Grand Jury Issues 3 Indictments in Polygamist Case

Associated Press
August 21, 2008

ELDORADO, Texas (AP) — A grand jury issued three new felony indictments Thursday against members of a polygamist sect raided here in April.

Schleicher County Clerk Peggy Williams confirmed the grand jury issued indictments against three individuals. She would not say who was indicted or what the indictments allege, other than that they are felonies.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, which is handling the prosecution of the case, also declined to comment on what the indictments allege or who the accused are.

The indictments, which followed a day of women in prairie dresses again filing in and out of the grand jury meeting room, were the second set issued since the grand jury began meeting in June on the case. Six indictments were issued last month.

On Thursday, Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints member Willie Jessop, who has become the sect's spokesman since the raid, testified before the grand jury for the first time. By law, he could not disclose what was discussed, but he said the process has been painful for church members.

"It's certainly had a tremendous toll on everyone that's involved: emotional, physical. We'll get through," he said in an uncharacteristically soft tone.

Authorities raided the FLDS-run Yearning For Zion Ranch in April, looking for evidence of underage girls forced into marriages and sex with older men. Texas child welfare authorities initially put all 440 children at the ranch in foster care but were forced to return them by a Texas Supreme Court ruling that found evidence showed abuse in only a handful of cases.

In July, jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs and four followers were indicted for sexual assault of a child. One follower was also charged with bigamy. A sixth member was charged with three misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse.

The five men charged with felonies are scheduled to make their next court appearance on Sept. 8. The grand jury meets again on Sept. 23.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

Jeffs was convicted in Utah last year as an accomplice to rape for the marriage of a 14-year-old sect girl. He faces similiar charges in Arizona, where he is jailed awaiting trial.


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