No Indictments As Texas Grand Jury Concludes Tuesday Hearing into Polygamous Sect

By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune

July 22, 2008

Grand jury proceedings concluded Tuesday at the Schleicher County Courthouse with no indictments issued and witnesses ordered to return on Aug. 21.

During afternoon proceedings, 51st District Judge Barbara Walther was in the courthouse, apparently summoned to the hearing for reasons yet unknown.

It is Walther who, back in April, signed warrants that were instrumental in the state of Texas' raid on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints ranch here. Child welfare officials seized more than 400 children, but a Texas appellate court later overruled Walther and ordered the children released to their parents in the polygamous sect.

A member of the FLDS church and an attorney arrive Tuesday at the Schleicher County Courthouse, where a grand jury reconvened to consider charges stemming from the raid on the YFZ ranch.
Photo by Trent Nelson

Earlier Tuesday, FLDS spokesman Willy Jessop was pulled over and handed a subpoena to appear before the grand jury, which is considering criminal charges against FLDS members.

Jessop, who has become the public face for the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints since sect leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape and jailed, later spoke briefly to reporters outside the Schleicher County Courthouse.

"We'll see how it all turns out," was all he would say when questioned about the case.

The grand jury, comprised of five men and seven women, on Tuesday resumed hearings that had begun with one day of proceedings last month. Then, the panel heard testimony behind closed doors from some half-dozen FLDS women; no indictments were issued at that time.

Some of those same women returned today, including Jeffs' daughter, now 16. Last week, a court-appointed guardian ad litem filed a report that detailed the girl's marriage at age 15 to a much older man. The first of women to be called Tuesday was a Sarah Draper, a registered nurse. Others followed as the day wore on.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also arrived to participate in the proceedings Tuesday, as did Las Vegas attorney Richard Wright, who accompanied Jessop to the courthouse. Wright has appeared periodically on behalf of FLDS clients in the past.

The grand jury, based on court filings, is looking at evidence taken from the sect's Yearning for Zion ranch during an April raid. That evidence purportedly shows underage girls within the FLDS being married off to older men.


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