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.

This article was found at:


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.

This article was found at:


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." ....

    read the full article at:


  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.'"

    read the full article at:


  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.)

    continued in next comment...

  21. continued from previous comment:

    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.

    continued in next comment...

  22. continued from previous comment:

    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.

    continued in next comment...

  26. continued from previous comment:

    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."

    continued in next comment...

  33. continued from previous comment:

    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.

    continued in next comment...

  35. continued from previous comment:

    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. ...

    read the rest of this article at:


  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.

    continued in next comment...

  39. continued from previous comment...

    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.

    continued in next comment...

  42. continued from previous comment...

    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?”

    continued in next comment...

  44. continued from previous comment...

    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.

    continued in next comment...

  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.

    continued in next comment...

  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."

    continued in next comment...