Texas FLDS Case Stalls Ariz. Case against Jeffs

By Suzanne Adams
Deseret News
March 30, 2009,5143,705294160,00.html

KINGMAN, Ariz. The Arizona case against Warren Jeffs is temporarily on hold as his attorneys battle with Texas authorities over when police knew phone calls leading to last year's raid on the YFZ Ranch were false.

Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs' attorneys, Michael Piccarreta and Richard Wright, asked the Mohave County Superior Court Monday to strike Arizona's response to a motion to suppress evidence from Texas or order a second round of interviews with three Texas law enforcement officers.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn has already agreed to defer ruling on the Arizona motion to suppress evidence until after a similar motion has been ruled on in Texas.

Piccarreta agreed that his motion to strike was mostly a symbolic gesture borne out of frustration with Texas authorities.

"The affidavit for the search warrants is a lie," Piccarreta said Monday. "Everyone involved knew the facts were untrue."

Piccarreta and Wright interviewed Texas Ranger Brooks Long, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran and sheriff's deputy John Connor in December. During that interview, Texas authorities limited questions to what happened during the investigation of the YFZ Ranch to events after April 9, Piccarreta said, and attorneys were not allowed to ask leading questions. Arizona authorities were also at the interviews.

"Texas played the main role, but Arizona acquiesced," Piccarreta said. He likened the situation to Watergate.

The question is when did the Texas officers find out that the information was false and did they act with reckless disregard when they applied for the warrants to search the ranch, he asked.

"They're blocking the truth-seeking process. They didn't play straight," he said.

Phone calls from a teen claiming to be pregnant and living in an abusive relationship on the ranch are what prompted Texas authorities to raid the compound on year ago. The phone calls are believed to have been a hoax.

Piccarreta asked Conn to force the Mohave (Ariz.) County Attorney's Office to stipulate which facts were true concerning the phone calls from the Texas raid or order the three Texas law enforcement officers to respond to questions about the phone calls.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith argued that Arizona had no choice as to which questions Texas law enforcement officers were allowed to answer.

"Texas is not trying to hide anything," Smith said. "We're not going to go to court and take a silly position that the caller doesn't exist."

He did not think it necessary to strike his response to the motion to suppress evidence. If Piccarreta and Wright wanted his office to stipulate as to which statements concerning the phone calls were true in lieu of reinterviewing the Texas law enforcement officers, he would be willing to do so, Smith said.

Conn said he would rule on the matter in writing in a few days.

Piccarreta also notified the court that Smith had agreed to release any audio or video recording the attorney's office had of the Texas raid by April 10.

He also warned of another situation that may cause a delay in the case. He and Wright were investigating the connection between a commercial enterprise and a non-profit group that often supplied funds and other necessities to people who had left the FLDS Church. Some of the people helped by the non-profit organization later filed lawsuits against the FLDS and Jeffs and received help with attorney and court costs, sometimes in the millions of dollars, he said. Some of these same people were also listed as witnesses in the Mohave County cases.

An interview with private investigator Sam Bower could lead to more information on the subject, Piccarreta said. However there was some concern over whether Bower could claim attorney/client privilege.

Piccarreta did not identify which business or non-profit organization he was investigating. However, Bower has done some work for a law firm that was employed by the Diversity Foundation, a non-profit organization that has offered help to people who have left the FLDS Church.

The non-profit organization in question has helped a number of people formerly connected with the FLDS, Smith said, not just the alleged victims and witnesses in the Mohave County cases.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.