLDS President Warren Jeffs, the religion's president and prophet — and who is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.

    "If they're finally going to prosecute Lyle and the leaders of the church, it will eventually bring the church down," said Wallace Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' half-brother, who was expelled from the church. "This pretty much cuts the head off the snake."

    Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, are home to the FLDS church. Isaac Wyler, a former member of the church, said Tuesday's action appears to be the largest law enforcement raid in the towns since 1953, when Arizona authorities arrived to arrest polygamists.

    "There are officers all over town," Wyler said.

    Lyle Jeffs and 10 other FLDS Church leaders and members were arrested Tuesday in Utah and South Dakota, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. They face one count each of conspiring to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
    A large percentage of FLDS Church members living in Short Creek receive SNAP benefits, amounting to millions of dollars in benefits per year, the news release said.

    Prosecutors say church leaders ordered members to give their SNAP benefits — in food and cash transfers — to the church, which collects and redistributes commodities to the community. The leaders tell church members that they must obtain their food and household goods only through the church, the indictment alleges.

    "This indictment is not about religion. This indictment is about fraud," U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said in the news release of the multi-year investigation. "This indictment charges a sophisticated group of individuals operating in the Hildale­-Colorado City community who conspired to defraud a program intended to help low ­income individuals and families purchase food."

    Charged in the indictment are Lyle Steed Jeffs, 56, John Clifton Wayman, 56, Kimball Dee Barlow, 51, Winford Johnson Barlow, 50, Rulon Mormon Barlow, 45, Ruth Peine Barlow, 41, and Preston Yates Barlow, 41, all of Hildale.

    Also charged are Nephi Steed Allred, 40, Hyrum Bygnal Dutson, 55, and Kristal Meldrum Dutson, 55, all of Colorado City; and Seth Steed Jeffs, 42, of Custer, South Dakota.

    Arrest warrants were issued for all the defendants and at least five of them were in custody by Tuesday evening.

    In the physical absence of Warren Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs handles the daily affairs of the organization, including its financial matters, prosecutors said. Another of Warren Jeffs' brothers, Seth Jeffs, leads a congregation of FLDS members in rural Custer County, South Dakota.
    "This is what will really bring down the church," Wallace Jeffs said. "The church is basically just a money laundering criminal organization. The fact that they're actually targeting them financially and getting them for these frauds and these money laundering issues is going to bring the church to its knees."

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  146. But Wallace Jeffs, who has been in and out of the church's good graces over the years, added that the FLDS Church likely will remain operational for the immediate future.

    "They still have people who can operate the church even though Lyle's arrested," he said. "They always have resources to fall back on in case of an emergency like this."

    Still, with its assets in jeopardy and its line of succession disrupted, Wallace Jeffs said he anticipates the church will be defunct within "a year or two."

    The indictment does not name Warren Jeffs' two younger brothers, Nephi and Isaac, who may be left to operate the church, Wallace Jeffs said. But with the three eldest in custody, the family's ability to control to the organization is weakened, he said.

    "Those brothers ... are pretty much the backbone of the church," Wallace Jeffs said. "If you knock them all out and get them put in prison, they really don't have anybody to lead the church. Somebody could try to stand up and say, 'I'm going to do it.' But they're not going to have any credibility. The influence lies in that family. There's nobody that has the influence to keep running the church."

    But former FLDS apostle William E. Jessop said there still remains someone with considerable influence and ability to run the church: Warren Jeffs himself. He points to federal investigators' evidence in an ongoing discrimination case that Jeffs continues to run the church from prison, including communications with Isaac and Nephi Jeffs.

    "We believe there's so much coming out of the prison, with Warren continuing to give direction," said Jessop, who leads a more progressive polygamous group that has left the FLDS Church. "They they have their little source. There's a whole [regiment] of little soldiers just trying to follow orders. ... Wherever corruption is, it's going to continue on as long as there's people to carry it on ... no matter whose the name."

    Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said Tuesday that his office helped initiate the investigation and has officers participating on the FBI's Public Corruption Task Force.

    "What started as a small investigation quickly grew to a point where it was important to work with federal agencies to build a case to present to a grand jury," Pulsipher said in a statement.

    Eric Barhart, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City Field Office, called Tuesday's indictment the "culmination of the tireless efforts" of the FBI task force, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Washington County Attorney's Office.

    "The violations included in the indictment are especially egregious since they allege that leaders of the conspiracy directed others to commit crimes, for which only certain people benefited," Barnhart said. "This type of conduct represents nothing less than pure theft. The FBI and its law enforcement partners will actively pursue those entities or persons who unlawfully manipulate and control government programs for their own gain."

    Washington County Attorney Brock R. Belnap, whose office also participated in the investigation, will participate in prosecuting the case.

    "I am grateful for the numerous partners who have worked diligently on this case," Belnap said. "It is our shared hope that this action will help innocent families receive the food assistance that they genuinely need while holding people accountable who conspire to divert those resources to illegal purposes."

    KUTV showed video of Mohave County, Ariz., deputies blocking streets around a dairy retailer in Colorado City. Other witnesses told The Salt Lake Tribune that agents were at Reliance Electric, a longtime contributor to the FLDS, as well as a produce business.

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  147. The prosecutors indictment says the alleged fraud is rooted in the FLDS Church's "United Order," instituted in 2011, which instructs all adherents to donate their lives and all their material substance to their church.

    Members were told to divert their food stamp benefits to the church by purchasing food from church-owned businesses like the Meadowayne Dairy Store and Vermillion Cliffs Produce and then bring those items to the FLDS Storehouse for "donation," according to the indictment.

    "These leaders also provided instruction on how to avoid suspicion and detection by the government," the indictment alleges.

    FLDS leaders also told members to transfer their SNAP benefits to the church-owned stores without receiving any food products, according to the indictment.

    On one occasion, Wayman is accused of taking an EBT card — which operates similar to a debit card and is linked to a SNAP account — from a qualifying person and giving it to an unauthorized person to buy food and goods.

    Prosecutors also allege that the proceeds from the SNAP fraud financed ineligible purchases, such as paper products, a tractor and a truck.

    Last year, 728 households received food stamps in either Colorado City, Ariz. or Hildale, Utah, according to officials in each state. And the combined benefit reached about $7.2 million.

    Colorado City had about twice as many SNAP recipients as Hildale, 500 to 228, and it was worth twice as much, $4.8 million to $2.4 million.

    The Arizona Department of Economic Security participated in the investigation and celebrated Tuesday's indictments.

    Department of Economic Security Inspector General Juan J. Arcellana said: "The indictments in this case will put an end to a sophisticated, organized and illegal operation."

    Blake Hamilton, an attorney who has represented Reliance and the dairy in the past, said in a text message he was only learning of the raid and had no comment. The church itself has no spokesperson.

    Hamilton pointed out none of those indicted work for or serve in elected positions with Hildale or Colorado City, though Kimball Barlow is a former member of the Hildale City Council. Wayman is a longtime FLDS businessman and church elder who briefly served as the bishop of Short Creek in 2012.

    Agents have not said what was seized in the raids, whether the storehouse remains in operation, or whether FLDS members are still receiving food benefits.

    Huber said during a Tuesday press conference that he wasn't sure whether the indictments would affect the community's ability to get government food benefits going forward.

    "I can imagine, using common sense, that if you engage in fraud, it may disqualify you from taking part in the program in the future," he said.

    While Jessop and Wallace Jeffs both praised federal officials for pursuing the case, they were concerned that FLDS families — who they say have given all they own to the church and may have no independent means of survival — could suffer in the wake of the raids.

    "It does affect women and children more particularly," Jessop said. "This is the food that gets put on the table for a lot of them."

    Members also may feel dissuaded from accepting food and supplies from sources not sanctioned by the church, Jessop said, and some may embrace scarcity as a righteous cost.

    "They've been taught for years that the government's an enemy," he said. "For the government to come in, they think it's just answering the prophecy. Some will continue to hold strong to their beliefs. Some will pay a serious element of sacrifice to hold onto what they believe."

    The Short Creek searches come as the municipal governments in the towns are on trial in a Phoenix courtroom. The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the towns, claiming they discriminate against people who do not follow the FLDS. The case could go to the jury next week.

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  148. There has been testimony in that trial that families with food stamps would use their government-issued debit cards at retail stores operated by FLDS members. The stores would be reimbursed by the government but food would go to the FLDS storehouse, according to the testimony.

    Lyle Jeffs and Wayman are expected to appear Wednesday morning at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.
    Seth Jeffs is due in a South Dakota courtroom, and the remaining defendants arrested in the Hildale/Colorado City area will appear in the federal courthouse in St. George.

    Huber said he hopes authorities will be able to take the remaining suspects into custody soon.

    "Today, thus far, we are very fortunate that this law enforcement business was conducted safely and that [for the] people who were taken into custody, it was done so safely and orderly," he said. "We hope that will continue."

    The potential penalty for conspiracy count is five years in prison. The money laundering count carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.

    This is the second time this month federal agents have raided Utah businesses associated with a polygamous sect. On Feb. 10, agents from the FBI, the IRS and the Environmental Protection Agency searched the Salt Lake County offices of Washakie Renewable Energy, which is operated by members of the Kingston Group.

    The Kingstons and the FLDS are separate polygamous churches. Huber said the two raids were not related.


    The accused and the allegations against them:

    Lyle Steed Jeffs » handles the daily affairs of the FLDS Church organization in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona — including its financial matters. He is accused of directing members to divert their food stamp benefits to the FLDS Storehouse. Members are told they must obtain all of their food and goods from this storehouse.

    Seth Steed Jeffs » is accused of acting as signator on the Quality Wholesale Distributors bank account into which Meadowayne Dairy Store’s operators transferred SNAP fraud proceeds. Prosecutors believe Quality Wholesale was a front for the FLDS Storehouse.

    John Clifton Wayman » acted as the bishop of the Short Creek Stake congregation in 2012. He is accused of circulating instructions for diverting SNAP benefits to the storehouse. He is also accused of taking a benefits card and giving it to an unauthorized person to purchase food and goods.

    Kimball Dee Barlow » managed the FLDS Storehouse, and is accused of disseminating protocol for diverting SNAP benefits to the storehouse.

    Nephi Steed Allred » is accused of organizing Quality Wholesale Distributors in an effort to conceal and disguise the involvement of the FLDS Storehouse.

    Winford Johnson Barlow » acted as president of Meadowayne Dairy Store from May 2012 and April 2015.

    Rulon Mormon Barlow » served as the general manager of Meadowayne Dairy Store and is accused of transferring SNAP fraud proceeds to accounts associated with Quality Wholesale Distributors.

    Ruth Peine Barlow » is the wife of Rulon Barlow, and assisted her husband in the operation of the dairy store.

    Hyrum Bygnal Dutson » was the general manager of Vermilion Cliff’s Produce, and is accused of transferring fraudulent SNAP proceeds to accounts associated with companies acting as a front for the FLDS Storehouse.

    Kristal Meldrum Dutson » is the wife of Hyrum Dutson, and helped her husband in the daily operations of the produce store.

    Preston Yates Barlow » took over managerial control of the dairy store in October 2015, and is also accused of transferring fraudulent proceeds to accounts of companies believed to be fronts to the storehouse.

    — Source: U.S. District Court Indictment against Lyle Jeffs, other FLDS leaders


  149. Towns run by a polygamist sect discriminated against nonbelievers, jury finds

    by Nigel Duara, Los Angeles Times March 7, 2016

    Two border towns run by a polygamist sect violated the constitutional rights of nonbelievers, a jury decided Monday after a dramatic seven-week trial that included testimony from people who said they were denied basic utilities like water and harassed by the local marshal’s office.

    The verdict in the civil trial could have far-reaching implications for the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Each is run by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and though town leaders had pledged improvements, trial evidence suggested they simply modernized their exclusionary practices instead.

    U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland now will hear from the cities and Justice Department on what should be done to fix the violations. Such civil rights trials have been used to force change in police departments of major cities, but rarely has an entire city — including the mayor’s office — been the possible subject of federal oversight and management.

    In the case of Hildale and Colorado City, the burden would be spread between the neighboring cities.

    The Justice Department alleged that the leadership of the towns is beholden to Warren Jeffs, the religion’s prophet imprisoned for life for child sexual assault. While the trial was unfolding in a Phoenix courtroom, federal agents arrested 11 people on suspicion of food stamp fraud in Hildale and Colorado City.

    During the trial, the government alleged that leaders of the towns — which make up the 10,000-person church stronghold known as Short Creek — discriminated against nonbelievers by denying them water service and delaying police response to emergencies.

    Because the government prevailed, police and government services could be handed over to a receivership that answers to the federal government, but the government hasn't said what relief it will seek.

    Phoenix defense attorney Jeffrey Matura, who represented the towns with co-counsel Blake Hamilton, said before the verdict was read that he would be ready to explore “all avenues of appeal” if the jury found against the cities.

    Hamilton and Matura said during trial that the towns were victims of a deep-seated desire by the U.S. government to extinguish the religion and its way of life. The cities and their shared water utility denied the allegations of discrimination and say they have distanced themselves from Jeffs.

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  150. During turbulent times in the last decade, when a then-fugitive Jeffs was hunted down, tried and convicted, the cities had different leadership and a different police chief. After investigations into their conduct, town police officers were decertified by the Arizona and Utah police registry agencies and then given government or church positions.

    But since 2007, Hamilton said, no officers have lost their certification, and the current leadership of the towns' collective police department is not accused of having done anything improper.

    The sect is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the formal name of the Mormon Church, which banned polygamy in 1890, though plural marriages remained a custom through the 1930s, when Mormons began to excommunicate those who took multiple wives.

    At the time, sect members seeking freedom to practice polygamy, which they believe guarantees their entry to heaven, founded Short Creek in response.

    Today, Hildale and Colorado City operate as independent municipalities, each with a mayor and five-member town council, though most of the land in each is held by the United Effort Plan Trust, a sect-controlled fiduciary collective.

    Hamilton and Matura were prepared for some of their witnesses to invoke their 5th Amendment rights and decline to answer questions, and told the jury as much in their opening statement.

    But they could not have predicted the way those witnesses would respond to questions on the stand, nor the effect it would have on the jury, in particular the testimony of Joseph Steed Allred, mayor of Colorado City.

    Allred took the stand Feb. 9, about halfway through the trial. In a series of dismissive replies about his multiple wives, their ages and his management of water utility finances, Allred may have served the prosecution’s goal of forcing the sect to remain silent in the face of an opportunity to explain themselves.

    Throughout the trial, jurors heard details of church security and the alleged harassment faced by newcomers and apostates.

    New arrivals who were not sect members were tracked by surveillance cameras and from lookouts, their movements passed along on more than 30 radios spread around the compound, witnesses testified. And security forces in the towns grew from about 30 men in 2007 to hundreds six years later.

    The security details photographed newcomers, tracked their movements and became intimately familiar with their routines, according to testimony.

    “Our goal was to somehow identify something that was going on with them, to see if we could get something over on them,” former church security member Patrick Barlow testified. “It was harmful. We were trying to figure out a way to get them to go.”


  151. Polygamist sex offender Warren Jeffs still trying to lead

    CBS News March 13, 2016

    HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Earlier this year, a wife of former polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs tried to visit him at a Texas state prison with a tiny microphone implanted in her hollowed-out watch. Another time recently, a woman planning to visit the convicted sex offender was denied entry after a metal detector found something buried in her hair and she refused to show it to a corrections officer.

    Such is the hide-and-seek game authorities play with the self-styled prophet of the breakaway Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who isserving a life sentence for sexually assaulting his 12- and 15-year-old child bridesat a church compound in West Texas.

    Prison officials said it was the second time recently that Jeffs' wives were caught trying microphone-in-the-watch that ploy. Those and other details emerged in Phoenix earlier this month at a trial involving Arizona and Utah church followers that offered a rare glimpse into how Jeffs still tries to exert control from behind bars.

    Among other breaches of prison rules, Jeffs' phone privileges were temporarily suspended in 2012 when it was determined the caller at the other end was broadcasting the conversation on a speakerphone. And a Texas prisons official testified at the Phoenix trial that some mail sent by Jeffs was blocked when it appeared to be written in code.

    From his arrival in 2011 at an East Texas prison, the 60-year-old Jeffs presented special challenges.

    He began receiving more than 1,000 letters a day, mainly from followers of the sect that broke away from the Mormon church when it disavowed polygamy. That's more than all the other 1,000 inmates combined at the Powledge Unit prison near Palestine, where he is held in "protective custody" to shield him from other inmates.

    Jennifer Smith, who supervises the prison agency's mail operation, says every piece of mail is opened and inspected for things such as contraband. Jeffs' mail volume has subsided somewhat, although his daily amounts still sometimes exceed 300 letters. Outgoing mail also is examined.

    Operating a business from a penitentiary is not allowed, said Texas prisons director William Stephens, and attempts to do so are stopped as soon as possible.

    Jeffs gets few visitors, makes only a smattering of phone calls, sends out a handful of letters and doesn't socialize much with others, prison officials said. He doesn't have a cell partner and is given the opportunity to be outside his cell just three hours a day for recreation. His meals are delivered to his cell.

    "He has little interaction with the staff or other offenders," said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "He keeps to himself."

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  152. He routinely refuses media requests for interviews, and denied such a request from The Associated Press.

    He can have up to 10 people on an approved visitor list that can be revised every six months. Texas limits an inmate's phone list to 20 numbers and a contractor monitors the calls.

    Texas authorities declined to provide the visitor and phone lists to The Associated Press, saying such records were confidential. But a prison official testifying at the Phoenix trial said two of Jeffs' brothers, Isaac and Nephi, are his most frequent visitors.

    Jeffs is searched before he's brought to the visitation area and isn't allowed to bring anything except his prison ID. For immediate family visits, he's sits across a table from them. Other visitors speak to him from behind a screen. A corrections officer is nearby.

    But phone calls to attorneys are not monitored because of attorney-client privilege. Letters marked as legal mail remain sealed until they're opened in Jeffs' presence and checked for physical contraband. Inmates and their lawyers are allowed to exchange documents during prison legal visits and those are not screened.

    Outgoing mail marked as legal correspondence avoids scrutiny of the mailroom clerks, although the name on the letter is checked to ensure that person really is a lawyer.

    Willie Jessop, a former church security chief who has renounced the group, said at the Phoenix trial that he received more than 100 coded letters taken out by Jeffs' attorneys. They were decoded by his wives and then distributed to followers.

    Jeffs fired his attorneys during his 2011 Texas trial and the AP was unable to determine if he now has a lawyer.

    Two lawyers who have dealt with Jeffs denied they served as couriers for him. One attorney during two depositions taken in 2014 at the Texas prison said their discussions never focused on religion.

    "Was I a messenger for the church? The answer is no," said lawyer Brian Walsh.

    Michael Piccarreta, an Arizona lawyer who's represented Jeffs in criminal cases from 2007 to 2010 - before Jeffs arrived at the prison - said he had not heard of lawyers serving as couriers.

    "I'm not aware of that occurring," he said. "That was not an issue."

    Jessop said members of the sect who blindly followed Jeffs for years are still writing him because they are leaderless and desperate for guidance.

    "It's just going to take time to wear this out, just like coming to grips with the fact there's no Santa Claus living at the North Pole," he said.


  153. Polygamous sect verdict: religion is not a shield for crime

    by Patrik Jonsson The Christian Century Mar 14, 2016

    (The Christian Science Monitor) The federal prosecution of criminal and civil rights violations in two remote towns on the Utah-Arizona border suggests that Americans—and their law enforcement agencies—are erasing cultural taboos against prosecuting polygamous sects in the US.

    The two-pronged attack by the Department of Justice against a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sect, legal experts say, shows a deepening sophistication among Americans when it comes to drawing a distinction between religious activities and criminal activity, especially against women and children.

    A federal jury last week found two FLDS-run towns guilty of multiple civil rights violations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation rounded up 11 FLDS leaders on felony welfare fraud charges. The jury found that the towns sabotaged people who were considered threats, that the police departments harassed and intimidated nonbelievers, and that local officials denied services to new residents from outside of the faith.

    The verdict, experts say, demonstrates progress in resolving a fundamental American tension between the free expression of faith and protecting U.S. citizens from violation of their constitutional rights by other people. One way of resolving this tension that appears to have been adopted by law enforcement, legal scholars say, is to separate the crime from the religion, and target the former.

    The prosecutions are “important because we have gone through this era now in which there have been successive unveilings of sexual abuse in a wide variety of institutions, and one option all along was to just let the fringe religious groups continue to operate as they were operating,” said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law professor at Yeshiva University in New York City. “What this [government action] shows is that the law matters, and that oppression and theocracy are unacceptable. And that’s good news for the individual status of women and children.”

    A federal jury found that the FLDS towns, run from a Texas prison by convicted child molester and bigamist Warren Jeffs, violated child labor laws and civil rights laws by refusing service to nonbelievers, many of whom live side by side with FLDS adherents who post signs reading “Zion” on their front porches.

    “The critical thing to pay attention to is in the politically charged rhetoric of religious liberty, what’s often left in the background is that fact that no theocracy may exist in the United States,” Hamilton said. In Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, “you had government operating as pure theocracy. . . . You had to be a true believer to have the firetruck show up at your burning house.”

    Indictments against 11 others, including two of Mr. Jeffs’s brothers, describe a bold scheme that law enforcement officials say aimed to bilk millions of taxpayer dollars through food stamp fraud. In one strategy detailed in the indictment, church members swiped EBT cards at church-owned stores and received nothing in return.

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  154. The argument from the town attorneys was a traditional one—that church members were victims of persecution, not the other way around. It has in the past been an effective one, particularly in Utah, where the issue of polygamy has been sensitive. The state was founded by the Mormon Church, which originally practiced polygamy in the 19th century before officially terminating the practice in 1890. The FLDS is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    In December 2013, a Utah state court found polygamous cohabitation legal in a case involving the TLC reality series Sister Wives. The judge ruled that making it a crime for married people to live with other people violates “important [rights] of personal and religious freedom,” as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has put it. (The case is now being heard by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.)

    Indeed, Utah and the federal government have walked a tightrope on polygamy for decades. Much of the current tension runs back to a 1953 raid on the same Utah FLDS community by state authorities. Pictures of crying children being ripped from their mothers’ arms by state agents sparked outrage. One former Utah attorney general told researchers that, as a result of the raid, “We can’t penetrate closed groups” or “get local prosecutors to do their jobs.”

    More recently, in 2007, “prophet” Jeffs was indicted on statutory rape charges after a major manhunt. In 2008 Texas took custody of 462 children who had been living on an FLDS ranch, sparking one of the largest child custody cases in U.S. history.

    While some agents showed up with heavy firearms, most of that raid, in contrast to 1953, was handled peacefully by state social workers.

    When an appeals court in 2011 voided Jeffs’s charges in Utah on a technicality, Texas had him extradited, charging him with a litany of serious sexual misconduct against minors. At one point, Jeffs is believed to have had 80 wives, some of whom had been as young as 12. He is now serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.

    Yet Jeffs has continued to lead the church in his “prophet” role, which gives him broad powers over the marital arrangements of his followers. But in recent years, apostates have testified, an exodus from the church has intensified, with perhaps as many as 1,000 people leaving in the past few years.

    Meanwhile, Utah reopened a school in the Hildale area, which Jeffs had closed when he took over. A sort of “underground railroad” has emerged to help ferret victims away from the sect and prepare them for life outside the literal walls put up by members to keep an “evil” world at bay.

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  155. In January a federal judge heard arguments in a civil case against an FLDS labor contractor accused of using 1,400 unpaid FLDS laborers, including 175 children, during a pecan harvest in 2012.

    While John Huber, U.S. attorney for Utah, has been careful to articulate that the prosecutions were not about “religion . . . but fraud,” it’s clear to some observers that his decision to target the leadership structure could serve to destabilize the church and potentially allow more victims to escape its grip.

    “In today’s America, the religious and the secular each accuse the other of having an unfair stranglehold on public policy. . . . But that’s not what this is about,” the Arizona Republic’s editorial board wrote. “Warren Jeffs’ band of polygamists do not get to hide their offenses under a cloak of religion.”

    Yet the government turning up the heat on FLDS now does not by itself resolve what University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora calls the “deep, deep stain” of the state historically failing to protect boys, girls, and women.

    After all, women who have left the church have complained for decades about systemic abuses. And practices such as FLDS men taking child brides and the plight of “lost boys”—male children who are abandoned on the highway by their mothers before they grow old enough to compete with men—have been widely reported.

    “The largest and most fundamental question in this case is: to whom does the state owe a duty—to religion or to vulnerable members of a religion?” Guiora said. “The fact is, in Utah, state agents have articulated their duty as to the religion.”

    Broadly, Gallup found last year that polygamy “retains its essence of moral repugnancy in the nation’s social consciousness.” Yet thanks to shows like TLC’s Sister Wives there has been a slight softening of views toward polygamy, where 16 percent of Americans now believe the practice is morally acceptable, compared with 6 percent in 2003.

    Such shifts suggest that the U.S. is facing “a litmus test of civil rights around not just religion but how people organize their intimate lives,” said Courtney Bailey, a professor at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, who studies changing cultural attitudes toward polygamy.

    At the same time, the decision by authorities to dismantle what was ruled a theocracy on U.S. soil, and imprison church leaders on fraud charges, is one indication of where the federal government places the limits of religious freedom.

    “The TV version of polygamy sure looks interesting and fun, but increasingly the victims of polygamy have come to the forefront, published books, conducted lectures, making it increasingly hard to paint polygamy in this soft light,” said Hamilton at Yeshiva University. “Twenty years ago it was taboo to say negative things about religion in public. Today it is easier for people to see the crime and understand that this has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with criminal behavior.”


  156. Ex-FLDS members remember happy community before Warren Jeffs used children to lead sect astray

    Nigel Duara, Los Angeles Times March 20, 2016

    Best anyone can remember, it began the day the children stopped saying "Dad."

    Uncle Warren — every elder in this polygamist sect is addressed as "Uncle" — announced to his flock one day in the early 1990s that sons and daughters were no longer to call their parents "Mom" and "Dad." These were people to be respected, Warren Jeffs said, and would henceforth would be referred to as "Mother" and "Father."

    To Nolan Barlow, then a middle-schooler with a sharply shaped nose and an abiding faith in his prophet, Jeffs, that edict didn't sound too bad. Parents were accorded respect in the Holy Scriptures.

    In the wake of a federal court verdict this month that found that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints harassed nonbelievers in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., former members of the sect are speaking up about how Jeffs was able to exert his influence over the communities and church members.

    [Warren Jeffs] studied Hitler, Stalin.... If you see how the Soviets or the Nazis did it, they used the kids too. They use family against family.— Lamont Barlow, a former Alta Academy student who has left the FLDS

    They recall that a week after the Mom-and-Dad edict, Jeffs said that fathers would be called "father priesthood holders," a title that felt true to the faithful of the FDLS, who believe the men of their religion are capable of receiving revelations from God.

    But then Jeffs commenced a series of banishments and excommunications of men. He reassigned their wives and children to other men, took their homes and ordered every sect member to shun them. Jeffs would take on multiple wives, some of them underage.

    How did Jeffs, now serving a life sentence for child sexual abuse, come to so thoroughly control the families, careers and even the promised afterlife of the people who live under copper-colored cliffs in an area known as Short Creek?

    By using the children.

    In interviews after the verdict, former FLDS members detailed the degree to which children were used by Jeffs to secure and maintain control of the sect.

    One current FLDS member who did not wish to be identified because of the potential for exile confirmed their account.

    It was the children whom Jeffs turned to when he sought information on their parents. Elementary school students would be dispatched in fours to the homes of FLDS members on Jeffs' orders and ask the family to pray with them. They would later report what they saw and heard to Jeffs' trusted lieutenants, and sometimes Jeffs himself.

    "If you prayed real hard, you were OK," said Nolan Barlow, now 35, who left the faith in 2013. "But if you just kind of said, 'Oh, protect the prophet,' but you weren't real serious about it? They'd come back to Jeffs and you would be [exiled] soon enough."

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  157. The unwitting children had no idea of the potential damage they were doing, he said.

    "When someone was exiled," Barlow said, "it was worse than death."

    "A living death," added Jason Black, who left the church the same year.

    Black and Barlow sometimes watch themselves, or children once just like them, in old home videos on a projector in their small software development business in Hildale.

    The videos show life before Jeffs' rule, and the difference is remarkable from present-day Short Creek, where sect members pull their children out of sight behind high fences when they catch a glimpse of outsiders.

    In 1986, a video recording of the Utah holiday called Pioneer Days shows a long parade down Mohave Avenue, the highway that forms the centers of the contiguous downtowns of Hildale and Colorado City. Mixed in among the rows of FLDS children and parents are non-FLDS visitors from neighboring towns who arrived in classic cars to give rides to kids.

    Children can be seen wearing red, a color now forbidden, and women wear skirts. Young girls' hair has been cut and styled, another practice Jeffs ended, ordering all girls to keep their hair uncut and tied up in elaborate braids.

    "See him?" said Barlow, pausing the video and pointing to a man wearing a clown wig, walking down Mohave Avenue on stilts, FLDS children skittering out of his way before him. "He's FLDS. Couldn't do that now."

    In the 1980s the FLDS prophet was a man named Leroy Johnson. Barlow remembers him as a generally benign ruler who permitted monthly children's performances organized by a bishop. Johnson's death in November 1986 sent the FLDS community into upheaval. Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' father, assumed the position of prophet.

    Videos from 1994 show the tightening hand of the FLDS. Gone from the parade are skirts and the color red. By 1997, videos show women in uniform long-sleeved, ankle-length prairie dresses, their hair puffed and braided, preparing for a town show. Children on the roadside wave to the camera, but gone are the long floats and honking car horns from the 1986 parade.

    "There were fewer people from outside," Black said. "You could see it start to happen, Warren taking control."

    Black, Barlow and a small group of nonbelievers have continued to live in Short Creek, a community of about 10,000 people, despite being shunned and occasionally harassed by FLDS church members. They remember the changes that befell the FLDS church when they were children schooled in Short Creek, and watched as the generation of church children that came after them were increasingly devoted to Jeffs.

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  158. In the 1980s and most of the 1990s Jeffs was principal at the religion's Alta Academy in Salt Lake City, which most FLDS children attended. There, on property owned by his father, he led choir practice and formed the beginnings of the unforgiving lifestyle he would bring to Short Creek.

    The school's motto was "perfect obedience produces perfect faith." Its students, who were ordered to revere Jeffs like their own parents and lived in the Salt Lake Valley during the school year, returned to Colorado City a chastened lot, obedient to Jeffs and accustomed to his restrictions on their dress, speech and relationships.

    But such restrictions would have been foreign to the FLDS members who grew up in Short Creek a generation before Jeffs assumed the role of prophet after his father died in 2002.

    Barlow's father courted his mother in notes left under rocks. "Their version of texting," he said, and a practice that would have led to exile when Jeffs was in power.

    The control exercised by Jeffs had a darker element. Last October, Becky and Roy Jeffs, both adults, told CNN that their father, Warren, abused them and one of their sisters as children.

    As described to the jury that convicted him in Texas in 2011, Jeffs made the children his spies and his disciples. "Keep sweet," they were told, a gentle reminder to smile in the face of difficulty or wrongdoing.

    In time, according to Barlow and Black, Jeffs added a more ominous admonition: "It's a matter of life and death."

    The parents were impressed, and a little fearful, at their offspring's religious devotion.

    "He studied Hitler, Stalin. We used to watch videos of speeches" of dictators and generals, said Lamont Barlow, one of Nolan's second cousins and a former Alta Academy student who has left the faith. "If you see how the Soviets or the Nazis did it, they used the kids too. They use family against family."

    While watching the videos of life before Jeffs' ascent, Nolan Barlow noticed the soundtrack in the background, which sounded like '80s rock. It was courtesy of the local radio station, KCCA 107.1, which played mostly polka and country ballads.

    "As kids, we used to sneak up there when my buddy was the DJ," Nolan Barlow said. "We'd play rock 'n' roll until the elders called us to stop."

    Jeffs ordered it closed.

    Children, Barlow said, now mostly listen to Jeffs' recorded speeches on church-issued iPods.

    According to former FLDS members, and confirmed by a current member who requested anonymity, the faith has found a new prophet: Ben Johnson, a Jeffs follower who married into a prominent FLDS family.

    Black and the Barlows expect to see a string of exilings to follow.

    And they expect families, especially children, to follow along, without question.


  159. Utah Supreme Court wont toss former FLDS child brides lawsuit against Warren Jeffs

    BY BEN WINSLOW Fox 13 Now
    MARCH 23, 2016,

    SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court will not dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former FLDS child bride seeking as much as $40 million in damages over her marriage presided over by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

    In a ruling issued Wednesday night, the state’s top court allowed Elissa Wall’s lawsuit to go forward.

    “Elissa is very happy and we’re moving forward,” her attorney, Alan Mortensen, told FOX 13. “We’re pleased with the Supreme Court affirming the district court decision. We look forward to a trial where the facts will be presented.”

    Elissa Wall filed the lawsuit against Jeffs, the leader of the Utah-based Fundamentalist LDS Church, and the United Effort Plan Trust, the “united order” that controls most of the assets of the church. Wall claims she was forced to marry her cousin at age 14 in a ceremony that Jeffs presided over. She left the marriage and ultimately became the star witness in Utah’s prosecution of Jeffs on a charge of rape as an accomplice.

    Jeffs was initially convicted by a jury in St. George, but it was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court. He is currently serving life in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage “marriages.”

    Wall is seeking damages from Jeffs, the FLDS Church and the UEP Trust, which controls most of the property in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The UEP Trust, which was taken over by the courts in 2005 over allegations Jeffs mismanaged it, argued to the court that it was not liable for the conduct of Jeffs.

    In the ruling, Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee said it appeared Jeffs was acting in his capacity as head of the UEP.

    “As abhorrent and troubling as this may appear to be, there is a basis in the record for the conclusion that Jeffs‘s acts were aimed in part at advancing the interests of the Trust as he perceived them,” Lee wrote. “And there is also reason to conclude that Jeffs‘s conduct was ―of the general kind he was expected ―to perform as trustee.”

    The Utah Supreme Court did, however, set some limitations in its ruling, declaring that “the Trust’s beneficiaries, rather, include innocent third parties whose interests could be adversely affected if the Trust‘s veil is pierced. Some of those beneficiaries may themselves have claims against the Trust.”

    After the arguments in November, a lawyer for the UEP Trust said that if Wall were to prevail, it could “devastate” the communities of Hildale and Colorado City by opening them up to more litigation and affect people who live in the communities because of the amount of damages being sought.

    An attorney for the UEP Trust did not immediately return a message seeking comment from FOX 13 on Wednesday night.

    With the Supreme Court’s ruling, a lower court will now set a trial date for the case to be litigated.

    Read the Utah Supreme Court ruling here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/305796498/Child-Bride-Decision


  160. Tiny Tombstones

    Inside the FLDS Graveyard for Babies Born from Incest

    by Molly Oswaks, Broadly MARCH 9 2016

    In the polygamist cult of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, cousins were encouraged to marry in order to preserve certain bloodlines. Years of inbreeding have resulted in children born with serious birth defects—many of whom don't make it past a few years old.

    "It wasn't until I left the FLDS and moved away from the community that I realized I'd been to an unusually high number of funerals growing up in the Creek," says Alyssa Bistline over a crackling phone connection. "Outside, people don't die that often, and usually they're really old."

    The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is a polygamous sect straddling the Utah and Arizona state lines; the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, are known collectively as Short Creek (pronounced "crick"). The FLDS split off from the mainline Mormon (LDS) church in 1890 after the church denounced the principal of plural marriage. The FLDS believe they are practicing the one true religion as Prophet Joseph Smith intended it to be. Mormons, however, take care to denounce the FLDS "polygs" as having absolutely no relation to their Latter Day Saints.

    In 2006, Warren Jeffs, then the president and prophet of the FLDS, was arrested and charged with accomplice rape, for just two of the underage marriages he had arranged. In 2011, Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years. Through his brother Lyle—Bishop of the FLDS and mouthpiece for his imprisoned brother—Jeffsenacted a Judgment wherein FLDS members were asked a series of bizarre personal questions; their answers were judged, and the most righteous were welcomed into the United Order of FLDS elite. Those who did not make it into the UO were separated from their families, placed in patchwork homes of other UO "orphans," and told to repent.

    I'm driving around Short Creek with Alyssa—who is in Boise, Idaho, where she is a college sophomore—piped in through the bluetooth-enabled speakerphone in the rental car I'd picked in Las Vegas the previous night. She is guiding me all around town, following my route, turn by turn, on Google maps. We pass the house she grew up in with her mother, three eldest brothers, and father before he was kicked out of the cult. She directs me to the houses she lived in after that: her stepdad Jim Jessop's home; then the rotten, roach-infested house she and her mother shared with nearly two dozen cousins and friends after being removed from Jim's following the Judgment. I pass the dairy, the zoo, the park, the former birthing clinic, the condemned high school built on a foundation of adobe bricks, and so on. Eventually, I pull up to the corner of Canyon Street and Jessop Avenue, where I find the baby cemetery.

    The lot is unmarked and unremarkable. There is no sign. A scrappy white wooden fence runs the length of it along Canyon Street. It is bordered to the north by a well-maintained lot where there sits a stately red brick home with UEP (United Effort Plan, the church trust which is now controlled by the state of Utah in the aftermath of Jeffs' conviction) spelled out in white brick on its south-facing side. At the lot's northwest corner, a metal gate—the kind you might find on a cattle ranch—hangs open on its hinge. The baby cemetery is a mess of overgrown weeds and dry, cracked dirt, home to hundreds of infant and toddler-size graves, not all of them marked. Many of the souls interred here lived not longer than a day, some just two days, two weeks, or two years. Some feature more expensive-looking gravestones, and include, beyond names and dates, terms of endearment such as: "Sweet baby girl," "Our son," and "Heaven's very special child." Still more, rather cryptically, feature child-size palm and footprints.

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  161. There are baby graves year that date back as earlier as the 1950s, potentially even earlier: many are unmarked. The last infant grave marked in this cemetery is dated 2010; Warren issued an edict from prison banning sex in 2011, so few infants have been born since then (the few babies born each year are the product of institutionalized rape by cult-appointed seed bearers). There are also graves lacking any dates whatsoever. Some read simply, "Baby Keate," or "Baby Bateman," or "Baby Cooke," with holes where numeric date tiles might otherwise be placed.

    The quick answer for why this polygamous community has buried so many of its children is inbreeding, according to community members. Almost everyone here is some variation of cousin, and, until Warren was locked up and decided to put a hold on all marriages, most men and women were paired together in order to preserve certain esteemed bloodlines. Sisters married the same man in polygamous celestial weddings; brothers from one family married sisters from another (meaning their kids are double cousins). And, because this cult is so tight-knit and averse to strangers, the gene pool is rather limited.

    The FLDS started out as a few fringe families in the late 1890s; as more seeking to follow the principal of plural marriage moved to the polygamous towns in the early-to-mid 20th century, the gene pool grew, but by the 90s, under the stricter control of prophet Rulon Jeffs (Warren's father), they were tightening up and selectively marrying and breeding in a sort of misfired eugenics experiment that ultimately yielded its own genetic disorder: fumarase deficiency (FD), otherwise known as Polygamist Down's. Fumarase deficiency (FD) is an autosomal metabolic recessive disorder, meaning it is necessary for an individual with the condition to receive the mutant allele from both parents. Those affected by the genetic disorder suffer grand mal seizures and often have facial feature deformities and severe mental retardation, with IQs as low as 25. A simple urine test will reveal whether there is an excess of fumaric acid in the urine, if the other, more external symptoms aren't obvious enough. Until the 1990s, there were only 13 known cases of FD in the world. But by 2006, Dr. Theodore Tarby, of Arizona, had discovered at least 20 more children living with the condition in Short Creek, all within just blocks of each other.

    Fumarase deficiency, however sensationalized, is not the only genetic disorder found here. One man, who asks to remain nameless to protect his and his family's privacy, describes a lifetime of round-the-clock care and too-frequent hospital visits for his five sons. His eldest died six years ago at 10 years old, he says, and another died in infancy, leaving behind two remaining brothers from a set of spontaneous identical triplets. Those two—and a fifth boy—also suffer from the condition that all of this family's sons were born with: x-linked hydrocephalus. A rare neurological disorder characterized by water on the brain, muscular stiffness, adducted thumbs and aphasia, x-linked hydrocephalus is expressed only in men and carried by women. "You have to either accept" the responsibility of caring for so many children with major healthcare needs "or let it destroy you," says this man, whose wife recently suffered a stroke. The knowledge that one's children are likely to be born with conditions like this one does not prevent FLDS couples from becoming pregnant; instead, they see it as a responsibility and blessing to have many children.

    And then there are the more livable genetic conditions. The most common birth defects for children born of close cousins, anywhere, are: harelip, cleft palate, clubfoot, and certain forms of heart valve conditions. These conditions are disproportionately common, relative to the size of the general population, in Short Creek.

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  162. According to many of the individuals interviewed for this story, these children are seen as special angels sent from God to the FLDS community. They're given the utmost attention and care because the FLDS faithful believe everything in this life is a test before entering the celestial kingdom, and caring well for all of Heavenly Father's children is part of that test.

    Dawna Black Bistline (Alyssa Bistline's father's brother's wife) has seen firsthand how the children of cousins suffer. Two of her sisters married their first cousins—men with whom they share the same grandfather; the sons of their father's second wife, who is their mother's full sister. One of her brothers married a woman whose grandmother is a sister to their father. "My father and her grandmother were full brother and sister," she explains, recognizing the bloom of confusion on my face. "And she's not the only one; three of her sisters married three of my brothers. And another one of her sisters married one of my half-brothers, but we have the same blood and genetics because our moms are full sisters." Dawna's husband is a brother to her older sister's husband, "but they're only half brothers, so him and I aren't blood-related at all, because he was from the youngest mother, which had no relation to us other than marriage, and then my sister was married to the older brother and his mom and my grandmother were full sisters."

    "How do you keep track of that?" I wonder aloud.

    "Well, needless to say, we had a lot of, uh.... Well, my sister had a little baby with a cleft lip; it was her first child and it had a cleft lip and cleft palate, because they were both Jessops, and Jessops are carriers of that gene. She also had a child with a clubfoot, and I think probably half of her children had respiratory problems when they were babies, because they were so related."

    Dawna's younger sister has a little boy with two clubfeet. That sister, too, dealt with a lot of respiratory problems with her kids, "because of the relation," Dawna explains. "It's not really talked about; I don't think [people here] even research to see how related they are" before getting married or pregnant, she adds.

    This is all compounded by the split between the FLDS and an offshoot group of polygamists that moved to nearby Centennial Park following a disagreement over how the community should be governed, and by whom). The two groups split when Dawna was growing up. "They were called the Second Warders and we were called the First Warders; we weren't supposed to hang out with kids from the Centennial group because they were wicked for having left," she says. Dawna's eldest son is now dating a Centennial woman whom he recently found out is a distant cousin. "It's doesn't stop anybody," Dawna says. "There are times when it has gotten kind of gross, like when they marry an uncle to a niece," she continues. "And my oldest daughter, she's 18 and she's dated a couple of my cousins, which makes them her second cousins, and we're like, Eww, that's gross."

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  163. Just under eight miles southeast of Short Creek is an area called Cane Beds, Arizona. There lives Ross LeBaron Jr., a descendant of another polygamous sect (separate from the FLDS but quite similar in practice) called the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times. He shares a last name and a not-too-distant relation with the polygamous LeBaron group in Chihuahua, Mexico. LeBaron Jr. has been accused by three of his own sons, who purport to have DNA evidence obtained by saliva samples, of fathering four children with his own biological daughter. A fifth child, they say, was fathered by their eldest brother Wayne LeBaron, (who was married to Dawna Black Bistline's cousin at the time of this child's allegedly incestuous conception). These men are living freely in the Cane Beds area. Ross LeBaron Jr. recently took to the Internet to express his support for the Bundy family in Oregon, as well as for LaVoy Finicum, the lone fatality in that ordeal.

    "Have you ever heard of the term The Turkey Baster?" Dawna asks me.

    I tell her I'm not sure, given the context.

    "There was a guy out here who was married to a couple of young girls, and he was going to get in trouble because he was having children with these young girls, so he said, 'Well, I never had sex with them—I used a turkey baster.'" Dawna says that, when people refer to what's going on over in the Cane Beds, they say it's probably another turkey baster situation. But Dawna disagrees: "I think it was actually, you know...." Sex.

    "I didn't touch her; I just used a turkey baster," she mimics, rolling her eyes. "I'm like,Really? That's still gross." It's also still rape with a foreign object, I remind us both unnecessarily.

    All of this is to say that incest and inbreeding have been going on for so long—and so prevalently—in the polygamous sects along the Utah/Arizona border that these stories have been woven into the fiber of the communities. Everyone knows it's happening, few talk about it unprompted, it just sort of..is. Which brings us back to the baby cemetery.

    The adult residents of Short Creek today—both those still in the FLDS and those who have left the cult—are mostly able-bodied, seemingly healthy individuals. It's the kids who are disproportionately handicapped as compared to the demographics of any other comparably small town. Some would say that is because it takes generations for certain inbred recessive genetic traits to manifest. Jonathan Turner, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, hypothesized exactly that, in an artcle published by the ABC news network in 2008. "You had a fairly diverse pool to start with, so only if that went on for a long time within this same population would you see real effects," he told ABC.

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  164. Ron Rohbock 64 who was kicked out of the FLDS in 2002 after serving on church security for decades at Warren and Rulon Jeffs' side, has a different answer. "There were so many young children who were born with abnormalities—harelips, club feet, heart valves—that were... they were going to die within a year," says Ron. "Many of the parents did not want to have to deal with some of those children. So they would hand them over to Aunt Martha, who was the midwife," he says. Martha's husband was "Uncle" Fred Jessop, longtime Bishop to the FLDS people, who died in 2005 at 94, after being dragged from state to state by Warren Jeffs in what many ex-members believe was a transparent scheme of murder-by-stress: Dragging around a physically ailing, elderly man in need of constant medication is one way to kill a person without committing any outright murderous act, they say.

    "They would hand them over and say, 'Would you mind please taking care of them, because we can't?' Now let me just simply state: He took care of them. Or Aunt Martha did, or somebody did. And the graveyard grew exponentially."

    In a portion of Warren Jeffs' Priesthood Record –– a mostly dry document that details his every move and meeting –– one entry, a written transcription of an announcement made by Warren at lunch with his late father's family, stands out as particularly creepy.

    We're sitting in Ron's large kitchen, eating a meal of homemade tomato sauce and sweet Italian sausage that his wife Geri—a retired marriage and family therapist originally from Hurleyville, NY, who he met six years ago on Zoosk!—has prepared in a slowcooker.

    Geri and I ask the same question at the same time: "What exactly do you mean by took care of them?"

    "They took their lives," Ron says. "Fred was in charge of the cemeteries, the gravediggers, all of that. If you find a grave up there that's not marked, that's the way Fred wanted it."


  165. Is the end of days looming for fundamentalist sect in Utah

    The Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints believe an apocalyptic miracle will free their imprisoned leader this week but the group’s own future is in doubt

    by Joanna Walters in Salt Lake City, Utah The Guardian April 3, 2016

    The new federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City is a massive, futuristic cube of metal and glass that looks imposing, austere and, above all, impregnable. Armed guards patrol the exterior 24 hours a day.

    But if a certain group of polygamous religious extremists in a lonely corner of southern Utah are to be believed, this Wednesday the walls will split open and fall when one of their leaders, Lyle Jeffs, appears before the judge in a major fraud case, according to former followers of his sect.

    Simultaneously, an earthquake will apparently cause the walls of a prison in Texas to crumble and Lyle’s brother, Warren Jeffs, the group’s “prophet” and supreme leader, will also walk free – despite the fact he has been serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in that state since 2011, convicted of having sex with underage girls as young as 12 that he took as polygamous wives.

    By divine coincidence, perhaps, Wednesday is 6 April, the date most Mormons – and the outlawed, rejected offshoot sect of that religion known as the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS) – proclaim is the actual birthday of Jesus Christ.

    “I am hearing from people inside the FLDS that on April 6 there is going to be a kind of apocalypse,” said Elissa Wall, who escaped from the repressive FLDS community after being forced by Warren Jeffs to marry her cousin when she was just 14. “It is prophesied.”

    Thus far, however, the only signs of apocalypse have been the series of criminal and civil cases that have hit the sect all at once, leading seasoned observers of this group of fundamentalists to ask if this is the beginning of the end of the FLDS.

    Lyle Jeffs is due in court on Wednesday at a detention hearing. He is asking to be set free as he awaits trial but is considered a flight risk.

    He was among almost a dozen senior figures of the FLDS who were arrested in late February in a joint raid by FBI agents and local law enforcement.

    Although the FLDS has been most notorious over the decades for polygamy and child abuse, Lyle and his cohorts have been charged in a welfare fraud case, accused of swindling the federal government out of millions of dollars in federal food stamps. All the defendants deny the charges but if they lose at trial, currently scheduled for May, they face hefty prison sentences and fines.

    The criminal case follows hot on the heels of a civil trial won by the Department of Justice earlier this year after it sued the remote twin towns of Hildale and Colorado City, where the FLDS is based on the Utah-Arizona border.

    The towns were found to be controlled by the church, which discriminates against residents who are not part of the religion. The judge has yet to announce what sanctions will be imposed but could hand over municipal control and law enforcement duties to the county authorities, and impose heavy fines, according to Utah private investigator Sam Brower, who has assisted on several of the recent federal investigations.

    And if Lyle Jeffs and his cohorts lose this fraud case they could be imprisoned and also heavily fined.

    Having Lyle Jeffs in custody is already a big blow to the FLDS faithful in the twin towns because he communicates all the orders to the community issued from behind bars by Warren Jeffs, whose followers believe he directly channels the voice of God.

    “I think it’s certainly the beginning of the end of the FLDS as we know it,” said Wall.

    “The feds are not going to shut down the FLDS, but it’s a mindset and more and more people are leaving the religion and those that are still inside the faith are bewildered and don’t know what to do or what is going to happen next.”

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  166. To add to the pressure on the church, in the last 10 days Wall has won a crucial ruling in a civil case she has been fighting for a decade.

    The supreme court of Utah cleared the way for her to sue the financial arm of the FLDS for the way the religion that she was born into treated her when she was forced into underage marriage.

    If the case goes all the way it could cost the church trust up to $40m, which it estimates is a third of its assets.

    Elissa Wall at the Bad Ass coffee shop in Salt Lake City. Photograph: Joanna Walters
    Sitting in a coffee shop in Salt Lake City, Wall told the Guardian that if she does end up winning any money from the FLDS she plans to put substantial funds towards boosting the economy of the community she fled and helping to create jobs for those who have left the religion but want to carry on living in the far-flung community.

    “I have offered to settle with the church for a small amount so many times and they’ve always refused. I’ve been fighting this case for my entire twenties,” said Wall, 29.

    She was a rare witness who was prepared to testify against the church, in the first criminal case Warren Jeffs was arrested for, when he was charged as an accomplice in her underage rape and stood trial in St George in southern Utah in 2007.

    He was convicted but the verdict was later overturned on a technicality.In a complicated legal history, Wall ultimately allowed further charges in her case to be dropped, so that Jeffs, who became a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, could be extradited to Texas in the case that finally put him behind bars for life.

    Now the latest civil ruling in her favor adds to the pressure on the FLDS coming from many sides, and should help to force more change in the outlaw sect, she said.

    She is now an advocate and volunteer who helps people wanting to leave the restrictive sect.

    Those inside the FLDS community are banned by church leaders from using the internet or having access to outside media, even newspapers, magazines, music or television.

    “When people leave they are very vulnerable,” she said.

    She assists a local organization called Holding Out Help, which smuggles cellphones into the community when it receives word, usually via friends or relatives on the outside, that someone wants to escape the FLDS. The organization then helps get individuals, or sometimes whole families, to safe houses where church leaders will not be able to track them down and coerce them into returning to the religion. It also helps them find their way into education or jobs.

    Tonia Tewell, the director of Holding Out Help, estimated that she has helped a further 150 people leave the FLDS in the last year and that things are changing rapidly in the twin towns, now that many people are leaving the religion but choosing to stay in the area.

    They go to mainstream public schools, instead of being home-schooled mainly in religion as FLDS members are. And they shop at ordinary stores, in St George, or the few outside stores, such as a Subway sandwich shop and Dollar General store that have opened in town recently. FLDS members, by contrast, get most of their food supplies from church-controlled storehouses, which are at the center of the alleged church-operated federal food stamp scam.

    There are no official figures, but FLDS members in the twin towns are estimated to be below 10,000 and getting fewer by the year as many leave.

    “People are getting a lot more help these days from family members who have already left. And I get word from inside that someone wants to leave, especially young people, and I drop phones off in the bushes around town and people contact me and I help them,” said Tewell.

    Many FLDS members are “at the end of their tether”, after years of the church leaders imposing strict doctrine by...

  167. splitting families up and sending members outside the community, sometimes for years, to repent, if leaders such as Lyle Jeffs deemed they had offended the church in some way, she said.

    “The community is absolutely paralyzed with Lyle in jail,” she said.

    But she sees many other positive signs of change in the community. An ex-FLDS woman in Hildale has started up a women’s group that regularly has a few dozen at meetings and attracts 100 or more women when it holds special events.

    And Hildale recently held the first political caucus in many years during a presidential race, with Republican voters turning out to caucus last month and choosing Ted Cruz as their favoured GOP nominee.

    “It’s changing a lot there,” said Tewell.

    Last year the FLDS and leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, were fined $2m by the Department of Labor for child labor violations.

    Kat Allen, 27, a cousin of Warren Jeffs, who fled the sect after her family tried to force her at 15 to marry a man she estimates was in his late forties or early fifties and already had three wives, still has family inside the FLDS who she says are completely loyal to Jeffs.

    Allen, who was born Kathwren Steed, left the community and the religion to avoid the marriage but also because she had realized she was a lesbian and was having a secret relationship with a girlfriend who was also inside the sect.

    Now living near Salt Lake City and married to a woman she met outside the FLDS, Dixie Allen, whose last name she took upon marriage, she said that those still inside the faith convince themselves that their leaders, such as Warren and Lyle Jeffs, are incarcerated because of conspiracies and lies by non-believing society.

    Her parents still live in Hildale.

    “They are 100% loyal, no, 200% loyal to Warren Jeffs,” she said.

    Sitting in a bar with her wife, drinking – without irony – a locally brewed ale called Polygamy Porter, Kat Allen said that adjusting to the outside world is hard because FLDS children are told “since the day we are born” that they will burn in hell for all eternity if they break with the faith.

    “For years after I struggled with that even though I knew in my head that it wasn’t true,” she said.

    She is still in touch with many people inside the religion and confirmed that the message is being spread that Lyle and Warren will be sprung by divine intervention on 6 April.

    She also knows many members of the sect who have left recently and are living in St George trying to adapt to a more mainstream way of life.

    She said children as young as 14 inside the sect are separated from their families and made to live alone, often in trailers with no hot water, with no contact with their siblings for several years, as punishment for something as trivial as admitting “impure thoughts about the opposite sex” to church elders.

    “There is a climate of fear,” she said.

    Allen is relieved that the federal government is taking action.

    “I’m relieved to see it. It’s definitely not as much action as there should be but just the fact that action is being taken and attention is being paid after a long, long time of the authorities turning a blind eye makes me happy,” she said.

    However, as Wednesday and Lyle Jeffs’ detention hearing approaches, observers on all sides will probably be holding their breath.

    Sam Brower was aghast on Friday night when a judge released one of Warren and Lyle Jeffs’ other brothers, Seth Jeffs, as he awaits trial in the fraud case where he is a co-defendant with Lyle.

    “It’s unbelievable,” Brower told the Guardian. Seth Jeffs pleaded guilty to concealing a person from arrest during the time when Warren Jeffs was on the run. Brower said he would not previously have imagined there was a chance in a million that Lyle Jeffs will be released on Wednesday, but now he is not so sure.

    “It’s worrying,” he said.


  168. FLDS towns dont use the most food stamps — but they get a lot of money

    BY BEN WINSLOW Fox 13 News MAY 4, 2016,

    SALT LAKE CITY -- The polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are in a dire economic situation, prompting many to seek welfare assistance.

    Despite a repeated claim that FLDS members are instructed to "bleed the beast," data shows Hildale does not appear to be the biggest recipients of food stamps -- but families there do get the most money.

    FOX 13 requested Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services and Arizona Department of Economic Security, which administers the food stamp program for the federal government. The data, provided under public records requests, reveals the towns that serve as headquarters of the Fundamentalist LDS Church do not have the most cases.

    The FLDS communities' use of food stamps has received new scrutiny since federal prosecutors leveled SNAP fraud and money laundering charges against 11 members of the polygamous sect, including FLDS bishops John Wayman, Lyle Jeffs, and Seth Jeffs (who are brothers to imprisoned church leader Warren Jeffs). The Utah Department of Workforce Services told FOX 13 it has been cooperating with federal investigators, handing over transaction data that was requested.

    The Arizona Department of Economic Security reported 3,900 individuals in 508 households received SNAP benefits in Colorado City, for an average of $400,000 each month in 2015. In Hildale, the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported 228 households receiving $2.3 million in 2015.

    The number of homes seeking food stamp benefits climbed steadily from 2011 to 2014 in both communities, but then dropped in 2015.

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  169. FOX 13 compared Hildales food stamp data to other cities and towns in Utah and found that while the town does not have the most people using SNAP benefits, families there get the most money -- by hundreds of dollars. A five-year aggregate shows an average of 282 households receiving $924 a month in SNAP funding.

    "That's because their household size is larger, but I don't think statistically we're seeing Hildale uses food stamps significantly greater than some of the other cities in Utah," said Kevin Burt, the assistant director for the eligibility services division of Utah's Department of Workforce Services.

    The average household in Utah receiving SNAP benefits is 2.5 people, the data shows. In Hildale, it's 8.5 people.

    Utah's Department of Workforce Services said it has found no evidence anyone lied to get on food stamps.

    "It's really important to understand during this entire process -- all the individuals -- we haven't found anyone ineligible for benefits," he said.

    Indeed, FBI interviews filed with court documents showed that FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs insisted that no one lie to get on government assistance, but church members were allegedly pressured to hand over food stamp purchases.

    "When the storehouse was running low on items, church officials they made a blast phone call to UO (United Order) members asking them to donate certain items to the storehouse, by using their SNAP/ food stamp benefits," Allene Steed told FBI agents in an interview.

    Ex-members of the church have long accused FLDS leaders of trying to "bleed the beast," referring to government and welfare fraud. It is against regulations to "hand over" food stamp benefits, Burt said, adding that it is only meant to be used by the household.

    While federal prosecutors allege food stamp fraud was taking place, legally the government can't cut anyone off until there is a conviction. So it's possible the same fraud could be happening even as the court case moves forward.

    "Many of these households have children that need the food stamp benefit to be able to continue to meet their nutritional needs," Burt said. "So what will happen is the household will continue to receive the benefit while the parent would be sanctioned."

    Such sanctions could include cutting the head of household off or an order of restitution


  170. FLDS leaders lived on shrimp and lobster while members fought over cereal, court docs claim

    BY BEN WINSLOW Fox 13 News MAY 4, 2016

    HILDALE, Utah -- In an auto-repair shop a few miles outside of town, Phil Jessop gets to work on a transmission.

    On the other side of the building, his wife, Donna McGinnis, takes an inventory of the bags of bread, cases of canned food, shoes and clothing stacked up. It's an unlikely location for a Christian ministry, but it's where the couple runs Southwest Recovery Mission Ministries, where they help people inside and outside the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

    "We're just here to help," McGinnis said.

    Every Thursday, the couple opens up the shop to people in the community, handing out food boxes, clothing and shoes.

    "That's a huge need, especially for the children out here," McGinnis said, pointing to a stack of shoes. She described people using duct tape to make their shoes last a little longer.

    Most of the people who show up on Thursdays are no longer in the FLDS Church, Jessop said. Any faithful member of the polygamous church could be excommunicated for reaching out to them -- so they devised a way around it.

    "When we first started getting food to FLDS families, we had coolers buried out in the hay fields," he said.

    The recent raid by federal authorities in Hildale and Colorado City has affected their work.

    "We had 27 people our first week," McGinnis said. "We now average a little over 1,200. That does include children."

    Eleven FLDS members and leaders -- including FLDS bishop Lyle Jeffs, the brother of imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs -- are charged with food stamp fraud and money laundering, accused of directing followers to turn over Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to church leaders to do with as they wished. In FBI interviews, ex-members have claimed people were ordered to hand over everything -- including prescription drugs.

    Federal prosecutors claim people would rack up charges on their SNAP cards and give it to the FLDS Church's storehouse where it would be handed out to "United Order" members.

    A federal grand jury indictment claims the Meadowayne Dairy Store and Vermillion Cliffs produce engaged in "abnormally large" SNAP transactions, surpassing stores like Wal-Mart and Costco. An FBI interview with ex-FLDS Church member Dowayne Barlow said United Order members would swipe SNAP cards at the FLDS-run stores, but get nothing in return -- it went to the FLDS storehouse.

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  171. Ex-members who worked in the FLDS storehouse described to FBI agents food set aside for leadership, while the rank and file starved. In a deposition, Lyle Jeffs claimed they were eating "shrimp and lobster" while rank-and-file members lived off of scraps.

    Lyle Jeffs' cook told the FBI that things like meats and vegetables were set aside just for church leaders, while her own children "lived off of toast." Allene Steed described in the FBI interview "so much class distinction and shunning of people."

    "Lyle and his family did not have to go through the difficult process of finding food at the storehouse," she told FBI agents. "They could make requests and then members running the storehouse fulfilled those requests, regardless of what they were. For most members, there was not enough supply to meet demand."

    When supplies ran low, Steed claimed a blast phone call went out to United Order members to donate certain items to the storehouse, using their SNAP benefits. There was the threat of losing your united order membership or even your family if you didn't follow orders.

    Ex-FLDS member Julie Jeffs said when she worked in the storehouse, she observed fights over hard-to-get items in the storehouse.

    But all the depositions and FBI interviews said Lyle Jeffs strictly instructed followers not to lie to get on food stamps. Indeed, some said he asked members to do what they could to minimize scrutiny.

    Jeffs' defense attorney, Kathy Nester, declined requests to comment outside court hearings in the case. In court, she raised a potential defense -- that FLDS members have a religious right to consecrate their property to their church. Already, the U.S. Attorney's Office has filed a motion with a federal judge to block them from claiming that right -- arguing SNAP benefits are strictly for household use only.

    The judge has yet to rule on that.

    Jessop said he would continue to offer food to people in need inside and outside the FLDS Church while the federal case goes to federal court. He described their work as more "underground," as they do it without the support of non-profit groups and nearby food banks, compiling donations where they can. McGinnis said they need canned food, meat and vegetable donations to help people in Hildale and Colorado City.

    "The Holy Spirit told me 'Feed my sheep,'" he told FOX 13. "I know that's not just physical food, it's not just bread and meat. It's encouragement. Build people up."

    see documents at:


  172. Defense for polygamous sect members wants jury to consider religious right to share food stamps

    By BRADY McCOMBS, The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune May 11 2016

    Fraud trial » Leaders accused of breaking the law by collecting the food items bought with stamps and deciding who should receive them.

    Nester said the question can't be assessed in a vacuum without understanding the history and practices of the community on the Utah-Arizona border that is led by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs.

    U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart said last month he plans to hold a hearing at a later date to address a matter he considers pivotal to the case.

    A trial date is set for end of May, but that's likely to be pushed back because the prosecution has yet to present all its evidence to defense attorneys. That includes aerial videos and footage from surveillance cameras installed at a polygamous town's general store.

    The defendants have all pleaded not guilty to the charges. They include several leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, the brother of Warren Jeffs who runs day-to-day operations.

    The sect, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago. Warren Jeffs, who is considered a prophet, is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered brides.

    Prosecutors say sect leaders began instructing followers in 2011 to buy items with their food stamp cards and give them to a church warehouse where leaders decided how to distribute the products to followers.

    High-ranking leaders and their families ate well while others were left with scraps, prosecutors say. One witness told investigators she and her family ate only noodles, brown rice, tomato juice and sometimes bread. Another woman said her children were living off toast.

    The food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return, with the funds then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

    The food-stamp crackdown marked the government's latest move against the sect, coinciding with legal battles in two states over child labor and discrimination against nonbelievers.

    A jury in Phoenix decided in March that the towns violated the constitutional rights of nonbelievers by denying them basic services such as police protection, building permits and water hookups. The Department of Justice has asked a judge to disband the town police department as punishment.


  173. Inside the Lawsuits that Could Finally Take Down the FLDS Mormon Cult

    by Molly Oswaks, VICE MAY 10 2016

    Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have been accused of a host of offenses over the years—including sexual assault, religious discrimination, and fraud. Two lawsuits brought to court this year could finally destabilize the polygamist group.

    The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous breakaway group from the mainline Mormon church, has long existed in relative peace in the isolated border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona (collectively known as Short Creek), using its First Amendment right to freedom of religion as an excuse to practice plural marriage. This year, though, a few high-profile civil suits are poised to break the foundation upon which this allegedly criminal cult rests.

    Many polygamists, as well as non-polygamists unfamiliar with the insidious intricacies of the practice, will defend the right to plural marriage by aligning it with gay marriage. They will say, "It's our family, our choice." But the analogy doesn't hold: With fundamentalist Mormon polygamy, you have men—very often much older, high-ranking men among their religious groups—taking a multiplicity of young wives assigned to them by an all-powerful "prophet." These women really have no say in the matter. They are faced with what the cognitive psychologist Herbert Simon called bounded rationality; the choices they make are bounded by the limited information available to them, financial constraints, family pressure, and other factors that might unfairly influence one's choices in one direction. An FLDS woman who refuses her marriage placement, in this bounded choice scenario, will have to start life over completely from scratch: penniless, lacking basic life skills to get on in the outside world, away from all the family or friends she's ever known. What kind of choice is that?

    "My experience with polygamy is that one negative person will ruin it for everyone involved," says Brielle Decker, who at just 18 was married to Warren Jeffs, the FLDS prophet now serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting his pre-teen brides. "In a family that believes in more and more wives, I never really felt I had a choice: I said yes out fear." After six years as one of Warren's 70-plus wives, Brielle finally escaped Short Creek and sought refuge, initially, at a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

    In many ways, the FLDS operates like an organized crime syndicate, where church leaders control everything in Short Creek, from the local grocery stores to the law enforcement agencies. Earlier this year, I wrote about an FBI raid in Short Creek in which multiple businesses and eleven individuals—including then-Bishop and acting leader Lyle Jeffs—were indicted for money laundering and food stamp fraud (since then it has been said that a high-ranking church elder named Ben E. Johnson has assumed control of the group). The significance of this white-collar case is made clear in US District Judge Ted Stewart's continued ruling that Lyle Jeffs should remain behind bars pending trial.

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  174. Polygamy beat reporter Nate Carlisle, writing for the Salt Lake Tribune, elaborated on Judge Stewart's decision, which ultimately came down to Lyle Jeffs' own well-documented history of avoiding law enforcement and helping other in his command to do the same, as well as proof that he remains in contact with his brother Warren and would continue to carry out his will unless forcibly prevented. In essence, per Judge Stewart's ruling, Lyle Jeffs has shown no remorse for his or his brother's crimes and cannot be counted on to appear in court to be tried for crimes he's been accused of.

    Though this case is not directly about polygamy, the widespread practice of plural marriage among the FLDS did come up in Jeffs' most recent detention hearing. The fact of it is as inescapable as it is material to the charges against the indicted individuals: Their multiplicity of wives––the majority of them technically unwed welfare mothers on government assistance––is what allows the alleged fraud to take place. Under orders from their husbands and spiritual leaders, wives donated their food stamp debit cards to the church, swiped them at church-owned businesses where the benefits were converted to cash, and purchased goods with federal assistance––all of which they then were ordered to donate to the church storehouse. In sum, they did not benefit from government assistance. The FLDS church did.

    Jeffs and his associates are currently awaiting trial, which has been scheduled for May 31, though it is likely to be pushed back as lawyers work through what has been described as terabytes of evidence.

    An earlier case against the towns of Hildale and Colorado City, however, gives us reason to believe that justice will be served, so to speak, in the food stamp fraud case. With United States v. Colorado City/Hildale, heard earlier this year, the Department of Justice hoped to successfully prove to a jury a "long-standing pattern of discrimination based on religion" by the towns themselves, and by their municipal utility providers, Twin City Water Authority Inc., and Twin City Power. Their argument was simple: the towns and their utilities services take their orders from the religious leaders of the FLDS and discriminate against gentiles (non-members) and apostates (ex-members) by withholding utilities from, extorting, and harassing those who are not of the FLDS faith.

    Short Creek is a very small community. Everyone knows everyone, and everything is grist for the gossip mill. When someone leaves the faith, the whole community shuns them—even their immediate family. Further, as was proven in court by Ron and Jinjer Cooke, who were awarded a settlement of $5.3 million in 2014, non-FLDS who move to the community face their own brand of discrimination. Ron left Short Creek as a teenager, and when the Cookes and their three young children relocated from Phoenix to Ron's hometown of Colorado City in 2008, they were immediately faced with prejudice; the towns refused to provide sewage, electricity, and water for their home. Ron, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair and electric breathing machine, relied on his wife to haul sewage herself. Eventually, their electric and sewage lines were hooked up, but for five years the Cookes lived without running water.

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  175. The final witness called by the State during this year's DOJ discrimination trial was a former FLDS man named Patrick Barlow. He testified that, from 2007 until his departure from the FLDS in 2013, he served on church security, alongside ultimately hundreds of other men, all of whom took their orders from Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred over a three-way radio. "We were instructed to watch for [Mohave and Washington County] law enforcement, for Sam Brower, a private investigator for the state of Utah... we were instructed to watch Ron and Jinjer Cooke," he testified. "In particular, these were high-profile people that we would try to identify any of their actions and movements within the community." All of them were non-FLDS. The goal, Barlow explained, was to "try to find something on them" to prove that Ron Cooke was faking his disability, "but we only saw them going peacefully, pulling their water trailer."

    The FLDS church security officers drive large white SUVs with heavily tinted windows. They patrol the narrow, winding, hilly road that leads from Short Creek to nearby Hurricane, and all of the residential streets, paved and unpaved, that make up the small grid of Short Creek. Patrick Barlow's testimony confirms what I experienced firsthand in reporting on the community earlier this year: Pulled over on the side of a residential public road in Hildale, Utah, taking a phone call with a source, I was accosted by Colorado City Marshal's Officer Daniel Musser (a member of the FLDS), who claimed that a complaint had been made against me for "stalking and harassing."

    According to sources in law enforcement, I was pulled over only so that church security could figure out who I was. All day I'd been driving around town, followed by multiple cars I could identify as church security, who took my photo and photos of the license plates of my rental car. When running my rental plates turned up nothing about me, they ultimately let me go without citation, as they had nothing on me; I'd done nothing wrong.

    On March 7 of this year, the jury in the religious discrimination case returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. The towns have been ordered to pay $1.6 million in fines related to violation of the Fair Housing Act. In addition, the police departments and municipal governments of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, were found to be guilty of religious discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment. How this will be resolved remains to be seen––recommendations for remediation are expected sometime in October––but the collective hope is that the municipal governments will be dissolved and replaced with a more law-abiding set of officials. It would be unprecedented for an entire law enforcement agency to be stripped of its authority and replaced in its entirety, but never before has the court found such a flagrant dereliction of duty.


  176. Bank records thousands of hours of video built polygamous sect food stamp fraud case

    By NATE CARLISLE | The Salt Lake Tribune May 16 2016

    Court filings offer new details of how federal agents built a fraud and money laundering case against members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    The food stamp fraud investigation began almost two years before the indictments against 11 people were issued in February, according to an affidavit filed Monday from FBI Special Agent Chris Andersen. The FBI obtained video from surveillance cameras on poles from February 2015 until February of this year, according to the affidavit.

    In October of 2015, a judge issued a warrant to plant a camera in Meadowayne Dairy, according to the filings. The filings indicate the camera recorded for a month.

    "The massive amount of video equates to approximately 46 terabytes, which compares to approximately 69,000 compact discs," Andersen wrote in his affidavit.

    The affidavit was part of a prosecution motion to postpone the trial for all 11 defendants until Oct. 3. At present, the trial is scheduled to begin May 31.

    The government argues that there is too much evidence for either prosecutors or defendants to be prepared for trial so soon, and the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah is still trying to gather and organize all of the evidence to give to the defendants.

    One of the defendants is Lyle Jeffs, who at the time of his arrest ran the day-to-day operations of the FLDS for his imprisoned brother, FLDS President Warren Jeffs.

    Lyle Jeffs lawyer, Kathryn Nester, was reviewing the prosecution motion Monday afternoon.

    "Our client is incarcerated and presumed innocent and we will file the appropriate motion with the court," she said.

    All 11 defendants were indicted on Feb. 17 with a count of conspiracy to commit fraud through the food stamp program and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government alleges FLDS members were instructed to turn their food stamp debit cards into the church. Many of the cards were used at the dairy and converted to cash, prosecutors allege in court documents.

    The filings don't specify how the FBI planted a camera in the dairy or from the poles outside. Meadowayne Dairy sits in Colorado City, Ariz. It and adjoining Hildale, Utah, have a network of surveillance cameras that have been utilized by both the local police force and the FLDS' own security force.

    The filings show the FBI has already provided the defendants with about 38,500 pages of documents. One attachment with the filing was an index of bank records the FBI obtained through subpoenas.


  177. Is the FLDS Church building a new temple in South Dakota

    BY BEN WINSLOW, FOX 13 News MAY 19, 2016,

    PRINGLE, South Dakota -- A barbed wire fence stretches through the forest in the Black Hills, drawing a line between the Fundamentalist LDS Church and the outside world.

    In the pine trees, large cabins can be seen with the word "Zion" printed above the doors. A man can be seen in a guard tower staring out, but, otherwise, no one is out. The only sound is the wind going through the trees.

    Faced with increasing scrutiny in Utah, the Fundamentalist LDS Church has been branching out from its base in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The polygamous sect has been building a compound here, deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. FOX 13 traveled to the isolated property outside the tiny town of Pringle, as people who deal with polygamous communities met with locals to talk about the FLDS.

    "The FLDS is moving in. They're moving in in a big way," said Tonia Tewell, the director of the non-profit group Holding Out Help, which works with people leaving polygamous communities. "Honestly? I think it's going to be Colorado City and Hildale where the not-so-elite are, and this is where their elite are."

    Tewell was in South Dakota with Roy Jeffs, an ex-member of the FLDS Church (and a son of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs) and Sam Brower, a private investigator and author who works for attorneys suing the church. They met with locals to discuss ways to provide resources for people who wish to leave the FLDS Church and drove to the property itself.

    "It gives me a little bit deeper insight into what really does happen and it's a little bit disturbing to me," Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler said after meeting with the group.

    Neighbors of the South Dakota compound have always been uneasy about it since it first appeared and construction started booming. A group of them got together and purchased the property around it in an effort to stop the FLDS from expanding.

    "We want to stop that growth any way we can," said David Horner, who lives nearby and chipped in to purchase the land adjacent to the FLDS compound.

    Horner and his wife, Vera, said they have concerns that more people could be moving in.

    "Especially with the problems they're having in Hildale, we keep hearing the elite (of the FLDS) are coming to Pringle," Vera Horner said.

    What's technically a public road runs right through the middle of the compound to provide access to the neighboring property, and the owners gave FOX 13 access. Like in Hildale, the FLDS have erected massive privacy fences to keep prying eyes out.

    From a distance and on satellite images, there's an outline for something big being built, with some speculation that it could be the foundation for the FLDS Church's next temple.

    "It has all the dimensions for that temple," Brower told FOX 13. "It looks almost identical to the big hole in the ground in Texas when they started building it there."

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  178. The FLDS Church abandoned its temple outside Eldorado Texas after the 2008 raid where hundreds of children were taken into state custody -- and later returned -- over accusations of sex abuse. At Warren Jeffs' trial, it was revealed he had sexually abused some of his child brides inside the temple. He is now serving a life sentence for child sex assault.

    "It was a place to carry out ritualistic rape of children and I believe that is still happening on some level," Brower said.

    Court documents claim Seth Jeffs, a brother of Warren Jeffs, is running the FLDS compound in South Dakota. He was recently arrested there after being indicted in Utah as part of a massive food stamp fraud case filed by the federal government. Seth Jeffs declined to comment on this story through his St. George attorney.

    Roy Jeffs worked on the property for years before he left the FLDS Church. He said the hole in the ground could be staging for construction for a temple -- but not in South Dakota. He said church leaders have talked about building a temple in Jackson County, Missouri (a place where Mormon faithful believe the Garden of Eden is).

    Jeffs returned to South Dakota in an effort to see his family, whom he hasn't seen in years. Driving to the property, he said he saw one of his brothers.

    "I saw my brother on the way in, we passed him," he said. "I know my family, at least some of them, are here. There's definitely no chance they're going to talk to me dressed the way I am."

    Jeffs hoped to see his mother. He said she was separated him years ago under orders from church leaders and forbidden from speaking with him.

    "It would be awesome to see her," Jeffs told FOX 13 as he stood at a barbed wire fence line. "It would also hurt really bad if she didn't want to see me."

    Jeffs, Tewell and Brower participated in a question-and-answer session following a screening of the documentary "Prophet's Prey" in nearby Hot Springs. Neighbors of the property complained that the group recently got permission to expand the amount of water they draw.

    "They got their water permit for a water system that is twice the size of the southern Black Hills water system," said Scott Johnson. "That's scary."

    Neighbors fear that could mean more people could be moving from Utah and Arizona to the South Dakota property.

    "I wish they weren't there," said Kathy Fleming, who lives nearby. "But I don't want them to just relocate and relocate their problems elsewhere. I'd like to see the whole thing go away and the women and children set free."


  179. Polygamous Towns Oppose Bid to Disband Police Department


    PHOENIX — Two polygamous towns on the Arizona-Utah line are vigorously opposing a bid to disband their shared police department as a way to remedy religious-based discrimination against nonbelievers, saying problems at the agency don't require such a drastic step.

    They also urged a judge in court papers Tuesday to resist the U.S. Justice Department's proposal to get an official appointed to monitor town operations in response to a civil-rights verdict three months ago against Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.

    A jury concluded that the neighboring towns violated the constitutional rights of nonbelievers by denying them basic government services such as police protection, building permits and water hookups. The police department was found to have arrested nonbelievers without having probable cause and made unreasonable searches of property.

    U.S. Judge H. Russel Holland has scheduled hearings in October to consider remedies to the constitutional violations.

    Federal authorities alleged the towns are operated as an arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.

    They say 30 percent of the towns' officers over the last 15 years have been decertified. Under the federal government's proposal, law enforcement for the towns would be turned over to local sheriffs.

    The towns said police departments in other municipalities that have been targeted in federal civil rights investigations haven't faced disbandment.

    They cited a settlement between the Justice Department and Ferguson, Missouri, that called for changes in the city where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer. The settlement calls for diversity training, body cameras for officers and other steps.

    Attorneys for Colorado City and Hildale acknowledged the police department — also known as the Colorado City Marshal's Office — has had problems in the past, but they said no officers have been decertified since 2007.

    "The officers within the Marshal's Department are not killing people, raping women, stealing guns or money, running a drug-trafficking operation, or engaging in any similar misconduct," the towns' lawyers said.

    The towns said the request for a court-appointed monitor to oversee the overhaul of local government would be costly and unnecessary.

    Instead, they say the towns can resolve their problems through policy changes and employee training and should be able to demonstrate their compliance through reports and documents.


  180. Judge - Firm Tied to Polygamous Group Used Child Labor


    SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 200 children from a polygamous sect had to work long hours in the cold, sometimes with little food, as they picked pecans for a Utah contracting company with ties to the group, a federal judge found in a decision that marks the latest blow to the group.

    U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell held Paragon Contractors in contempt of court, siding with federal labor lawyers who said kids as young as 6 were sent to the harvest.

    The government said the company had deep connections to the sect led by Warren Jeffs and was under pressure to make money for its leaders before it used 1,400 workers, including 175 children, as unpaid labor.

    Paragon denied that, saying families from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints volunteered to pick up fallen nuts in the city of Hurricane, about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City. Defense attorneys argued that kids looked forward to taking the break from home-schooling to build up food supplies for the needy. Lawyer Rick Sutherland declined to comment on the ruling Thursday.

    The decision handed down Wednesday comes as the federal government wages fights on multiple fronts to rein in the secretive group tied to abuses from underage marriage to discrimination against non-members.

    Jurors in Phoenix found March 7 that the twin polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona border violated the constitutional rights of nonbelievers by denying them basic services such as police protection.

    A grand jury in Utah also has indicted several church leaders on charges of conducting a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme.

    Campbell's decision comes after she heard from five children and teenagers who said they were pulled out of classes to work long hours while they were growing up in the sect. They said they were exposed to cold rain, barred from resting in nearby vans and often given only one snack to eat.

    In the decision handed down Wednesday, Campbell cited testimony that some of the youngest children wet their pants because there weren't enough portable toilets for all the workers.

    Paragon owner Brian Jessop testified that his company was only responsible for the machines that shook the nuts off the trees and that a contracted harvest manager arranged for families to pick up the leftovers.

    Prosecutors say Paragon knew children were working and Jessop sent his own kids to the pecan fields, though the defense disputes that. Prosecutors asked a judge to order Paragon to pay back wages and be monitored by an independent overseer for years. Campbell will hear from both sides again before making a decision on the penalty.

    The U.S. Department of Labor has already ordered Paragon and several members of the polygamous group to pay $1.9 million after the agency found that sect leaders directed the harvest.

    Betty Campbell with the Department of Labor said officials were pleased with the judge's decision. The investigation into the harvest started after TV news cameras captured images of children working in the fields.

    Authorities say those leaders are loyal to Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of sexually assaulting girls he considered brides. The sect does not have a spokesman or a phone listing where leaders can be contacted.

    Sect members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. It is a legacy of the early teachings of the Mormon church, but the mainstream faith abandoned the practice more than century ago.


  181. Ex-polygamous sect members buying homes in isolated towns

    By Brady McCombs, Deseret News Associated Press June 10 2016

    SALT LAKE CITY — Julie Jessop is planning a fall wedding in the backyard of the 30-bedroom house where she spent her childhood with some 50 siblings in a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border.

    But hers won't be a plural marriage.

    Jessop and her fiance are a monogamous couple among a growing faction who aren't members of imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs' sect, but still want to live in this this remote village at the foot of picturesque red rock cliffs.

    Some have been lured back by the option of owning homes they once lived in under a program that's part of an effort to loosen Jeffs' grip on the community — and to bring it into modern society.

    Jessop is renting the 12,000-square-foot house with plain, gray brick walls and several front doors. She's updating the kitchen, including the addition of gray cabinets. She is living there with her fiance and several other family members.

    The next step is getting approval to buy it at a discount.

    The home is one of 150 seized by a state-run trust since a Utah judge in 2014 ordered authorities to evict sect members refusing to pay $100-a-month occupancy fee, declaring she was fed up with a free-rider problem in the community.

    A seven-member board made up of people with roots in the community has awarded ownership rights for nearly 80 of the homes to people who left or were kicked out of the sect.

    Jessop left the religion more than two decades ago as a teenager when she became pregnant. After stints in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, she returned about eight years ago so one of her daughters could get more one-on-one attention in a small-town school.

    She said she experienced a "roller coaster" of emotions when she moved back but eventually remembered why she loved living in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.

    "There's so many more people that are moving home. It's becoming a community again like it was when I was a kid," said Jessop, 39. "I will die in this house."

    The trust — with more than 700 homes valued at more than $100 million — has been under Utah state control since 2005 after allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other sect leaders.

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  182. The idea of home ownership is new. Since the trust was created in 1942 by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism — church leaders held the deeds while adherents lived in the homes. Under communal living arrangements, residents paid their keep in labor, not cash.

    The demand for homes outpaces supply, in part because only a handful of new homes have been built since 2002, when Jeffs banned new construction, according to an annual report issued by Utah officials who oversee the trust.

    Arnold Richter is a member of the board that decides who gets the homes. The 39-year-old cabinet designer started questioning Jeffs — who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of sexually assaulting girls he considered brides — in 2002. He was a quiet dissenter until leaving the sect in 2011.

    Richter and other board members give priority to people who helped build or renovate a home.

    About one-third of decisions have been easy, Richter said, simply awarding a house to someone who built and has always lived in the structure. But some homes were built by one person, renovated by another and lived in by several families.

    "Every house has a story behind it," Richter said. "It's a slow and deliberate and careful process."

    Prices range from $6,000 to $118,000, but people usually pay tens of thousands of dollars for a home. The cost is formulated by how much work the buyer put into the house.

    About 10 percent of the homes have been redistributed, meaning this program will take years, maybe decades, to complete, said Jeff Shields, an attorney representing the accountant who has been managing the trust since Utah seized it.

    The Department of Justice has asked a judge to order that be done as part of a series of remedies after a jury found the twin towns guilty of violating the constitutional rights of nonbelievers by denying them basic government services such as police protection, building permits and water hookups.

    "It took two generations to get this mess started," Shields said. "It's going to take at least a generation to get it cleaned up."


  183. Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs escapes house arrest

    Let out of jail less than two weeks ago, Jeffs was awaiting trial for multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud

    The Associated Press June 20, 2016

    Polygamous sect leader Lyle Jeffs has fled home confinement in Salt Lake City, Utah, less than two weeks after he was let out of jail pending trial on charges in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme.

    A warrant for Jeffs' arrest was issued Sunday afternoon after he took off sometime over the weekend, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch. Authorities aren't releasing details about how he escaped.

    U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart released Jeffs from jail on June 9, after several previous requests were denied. Jeffs was ordered to wear a GPS monitor and stay in a Salt Lake County house, except for going to work, doctor's appointments and court hearings. He was also required to give up his passport.

    In granting Jeffs' release, Stewart said the other 10 defendants in the fraud case who have been let out of jail have complied with the court's conditions. Stewart also acknowledged that Jeffs' jail time would be longer than expected since his trial has been pushed back to October.

    Prosecutors objected to his release, calling Jeffs a flight risk.

    They also warned that witnesses would clam up out of fear of reprisal from Jeffs, who runs day-to-day operations in the community on the Utah-Arizona border.

    He is the brother of the sect's highest leader, Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of sexually assaulting girls he considered brides.

    Release initially denied

    In April, Stewart sided with prosecutors in denying Lyle Jeffs' release. The judge wrote in that ruling that Lyle Jeffs couldn't be trusted to adhere to conditions of release because of his loyalty to his brother, plus a history of evading law enforcement by using aliases and concealing his whereabouts.

    At the time he wrote that Lyle Jeffs travels with armed guards who are "willing to take extreme efforts to protect him."

    Stewart didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Jeffs' attorney, Kathryn Nester, was not immediately available for comment. She argued at the June 9 hearing that her client's constitutional rights would have been violated if was kept in jail until the trial.

    The FBI, which is leading the effort to find Jeffs, asked the public to report any information about the 56-year-old's whereabouts.

    Sam Brower, a private investigator who has researched the church for years, received a phone call from authorities Monday morning asking him to help get the word out and report any leads. Brower said he thinks Lyle Jeffs may still be in the region, and catchable.

    Brower also said this proves prosecutors were right when they argued Lyle Jeffs was a flight risk.

    "Why the court would ever think the guy in charge of this criminal organization would not run is beyond me," Brower said. "The world needs to stop thinking about them as a religious group."

    Food stamp scam

    Lyle Jeffs was arrested and indicted in February on charges of diverting at least $12 million worth of federal benefits.

    Prosecutors say sect leaders instructed followers to buy products with their food stamp cards and give them to a church warehouse, where leaders decided how to distribute items to followers.

    They say food stamps were also cashed at sect-owned stores without the users getting anything in return. The money was then diverted to front companies and used to pay thousands of dollars for a tractor, truck and other items, prosecutors say.

    All the defendants have pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges.

    Members of the sect, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The group is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism, which disavowed polygamy more than 100 years ago.


  184. How the Polygamy Cult Will Hide Fugitive Leader Lyle Jeffs

    Fugitive cult leader Lyle Jeffs may be hard to find: the FLDS cult and its network of safe houses has years of experience in hiding fugitives.

    by Samantha Allen, Daily Beast June 21, 2016

    It was only a matter of time before polygamous cult leader Lyle Jeffs ran away.

    His imprisoned brother Warren Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), once spent months as a fugitive before police found him in 2006 traveling through Las Vegas in an Escalade full of wigs, cell phones, and sunglasses.

    Now, Lyle, who has been handling the day-to-day affairs of the FLDS church since Warren went to jail for child sexual assault, is taking his turn on the lam.

    In early June, Lyle Jeffs was released into house arrest to await trial on charges of food stamp fraud and money launderingthat federal investigators filed against FLDS leaders this February. As the Salt Lake Tribune reported, it took Jeffs less than two weeks to take off his GPS monitor and flee his Salt Lake City home. A warrant has been out for his arrest since Sunday.

    The FBI is now hunting him down, just like they hunted his brother a decade ago. But private investigator, Prophet’s Prey author and FLDS expert Sam Brower believes it could be even harder for them to find Lyle than it was to find Warren.

    “They learn from their mistakes,” he told The Daily Beast. “Warren was caught. They’re not going to make the same mistakes again with Lyle. It’s going to be that much more difficult.”

    “Lyle Jeffs is not like a normal crook that, say, robs a gas station and takes off in an old, beat-up car and has little money and not much help,” Brower continued. “He has thousands of people who would die for him, unlimited money, and unlimited resources so he’s well set-up.”

    Jeffs is one of 11 FLDS leaders and members who were charged in a food stamp scheme in the cult’s Short Creek community, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border. As part of the scheme, members were allegedly required to spend their food stamp stipends at two FLDS-owned stores and then donate everything they bought back to the church. In the process, church leaders, including Lyle Jeffs, allegedly raked in millions from the phony transactions.

    Before Jeffs fled, the trial in this case was scheduled for October. Prosecutors and family members warned U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart that Jeffs should await the trial in detention because he was an extreme flight risk.

    “Blame the judge for this,” Wallace Jeffs, one of Lyle’s relatives and a former FLDS member told the Tribune. “Everybody knew that he was going to do this. Everybody.”

    “I’m not here to say ‘I told you so,’ but I did,” Lyle’s son Thomas told KSTU. “It was inevitable.”

    Not only do the FLDS faithful already have experience hiding a high-profile fugitive, Lyle Jeffs himself helped Warren Jeffs flee from the FBI when he was on the Ten Most Wanted List in the mid-2000s.

    “It was frustrating that the judge would even release him with the tons of evidence showing that he would run,” Brower told The Daily Beast.

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  185. Brower estimates that the polygamous cult which split from the mainstream Mormon Church after 1890 in order to continue practicing plural marriage, now has about 10,000 members spread across the small Short Creek community and even smaller compounds in the Western United States, Mexico, and Canada. That gives Lyle Jeffs plenty of places to hide, if he even stays in one spot.

    “He literally could be just about anywhere,” Brower said. “They have the resources. They can set up cargo containers, put bathrooms in them and really deck them out so they can pull somebody around all over the country.”

    Jeffs’ family members seem to suspect he’s heading south of the border. Wallace Jeffs told the Tribune that Lyle is probably headed to Mexico or South America, where he owns a ranch, according to court filings from his ex-wife. But as Brower told The Daily Beast, Jeffs could just as easily flee to Canada. Back when Warren was on the run, Brower andUnder the Banner of Heaven author Jon Krakauer found unsecured stretches of the Canadian border with FLDS-owned property on the other side.

    It’s also possible that Jeffs could stay in the United States and take advantage of the cult’s network of compounds and safe houses.

    “They call them ‘places of refuge’ and they’re all over the country,” Brower said. “They’re not only set up, there are probably more now than when Warren was on the run.”

    When Warren Jeffs fled from the FBI, his aiders and abettors used a sophisticated system of burner phones, radios, and church-owned vehicles to coordinate the cult leader’s movements. He traveled in disguise, wearing street clothes rather than the characteristic FLDS clothing. He even grew a beard, which is taboo in FLDS culture. When police finally found him in the Escalade, he was carrying $50,000 in cash.

    The cult’s certainty that the apocalypse is nigh only helps them harbor fugitives. As documented in the film Prophet’s Prey, the Short Hill community is patrolled by FLDS security. And the cult’s South Dakota compound boasts a “scary-looking guard tower,” as one local paper described it.

    “They spend a lot of time preparing for the calamities of the last days,” said Brower, “so they are very well prepared for [this].”

    The FBI is hopefully prepared, too. They’ve already had a practice run capturing Warren Jeffs and, as the Tribune reported, there is a law enforcement task force focused on the FLDS that can pump Lyle’s former followers for information. Still, prosecutors say, it would have been much easier to keep him under lock and key than to waste resources on yet another costly FLDS manhunt.

    Jeffs’ attorney successfully argued that keeping her client in detention until the October trial would have been a violation of his constitutional rights. The judge’s decision to release him into house arrest was baffling and infuriating for those who saw this coming a mile away.

    “Why [the judge] would give deference to Lyle Jeffs is beyond me,” said an exasperated Brower. “I think it’s this thing in the back of judges’ minds that [FLDS] is some sort of religion.”

    “They’re not a religion, they’re a crime syndicate,” he continued. “They’re a criminal organization that specializes in exploiting children and women. A religion doesn’t have every single member of its leadership in prison.”