Grand Jury Returns Three More Indictments in FLDS Case

By Paul A. Anthony
San Angelo Standard-Times
August 22, 2008

ELDORADO - A Schleicher County grand jury returned three more felony indictments against members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, bringing to 12 the number of charges affiliated thus far with the April raid on the polygamist sect.

The indictments were against three people, District Clerk Peggy Williams said, but she declined to discuss any further details - including even whether the indictments name any of the same men charged by the grand jury at its July meeting.

"I'm not going to go into that until these people have been arrested," she said.

The reticence is a shift in the case; last month, state Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the indictments - leaving out only the names of the men - at a news conference outside the Schleicher County Courthouse.

On Thursday, however, Abbott's office said it also could not release any more information.

The seven-man, five-woman panel last month returned a total of five counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child against five FLDS members and three counts of misdemeanor failure to report abuse against a sixth. One of the five was also charged with felony bigamy.

The men posted a total of more than $500,000 in bonds and were released. That's excepting sect leader Warren Jeffs, who has been convicted of similar charges in Utah and is awaiting trial on still more charges in Arizona.

The charges stem from an April raid of the sect's Schleicher County compound, the YFZ Ranch, by law enforcement and investigators from the state's Child Protective Services agency probing allegations of physical and sexual abuse. The tips that led to the raid are now believed to be a hoax.

Criminal and CPS investigators have said they nonetheless found evidence at the ranch of forced underage marriages - and investigations into the ranch have led thus far to criminal cases, and to the CPS receiving custody of six children in a parallel civil case.

A search warrant filed in late July and released this week by the 51st state district court provides more light on the evidence bolstering the state's case against one of the five men, Allan Eugene Keate.

According to an affidavit attached with the warrant and signed by Texas Ranger Sgt. Nick Hanna, sect records show Keate as having married a 15-year-old girl in 2005 and fathering a child with her in December 2006.

Based on the dates in the sect's own documents, the girl likely conceived when she was 16, Hanna wrote in the affidavit. In Texas, a girl cannot legally consent to having sex with an adult until she is 17.

Initial pretrial hearings for the five felony suspects are scheduled for Sept. 8, Williams said - a date that falls in the middle of what is expected to be another busy month for sect-related court action.

A hearing on whether Natalie Malonis, the court-appointed attorney for Jeffs' now 17-year-old daughter, should be removed, is scheduled for Sept. 3. The grand jury is scheduled to meet again Sept. 23, and a motion by sect-hired attorneys to throw out evidence gained from the raid is scheduled for Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, the case of Dr. Lloyd H. Barlow, the ranch's on-site physician and the lone man facing misdemeanor charges, was transferred Thursday to Schleicher County court, where misdemeanor cases are usually heard, Williams said.

Thursday's indictments came after a long day of waiting, as five sect women amused themselves on the Schleicher County Courthouse lawn by taking pictures with digital cameras of reporters, attorneys and law enforcement. The youngest of them was Jeffs' daughter, who is alleged to have been married to the adult son of ranch leader Merril Jessop at age 15.

A sixth subpoenaed witness, sect spokesman Willie Jessop, testified for more than an hour, leaving the Schleicher County Memorial Building, where the grand jury convened, several times to consult with attorneys.

"We certainly believe there is a God," an unusually subdued Jessop told reporters after his testimony. "We believe he will judge all. Those who judge will be judged themselves."


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