Warren Jeffs was convicted in Texas of having sexual relations with two underage girls. One encounter resulted in a pregnancy. Jeffs already is serving time for convictions on similar charges in Utah. Charges in Arizona were dropped.
Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a wacky offshoot of the Mormon Church. The FLDS espouses many unconventional religious and social views, most notably “plural marriage,” or polygamy. The FLDS teaches that in order for a man to attain his rightful place in heaven he should have at least three wives, the more the better.
As the Thrice Exalted Grand High Potentate at FLDS Mr. Jeffs literally had the pick of the litter and was merely adding these girls to the two or three dozen “spiritual wives,” he already had accumulated (including his own mother).
Mr. Jeffs and his Merry Band have amused me over the years. I am not amused, however, by the way in which the state of Texas acquired the evidence for Mr. Jeff’s trial.
Some background: The FLDS was headquartered for years in Colorado City, Arizona/Hildale, Utah. This single community straddled the borders of two states, thus frustrating law enforcement. Still, they were incorporated towns so the public, as well as the cops, were free to roam the streets and stare at the inhabitants. Mr. Jeffs decided the FLDS could insulate itself from public and police view by moving the entire community to private land. Thus, around 2003 FLDS headquarters and about 700 Colorado City/Hildale inhabitants moved to the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas.
On private, fenced land, with a guard at the gate, FLDS members now were immune to scrutiny. Or, so they thought. Suspicious Texas cops, however, found a way to get a search warrant for the ranch. Here’s the story, as reported by ABC News:
“The charges Jeffs faces stem from an April 2008 police raid on a compound known as the “Yearning For Zion” ranch run by FLDS, an offshoot sect of the mainstream Mormon Church. The ranch is located outside Eldorado, Texas, a small town about 45 miles south of San Angelo.
A call to a domestic-abuse hotline spurred the raid which resulted in the removal of more than 400 children from their homes on the ranch compound. The call turned out to be a hoax, but the evidence collected led to the current charges against Jeffs and 11 other FLDS men.
The seven sect members whose trials have ended before Jeffs’ even began were convicted of crimes including sexual assault and bigamy and are now serving prison sentences ranging from six to 75 years.
Jeffs’ defense lawyers lost a series of fights before the trial even began in their efforts to throw out key evidence seized during the raid on the ranch.
Defense attorney Robert Udashen argued that the search warrant to raid the ranch should have never been granted because the call that prompted the raid was a hoax.
Texas police received multiple calls in the days before the 2008 raid from a woman claiming to be a 16-year-old who said she was being abused on the ranch.
Police later determined the call came from a Colorado woman who was not at Jeffs’ ranch and who had a history of making false reports of sexual abuse, yet police still used that information to get the warrant to raid the ranch, Udashen argued.
Judge Walther ruled against Udashen’s arguments, determining instead that the evidence gathered during the raid is permissible and should be presented to jurors because the warrant was still valid as authorities believed there was a victim who needed to be protected.” (emphasis added)
According to the court (and this is not the only court to rule similarly), police can use evidence acquired under a search warrant even when the warrant is later shown to have been issued on false evidence.
Hmm. And what’s to prevent the police from making hoax calls whenever they want to con a judge out of a search warrant?