August 4, 2011

Warren Jeffs Rests His Case

Posted: 12:48 PM ET

With less than an hour of arguments today from Warren Jeffs, the polygamist sect leader on trial for sexual assault silently rested his case. This comes after a bizarre day of testimony yesterday.

Day 5 of the TX v Warren Jeffs trial began with Warren Jeffs, asking for what he calls Constitutional protection based upon his belief that he represents a religious organization.  His request was immediately denied.

During testimony, the prosecution established how Warren Jeffs married a 12-year-old girl who is the daughter of one of his followers.  The child was watched over by Jeffs most of her life.  Public records show the jury learned that Jeffs was involved in assigning jobs for the Jessop family and was the principle at Alta Academy, the FLDS school the girl attended.

The prosecution’s most damning evidence against Jeffs is an audio recording of Jeffs allegedly having sex with the child.  That recording was played in court yesterday.  On it, Jeffs can be heard saying the child’s full name, leaving no doubt as to who is in the room with him.  As the tape was played, jurors also heard heavy breathing and talking, including Jeffs asking, "Does it feel good?" and a child’s voice responding "Yes, thank you." The prosecution also claims that three of Jeffs other so-called “celestial wives” were present when the recording was made. The recording ended with Jeffs saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen," and the child  repeating, "Amen."

While listening to the tape, several jurors held their heads in their hands, some covered their mouths.  One woman could be seen wiping away her tears with tissue. The state rested its case after playing the explosive audio.

Jeffs then began his defense with a 30-minute sermon, used as an opening statement.  After that, Jeffs called his first and only witness, J.D. Roundy, to the stand.  Roundy is a member of the FLDS and was present each day for the trial. Jeffs questioned Roundy for four hours, which basically amounted to Jeffs having his witness explainthe tenets of their faith, in an attempt to establish his claim for religious freedom. On cross examination, prosecutor Eric Nichols asked Roundy a series of questions meant to discredit Jeffs' assertions that his actions were based on his beliefs.

"Have you ever instructed girls how to prepare themselves to have sex with you?" Nichols asked Roundy.


"Have you ever engaged in sexual relations with a 15 year old?"


"Have you ever had sexual relations with a 12 year old?"


After a brief re-direct questioning of Roundy that spanned the end of yesterday’s proceedings and the early part this morning, Jeffs was told to call his next witness.  He refused to say anything and the judge then rested the case for him.  Right now, both sides are getting 30 minutes for closing arguments.  After that, the judge will give the jurors instructions and they will decide whether Warren Jeffs is guilty of sexual assault.

-Keith Lovely Jr., In Session Associate Producer

-Jim Kyle, In Session Field Producer

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Filed under: FLDS • Warren Jeffs

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August 3, 2011

Bleeding the Beast: Polygamist sect accused of abusing welfare

Posted: 08:33 AM ET

In discussions about Warren Jeffs and the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) church the topic of “bleeding the beast,” or taking advantage of government money, often comes up.  A former polygamist sect member, Laurie Allen, talked about it in an interview on In Session. Allen produced "Banking on Heaven," a documentary about the FLDS under Jeffs’ leadership.  During our interview last week, Allen claimed the FLDS collects food stamps and other forms of public assistance because many of the women technically are still single.  In the FLDS, multiple women are often “celestially married” to one man, with only one of the women being legally married to their collective husband. That means the other illegitimate wives can collect assistance for themselves and their children.

Allen said the group also collects government assistance for children with disabilities – disabilities she attributes to inbreeding in the FLDS community. She claims “in the state ofArizonaalone, they’re getting between 20 and 30 million dollars a year” and most of the members “are living off taxpayer money.”  She interviewed former Attorney General Terry Goddard in her documentary. Goddard told her 80% of the FLDS members are on welfare and more than 4,000 of them have state medical insurance access.

In 2006, CNN’s Randi Kaye wrote a blog detailing how polygamy affects taxpayers. In the blog, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff made a similar assertion, stating "their religious belief is that they'll bleed the beast, meaning the government. They hate the government, so they'll bleed it for everything they can through welfare, tax evasion and fraud."

Another example of bleeding the beast involves property taxes. In 2005, a judge appointed an accountant to help collect more than a million dollars in overdue property taxes from polygamist property owners living inColorado City,Arizona. Six years later, the group is said to owe more than $2 million in delinquent property taxes inColoradoCityandHildale,Utah.

Keith Lovely Jr. – In Session Associate Producer

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Filed under: FLDS • Warren Jeffs

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May 1, 2008

Last Word: No prairie dresses at Wal-Mart

Posted: 02:35 PM ET

NEW YORK - I love my job but there are things I hate about this business. Like when we hype a story for weeks and then just let it drop because the people involved continue to be torn apart by whatever event made them a story in the first place.


As usual, Jami Floyd has the Last Word.

That's exactly the case in Texas with the polygamy ranch raid last month. We reported that story every day for weeks - all about alleged sexual abuse at the ranch - none of it yet proved, by the way. But, now that the media brouhaha has died down, don't think the story is over for the children taken from their mothers, because here iw what has been proved and not widely reported:

These children are now on an odyssey through the Texas child welfare system. Children who had never eaten processed foods, had never watched television. And Wal-Mart? They don’t sell those prairie dresses.

Imagine the shock of being flung headlong into potato chips and the likes of Hannah Montana. All of this in the context of a child welfare system that was underfinanced and already failing the children in its care, even before it took on 462 new cases.

What were they thinking? I'm thinking they weren't.

And that's the Last Word.

Jami Floyd, In Session anchor

Filed under: FLDS • Uncategorized

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April 22, 2008

Polygamist ranch case far from over

Posted: 06:27 PM ET

NEW YORK – The DNA tests and upcoming custody hearings for more than 400 children seized from a polygamist sect's West Texas ranch are only the first chapters in what will likely be a lengthy and complex legal nightmare.

Convicted FLDS leader Warren Jeffs

The state obviously has a duty to protect children from abuse, but the debate will rage as to whether the constitutional rights concerning religious liberty and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure were upheld.

Now it seems the tip that led to police descending upon the Yearning for Zion compound with body armor, automatic weapons and an armored personnel carrier may have come from a Colorado woman who has a history of false reporting to authorities.

In court filings seeking the termination of parental rights, Child Protective Services officials say being born into the sect ensures child abuse, describing "a widespread pattern and practice ... in which young, minor female residents are conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men at the ranch upon being spiritually married to them."

We'll have to see what that evidence of abuse is. Sect lawyers say the searches of the 1,700-acre compound violated First and Fourth Amendment protections as well as the Texas Constitution.

Despite this, people arguing the government overreached its authority may have a difficult time making a case if allegations of abuse turn out to be true.

The government certainly hopes history is not repeating itself, with this ending up being another Short Creek, the 1953 raid at a compound on the Utah-Arizona border that seemed to strengthen FLDS leaders who were Warren Jeffs’ predecessors, drove a governor from office and possibly discouraged officials from taking action against the group for decades.

Times have changed. Jeffs is behind bars, sentenced to two consecutive five-year sentences to life in prison in Utah for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who married her cousin in 2001.

But as child welfare officials in Texas move some 437 children to temporary foster care facilities before custody hearings in May, authorities have not seen the last of the FLDS, which has an estimated 10,000 members across the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Bob Regan, In Session senior executive producer

Filed under: FLDS

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