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Update WEST TEXAS CHUCH,, Crawford acknowledged the records contained no evidence of sexual abuse.

Polygamist sect hearing in Texas descends into farce

Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, f...
1 hour ago
SAN ANGELO, Texas — A court hearing to decide the fate of the 416 children swept up in a raid on a West Texas polygamist sect descended into farce Thursday, with hundreds of lawyers in two packed buildings shouting objections and the judge struggling to maintain order.

The case — clearly one of the biggest, most convoluted child-custody hearings in U.S. history — presented an extraordinary spectacle: big-city lawyers in suits and mothers in 19th-century, pioneer-style dresses, all packed into a courtroom and a nearby auditorium connected by video.

At issue was an attempt by the state of Texas to strip the parents of custody and place the children in foster homes because of evidence they were being physically and sexually abused by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group suspected of forcing underage girls into marriage with older men.

As many feared, the proceedings turned into something of a circus — and a painfully slow one.

By midafternoon only two witnesses had testified, and both only to lay the foundation for documents to be admitted. One witness, a state trooper, was cross-examined by dozens of attorneys, each of them asking the same question on behalf of a child or parent.

As the afternoon dragged on, no decisions had been made on the fate of any of the youngsters.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther struggled to keep order as she faced 100 lawyers in her 80-year-old Tom Green County courtroom and several hundred more participating over a grainy video feed from an ornate City Hall auditorium two blocks away.

The hearing disintegrated quickly into a barrage of shouted objections and attempts to file motions, with lawyers for the children objecting to objections made by the parents' attorneys. When the judge sustained an objection to the prolonged questioning the state trooper, the lawyers cheered.

Upon another objection about the proper admission of medical records of the children, the judge threw up her hands.

"I assume most of you want to make the same objection. Can I have a universal, `Yes, Judge'?" she said.

In both buildings, the hundreds of lawyers stood and responded in unison: "Yes, Judge."

But she added to the chaos as well.

Walther refused to put medical records and other evidence in electronic form, which could be e-mailed among the lawyers, because it contained personal information. A courier had to run from the courthouse to the auditorium delivering one document at a time.

"We're going to handle this the best we can, one client at a time," Walther said.

Little evidence had been admitted by midafternoon. The first attempt to admit evidence resulted in an hourlong recess while all the lawyers examined it. The rest of the morning was spent in arguments about whether to admit the medical records of three girls, two 17-year-olds and one 18-year-old.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Danny Crawford testified to DPS's discovery of a church bishop's records taken from a safe at the ranch that listed about 38 families, some of them polygamous and some that included wives 16 or 17 years old. But under repeated cross-examination, Crawford acknowledged the records contained no evidence of sexual abuse.

State officials asked the judge for permission to conduct genetic testing on the children and adults because of difficulty sorting out the sect's tangled family relationships and matching youngsters with their parents. The judge did not immediately rule.

Amid the shouting and chaos among the lawyers, who came from around Texas to represent the children and parents free of charge, dozens of mothers sat timidly in their long cotton dresses, long underwear even in the spring heat, and braided upswept hair.

In the satellite courtroom, about 175 people strained to see and hear a large projector set up on the auditorium's stage. But the feed was blurry and barely audible.

"I'm not in a position to advocate for anything," complained Susan Hays, the appointed attorney for a 2-year-old sect member.

Outside, where TV satellite trucks lined the street in front of the courthouse's columned facade, a man who said he was an FLDS father waved a photo of himself surrounded by his four children, ranging from a baby to a child of about 9.

"Look, look, look," the father said. "These children are all smiling, we're happy."

Walther signed an emergency order nearly two weeks ago giving the state custody of the children after a 16-year-old girl called an abuse hot line claiming her husband, a 50-year-old member of the sect, beat and raped her. The girl has yet to be identified.

Authorities raided their compound April 3 in the nearby town of Eldorado — a 1,700-acre ranch with a blindingly white limestone temple and log cabin-style houses — and began collecting documents and disk drives that might provide evidence of underage girls being married to adults.

The children, who are being kept in a domed coliseum in San Angelo, range in age from 6 months to 17 years. Roughly 100 of them are under 4.

FLDS members deny children were abused and say the state is persecuting them for their faith.

The judge must weigh the allegations of abuse and also decide whether it is in the children's best interest to be placed into mainstream society after they have been told all their lives that the outside world is hostile and immoral.

If the judge gives the state permanent custody of the children, the Texas child services agency will face the enormous task of finding suitable homes. It will also have to decipher brother-sister relationships so that it can try to preserve them.

Over the past two weeks, the agency has relied on volunteers to help feed the children, do their laundry and provide crafts and games for them.

Gov. Rick Perry would not say how much the case is costing the state, but said: "Does the state of Texas have the resources? Absolutely we do."

The sect came to West Texas in 2003, relocating some members from the church's traditional home along the Utah-Arizona state line. Its prophet and spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, is in prison for forcing an underage girl into marriage in Utah.


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The Ruling

Brooke Adams highlights some of the victims harmed by this shotgun approach to the case.

The Polygamy Files: The Tribune's blog on the plural life

Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Ruling

The children stay with the state. By now you know that Tom Green County Judge Barbara Walther came to that conclusion today after two long days of testimony about whether the FLDS culture is inherently abusive to children.

She said yes.

Now, to get their children back parents will, at a minimum, have to submit DNA samples, undergo psychiatric evaluations and agree to safety plans focused on . . . well, who knows at this point. A CPS investigator could come up with no proposals for what parents might do to be reunited with their children.

Still, attorneys made spirited arguments for returning the children, speaking of them by age, name or color. The state divided the FLDS children and young mothers into color-coded groups: blue, pink, orange, brown, grey, depending on their ages and circumstances. Several young mothers were allowed to leave the Colesium or Wells Fargo Pavilion to come to court today; they wore identification wrist bands.

The mothers took the stand this evening and said they would do anything to be reunited with their children: move off the ranch, agree to temporary restraining orders prohibiting contact with their husbands, counseling.
They agreed, you could say, to become single mothers and cut themselves off from their friends, family and faith.

Now, Texas Child Protective Services is apparently arranging to send their 416 children all over the state and even across the country.

Those in the courtroom did not have to wait long for the judge to make her decision -- the recess lasted just five minutes, though I'm sure Walther has been thinking it over since signing the order two weeks ago that led to the children's removal.

Media were assigned to the last row in the Courtroom A, which meant that to see and hear the proceedings I had to stand up. All the rows ahead of me were filled with FLDS members. During the wait, a number of men sat with bowed heads and seemed to be praying.

A young couple sat directly in front of me. The woman, Lori Jessop, 25, is staying in the shelter at the Wells Fargo Pavilion with her three children. She was brought to court today to testify about her marriage and willingness to protect her children.

Her husband is 27. When she arrived at court, she found him among the crowd and slipped into the bench beside him. I realized they had not seen each other in two weeks.

He put his arm around her, held her close through hours of testimony. Her rubbed her back at one point. They whispered back and forth. She is an EMT and told the judge that she would take their children -- ages 4 to 11 months -- and move off the ranch and go to work if she could stay with them.

After the judge issued her ruling, they stood and stared at one another, a look of shock on their faces.

I have no idea what becomes of her now, whether the state will let her continue to stay with their children. I suppose not.

We heard other complicated stories today. One attorney said she represented a 17-year-old girl who is a Canadian citizen and was visiting her grandmother who lives at the ranch when the raid occurred. Now she is a ward of the state of Texas.

One attorney said he represents a 5-year-old boy who has Down's syndrome and other serious medical problems. What about him? he asked the cult expert who testified for the state. Wouldn't he be better off with his mother?
Linda Musser, 56, said she was in Lubbock where her 29-year-old daughter is hospitalized and undergoing dialysis and treatment for other medical problems. Musser's 13-year-old son was taken away. Musser, who was in a monogamous marriage but is now legally divorced, told the judge she would move off the ranch, perhaps to Lubbock to be near her daughter, if that is what it would take to get her son returned. Her older sons would support her.

The judge decided otherwise, for now.


LOL the state psychiatrist


"He also said that many of the adults at the Yearning For Zion Ranch are loving parents and that the boys seemed emotionally healthy when he interacted with them.

But he says the sect's belief system "is abusive. The culture is very authoritarian."

This is the same guy

who also said that the ranch had many great things going for its members. That their little society had many positives.

But, despite those, and despite any evidence of abuse, these children have been kidnapped based on the POSSIBILITY that they MAY be abused some time, maybe sorta perhaps.

Whose unpopular religion is next???? Yours???? Mine???



Talk about a huge cluster f*ck, pardon the pun.

"after they have been told all their lives that the outside world is hostile and immoral."

Now, what have these kids seen in this court that will make them think otherwise?

My letter to my Senators and Congressman

I was wondering what your position is on the current Child Protective
Services activity in ElDorado, TX.

Imagine if you will that some anonymous person called in and accused
one of your neighbors of child abuse.

Now imagine that when Child Protective services showed up at your
neighbor's house, they did so with armored vehicles and machine guns.

Now imagine that because you live in the same neighborhood and attend
the same church as your neighbor, CPS took your kids and all the other
kids in your subdivision.

This is what has happened in ElDorado.

Not only were the parents denied due process and had their children
taken due to an accusation against a neighbor, but their 4th Amendment
right to protection against unlawful search, and their 1st Amendment right
to freedom of religeon were violated.

Someone with an understanding of our Constitution needs to speak out
agains this and stand up for these people, no matter how unpopular their
religeon is politically. They need a champion. Please let it be you.

I never thought I would see something like this in America. This is
the type of thing that happened in Nazi Germany. This is not what our
country stands for ..... or is it?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
Thomas Jefferson, 1791

Excellent, Mike

Great letter!


Bumpity-Bump! Petition to Texas Authorities

Sign the petition, please. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/free-the-innocent-flds

It warms my heart to see so many people actually care.

Did you know?

Two of every three children in foster care in Texas are on psychotropic (mind altering) drugs, including toddlers. One doctor's whole practice is built around prescribing these meds to foster children. Scary! (and who do you suppose pays for that doctor and for the drugs? you, of course!)

Check out this news report from NBC:


Once can only assume this will be the fate that awaits hundreds of FLDS kids who are in state custody.


my 2 cents....

When thinking about this 2 things come to mind....the first is that if they have all the children in custody why can't they locate the girl who made the accusations by now? I mean she should either be willing to talk or totally guilt ridden and ready to confess.

The second thing is....I have yet to see any comment by Mitt Romney about all this. I mean he's a Mormon for crying out loud....if anyone is entitled to an opinion on this I would think it would be the man who was just running for President and is a Mormon. Whether he defends or blasts it....funny how he doesn't seem to care one bit...
One wonders if they knew they were going to do this and told Mitt to step down so it wouldn't get even more news coverage....it would be hard to paint Mitt as acceptable if we were trying to villianize those nasty Mormons.....

I agree with a previous post....it's for the land and nothing else.
Which means any one of us is vulnerable if we're in their way.

"funny how he doesn't seem to care"

Slick Willard's lack of concern for the Travesty in Texas is perfectly consistent with his arrogant and dismissive behavior towards those less fortunate than him. Do you not recall his heartless treatment of the gentleman in the wheel chair who asked if a President Romney would send him to prison in violation of the Tenth Amendment for daring to treat his condition with medicinal marijuana?

Sic Semper Tyrannis!
Professor Bernardo de la Paz

dynamite anthrax supreme court white house tea party jihad
West of 89
a novel of another america

"I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy." - Willard R

"I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy." - Willard Romney on 60 Minutes

Considering his own grandparents were polygamists in Mexico in the early 1900s, and he could say such an awful thing when asked about them, it does not surprise me how he is not responding to this event. He probably believes the State is doing the right thing.

Willard always looks visibly uncomfortable any time he has to be in the presence of "real people". The man has avoided "real people" his entire life, so he is entirely out of his element when he has to mingle with those whose net worths are less than $400 million, apparently.

He has no clue what real Americans' challenges, hopes, fears, and concerns are. He hasn't a frickin' clue because he's never had to worry about deciding whether to pay the electric or the heat this month. He's never had to figure out how to make $120 buy a month's worth of groceries. He's never had to pay for gas with the few dollars in change he could find in his seat cushions. He's never had to wonder how he can afford to send his children to college, or even just whether or not his kids could get new shoes for school each fall. He hasn't a frickin' clue that groceries are up 17% over last year right now. He's never had to worry about bullets whizzing past his kids' heads in high school.

The man is entirely out of touch with real Americans, most of whom could not afford the mandatory health insurance scheme he cooked up, as they are balancing all of the above financial stresses and more.


I signed it and am sending

I signed it and am sending it to all my meetup members and friends and family....


Thank you.

It's a small effort but considering there is little we can do right now, we should try to stand with these people however we can. Thank you.


The children would have been better off

if the police came and took the television sets out of the house. These people are not hurting anyone, leave them be. The children will not be better off in the hands of the state, if that is not already obvious by the turmoil the state has already put them through. Keep up the great work.

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must. like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.-Thomas Paine

The R3volution requires action, not observation!!!!

Actually the FLDS don't generally own televisions

some do, but they are generally advised against television. I also generally advise against television, too.

what's tragic is that I have talked to people who basically thought it was just a travesty of justice that the FLDS children are not exposed to television. As though without TV they are somehow worse off!


OMG that takes the cake!

Poor kids. Not getting their daily four hours of mind-numbing trash!

Fun, educational projects to inspire young minds...

Actually, the FLDS avoid cake, too

Just kidding. They like homemade cake.

But they do avoid processed foods instead choosing to prepare all of their meals from scratch. So when the state took all 416 of these children into custody, they quickly found that the kids would not eat the junk food (processed store-bought foods) served to them. So what did they have to do? They actually had to go buy fruits and vegetables, raw milk (such as Ron Paul supports), and other fresh foods! Oh the humanity! The horrors! Children not fed twinkies and cookies and sugared cereal! OMG, the abuse they have to endure!

Wow! So here's a group that feeds their children wholesome, natural foods; and does not use the one-eyed zombie as a babysitter for hours on end every day! NOW, DO YOU SEE THE THREAT THESE PEOPLE ARE TO THE STATE? They refuse to eat crap food like the genetically-engineered stuff off the shelf, loaded with high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, etc., and they refuse to fill their children's mind with crap entertainment/propaganda.


yes, the count is in the

yes, the count is in the upper right hand side @ 718

The petition doesn't

show the total number who signed - unless I missed it somewhere.

In the upper right corner of the first page

there is a thermometer that shows the number of signatures and the goal. right now it is at 718 out of 1000.


thank you thank you thank you

we are trying to get 1,000 signatures. If everyone on DP right now signed it, we'd be all set.

You don't have to like polygamy. You don't have to like Mormonism. You don't have to agree with young marriages. You don't have to agree to anything other than the fact that people have inalienable rights which have been violated here. PLEASE take 30 seconds and sign the petition.



"You don't have to like Mormonism."

I don't. For that matter, I also don't like Christianity. Or Judaism. Or Islam. But it makes no difference because theism is not the issue. The issue is liberty, and Texas' grotesque violation of human rights.

Of COURSE I signed the petition, a couple of days ago.

It's too close to the 19th of April, a date of shame in recent Texas hero, where, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the Wicked Witch of Waco authorized the immolation of eighty human beings for trivial gun regulation violations.

Molon Labe!
Professor Bernardo de la Paz

dynamite anthrax supreme court white house tea party jihad
West of 89
a novel of another america

I know, I saw your signature. Thank you very much.

There is very little we can do to help at this point, sadly. So signing the petition is at least a symbolic act of defiance that will at least be made known to the authorities in Texas.

I would be just as all over this if it were anyone else's rights being violated. That is the issue here.

The rest is just a sideshow designed to distract the easily-confused masses from the real issues at hand. If the Texas CPS cared about teenagers getting pregnant, they could round up more pregnant teens at any high school in Texas on any given day than they could from the YFZ Ranch.


is there anything we could

is there anything we could do to pressure our own state gov. to 'condemn' what TX has done? At the same time we would be telling our own states we will not tolerate this police state action. Just a thought.

Trust in God, but tie your camel tight.

"Socialism needs two legs on which to stand; a right and a left. While appearing to be in complete opposition to one another,they both march in the same direction." - Paul Proctor





Not as if I suspected otherwise, but

"But under repeated cross-examination, Crawford acknowledged the records contained no evidence of sexual abuse."

WTF is this thing even continuing for then???????


Is their 1700 acre ranch prime

real estate for the TTC?

Watch this interview with the mothers on Larry King. King kept asking rude questions!


What King, and many people don't realize,

is that these ladies, much like ladies just a generation ago in mainstream society, don't discuss sexual matters with complete strangers. They are a private, very modest people. They do not feel comfortable discussing what they believe to be private behavior on TV or with a stranger at all, even if not on TV. Any lady in America prior to the 1960's would have slapped any strange man who asked questions about her sexually.

The other questions Larry was asking, about their husbands. The reason they were reluctant to answer those questions is because any missteps there could incriminate themselves by admitting to bigamy. So, better to just avoid the husband questions altogether. Do not assume for one second that those ladies were being intentionally rude or not understanding Larry. I am sure that Mr. Parker, their lawyer, told them not to say a single word on TV about their husbands.

Well, as luck would have it, today the State actually said that they would start bigamy charges against anyone who admitted on TV about their marriage.

This thing is so screwed up it disgusts me. These people really are a private, peaceful people