FLDS: Warren Jeffs Makes FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List
May 8, 2006 Transcript
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday May 9, 2006
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, why has the leader of a polygamist sect made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List? We’ll take you inside the world of Warren Jeffs, wanted by Utah and Arizona authorities accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.
With us Warren Jeffs’ nephew, who accuses his uncle of sexually abusing him when he was five or six years old; two women who were wives in Warren Jeffs’ community until they fled in fear; Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and more all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. Over the weekend Osama bin Laden and eight other men were joined on the FBI’s Most Wanted List by Warren Jeffs, the leader and self-proclaimed prophet of a polygamist sect called the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. This sect separated from the mainstream Mormons in 1890 after Mormonism banned polygamy, the practice of men marrying multiple wives.
Warren Jeffs has been charged with rape as an accomplice in Utah and in Arizona with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
We’ll begin the evening with Warren Jeffs’ nephew, Brent Jeffs. Brent, you filed suit against your uncle two years ago, why?
BRENT JEFFS, NEPHEW OF WARREN JEFFS: Because he sexually sodomized me when I was a little boy.
KING: And why did you wait so long?
B. JEFFS: It had been when I was around five to six years old when he had done this to me, threatened me with my life, telling me that I would burn in hell if I had said anything about this to anybody.
And then, as of a few years ago, my brother, oldest brother Clane (ph), who was also a victim of Warren, took his life and that’s when I decided to take that upon myself to bring this out and tell everybody and take this man down.
KING: Brent, did you grow up in a polygamist environment?
B. JEFFS: Yes, I did.
KING: Did your father have many wives? B. JEFFS: Yes, he had three wives.
KING: What was that like?
B. JEFFS: Growing up, I mean it felt normal for us, you know, because that was the way we were raised but we were also treated as outcasts in the church by all the kids in the neighborhood because they were, you know, not a part of that religion. And we always kind of felt, you know, a little different but in the overall aspect it felt normal, you know, growing up.
KING: What do you think of your uncle making the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List?
B. JEFFS: I think that, you know, he’s done it to himself and I think that it’s a good thing. We need to catch this guy. And putting him on that most wanted list will definitely bring a lot of attention to him and open up a lot of people’s eyes to bring him down. He needs to be brought down.
KING: He’s your uncle on what side of the family?
B. JEFFS: He’s my father’s brother, half brother I should say.
KING: Were you ever even after the sexual contact were you ever fond of him or close to him?
B. JEFFS: Not on a one-on-one basis only that growing up in school he would personally pick on me as far as I was always up in his office and him scolding me for something that I did or something like that.
KING: Tell us, he’s become now such a mystery, “America’s Most Wanted” has done him, the FBI’s got him on the list, tell us about what is he like?
B. JEFFS: Around people he is very — he tries to be very glorious and happy and tries to make himself sound like he is some big and high and mighty person, some godlike person per se and that is how he wins over the minds of all these people by persuading and brainwashing them over and over and over for years and that’s how this has all come about, you know, with all these followers.
KING: But he looks, I don’t know how to put this, he looks ordinary.
B. JEFFS: Yes but if you listen to his voice and hear him and me growing up with him looking at the way he looked at other kids and all that, you could tell. You could see right through him, you know, and a lot of people did. They just did not dare say anything because of who he was.
KING: Now he is considered, it’s the breakaway sect of course and not part of the mainstream of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Is he considered in the sect a prophet? B. JEFFS: Yes. My grandfather passed away and he took on the role of being the new prophet of the people and they all believed him and have been following him ever since.
KING: Were you treated any special way because you were related to the prophet?
B. JEFFS: Yes, growing up my last name Jeffs we were treated as the higher group you would say. On Sundays before they would hold a Sunday church for the whole clan of people they would have a Jeffs family gathering where all the Jeffs would gather first.
KING: When did your branch of the family become kind of the black sheep of this?
B. JEFFS: Eventually over the years, later on when I was around, you know, from probably about 13 years old on up to about 15 when I had left we just became further and further away from them because we were associating with my brothers who were no longer in the religion and that was completely banned in their eyes.
KING: When you were abused did you tell anyone?
B. JEFFS: No. I held it in my whole life and the only person that I had ever — when my brother had told me that it had happened to him and then he took his life, after that my wife was the first person I told.
KING: Do you ever think of going to the standard Mormon Church?
B. JEFFS: No. I think that I’ve had enough church and religion to last a lifetime for me. I mean it’s great for a lot of people but for me I don’t need it.
KING: Tell me about the decision to leave that community how you made it and how did you leave?
B. JEFFS: When I was around 15 years old I had taken one last chance at the church, moved down to Colorado City, lived with a friend and his family and got treated like garbage the whole time by everyone down there because of who I was and who my dad was and he was portrayed as a very, you know, very bad man in their eyes. And so, that was my last straw. I decided you know what this is not for me and I moved back up to Salt Lake and just left the religion and was done with it.
KING: Is your father living?
B. JEFFS: Is he living the religion?
KING: No, is he alive?
B. JEFFS: Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, yes, he is alive, very alive and well. We’re very close.
KING: How is he doing? You are close. B. JEFFS: Very well. Yes, he’s doing very well. He’s running a successful home security business and all of us kids that, you know, are around we still hang out with him like a normal family and, you know, it’s great now.
KING: Does he have one wife now?
B. JEFFS: Yes, it’s my mom and so they’re (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Is he — is he ashamed of his brother?
B. JEFFS: Very ashamed, very hurt, a lot of things I guess going on in his mind, you know, hurt that his brother would do that to his own kid, you know.
KING: Boy! Brent Jeffs will remain with us throughout the program.
We’re going to take a break. And when we come back, we’ll be joined by John Quinones of ABC News and Pennie Petersen, who escaped polygamist marriage at age 14, and Carolyn Jessop, a return visit to this show, a six generation polygamist.
The attorney general of Utah is going to join us later as well.
Don’t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN JEFFS: What will the Lord do to an immoral people? They shall be destroyed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is part of a lecture Warren Jeffs gave to a group of young girls in a home economics class.
WARREN JEFFS: We live in such a wicked day…the people on this land of America are an adulterous generation. We do not want to be like them. The prophets have declared…I would rather have my sons or daughters in the grave…than commit sins of immorality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: (INAUDIBLE) fugitive Warren Jeffs.
Also in Salt Lake City is Carolyn Jessop, a sixth generation polygamist. She’s in Colorado City, Arizona. She left town under cover of darkness with her eight children, calls the FLDS movement a cult.
In Mesa, Arizona is Pennie Petersen, escaped polygamist marriage at age 14. The arrest of her teenage sister’s husband happened on the same day Warren Jeffs went on the lam.
And, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, our old friend John Quinones, the co-anchor of ABC’s Primetime, produced and reported a series of reports on the FLDS community for Primetime. John, what kind of man is this Mr. Jeffs?
JOHN QUINONES, ABS NEWS: You know, Larry, he certainly doesn’t look the part. He’s short, thin. He wears glasses, looks more like an accountant than a predator and, indeed, that’s what people call him.
This is not about just polygamy, Larry. This is about child sexual abuse. This is statutory rape of young girls and, as you just heard, of young boys. To put him on the same list as Osama bin Laden is a huge stretch but there are some similarities. This man is defended by some fierce and loyal supporters and he’s got millions of dollars at his disposal.
KING: Carolyn Jessop, do you know him?
CAROLYN JESSOP, FLED POLYGAMIST COMMUNITY: Yes, I know Warren personally very well. My husband was very close to him and several of Merrill’s (ph) daughters married Warren.
KING: Did you know he was this kind of person?
JESSOP: At the time when I was living in the community, no, I did not. There is something about him that I always felt was — I was never comfortable around him but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I couldn’t place what it was.
KING: But you just felt different?
JESSOP: Yes. I was never comfortable around him. I didn’t understand why because he was — his father put him up on such a pedestal as such a perfect person.
KING: You left town, Carolyn, under — you got eight children out in the middle of the night?
JESSOP: Yes, I got my children up at four o’clock in the morning and got out of the house around 4:30 and met my brothers a little before five o’clock in the morning. And then they actually are the ones that helped me escape.
KING: Why did you have to escape?
JESSOP: I was not free to leave and my ex-husband actually sent people to Salt Lake looking for me and they were in Salt Lake City before I arrived in the city with my children. And then I just hid in different people’s homes until the attorney general’s office could get a protective order for me in place.
KING: Pennie Petersen, do you know Warren Jeffs?
PENNIE PETERSEN, FLED POLYGAMIST MARRIAGE: No, I don’t know him personally but my husband was his pupil in the church school up in Salt Lake City.
KING: You were married at age 14?
PETERSEN: No, I ran away before they could marry me. They had…
KING: Oh, they were going to?
PETERSEN: Yes. They had me scheduled to marry a 48-year-old man as his fifth wife and I ran away. You know, Larry, you have to understand when you come out of the womb you are taught to be submissive. Always obey. Do not question because if you do, you’ll burn in hell.
So, for Brent to question Warren he would automatically burn in hell. Or, Carolyn to question, she would burn in hell. So, you don’t question. You learn to shut up. You learn to obey the man.
KING: Wow! Was it hard? How did you get out at 14?
PETERSEN: I ran in the middle of the night just like Carolyn did. I had friends come and pick me up and sat on the highway and waited for them and they scooted me out.
KING: Were you the child of a polygamist relationship?
PETERSEN: Yes. I had three mothers and 39 brothers and sisters and we all lived in a big, happy home.
KING: Brent, fear is the aspect here right?
B. JEFFS: Yes. Fear is definitely the aspect here, controlling people by it. He has utter control over.
KING: John, do you see comparisons to other leaders of the past, David Koresh maybe?
QUINONES: Yes, and when you ask why the authorities haven’t moved in all you have to name is two places, Ruby Ridge and Waco. People have such fierce and loyal supporters that the authorities are being very careful. You have to walk in and walk softly. They don’t want a repeat of those incidents.
KING: To your knowledge, Brent, is he armed?
JEFFS: Not him personally but I know his bodyguards would be armed, yes of course and they would, I think would take action if we went in with any sort of force. We would have to — it would have to be a catch where he wouldn’t be expecting it at all.
KING: We’ll take a break and come back and meet Mark Shurtleff. He is the attorney general of the state of Utah. Don’t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’ve been thinking about college for you Warren.
WARREN JEFFS: Really father?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any one of my children deserve it, it’s you.
WARREN JEFFS: Thank you father.
WARD JEFFS, WARREN JEFF’S HALF BROTHER: And, in truth, Warren would take advantage of the fact that he was the favored son of my father and would undergo his game plan to satisfy his sexual indulgences and activities with boys, with girls, with young girls. It didn’t seem to matter.
WARREN JEFFS: You tell on me and you know what that would mean to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARD JEFFS: He succeeded week after week and year after year in getting the minds of the people so attuned to perfect obedience that now he could make a move to begin to take over the mind of the prophet.
PETERSEN: He was choosing the brides for his father, so he could choose the most beautiful 14, 15-year-old wives.
WARREN JEFFS: I’ll make sure they remember your name. My legacy will be your legacy.
PETERSEN: On his father’s passing he went in and married 34 of those girls of his father’s and the ones that were a little older he passed them out among the boys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That dramatization was from last Saturday night’s “America’s Most Wanted.”
Joining us now in Salt Lake City is Mark Shurtleff. He is the attorney general of the state of Utah. Thanks for joining us general.
MARK SHURTLEFF, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be here, Larry.
KING: When and why was Jeffs charged — why federal crimes and not state crimes?
SHURTLEFF: He was originally charged with state crimes involving children and then because he fled to avoid state prosecution that’s when the feds got involved and charged him with flight to evade prosecution, which were the federal offenses.
KING: Are you involved in all, you or your department involved in the search? SHURTLEFF: Absolutely. Right now, however, because it’s on the Ten Most Wanted List it’s activated all the FBI agents in this country. It’s a very significant step forward. We’re very appreciative to the FBI for making this move and I think it’s what’s going to help us find him finally.
KING: Do you cooperate with them?
SHURTLEFF: Absolutely. I mean information that we’ve obtained and the fact they’re going forward because they want to bring him to justice just like we do to stand trial for rape and child sexual abuse and all the other things that he’s caused on his people and it’s substantial. It’s significant what this man has done over the years.
KING: Any thoughts, Mark, on where he might be?
SHURTLEFF: Listen, we’ve had information from all over the country. He’s got safe houses in lots of places. We believe he’s been in Texas. He’s been in Canada. Right now he could be overseas.
I mean as has been explained he has an army that’s protecting him. He’s got all the money, cash he needs. He’s got the ability to move around. That’s what makes him unique and why it’s so important that he belongs on this list because it’s going to be very difficult to find him and we just hope that this will make it happen.
KING: What do you make of him?
SHURTLEFF: Look, you have to understand as has been described to you it’s the kind of person that we’ve grown to know and that is he’s a man who is more powerful than a Mafia boss because, you know, the Mafia would control by fear of taking your life.
But Warren Jeffs has not only the lives of his people, 10,000 people in his hands where he can at a whim take away your home, your job, your family, your kids, your wives, but as has been explained several times, he also controls people’s very eternal existence and the threat that if they get crosswise they will burn in hell.
So, he takes away any hope even after this life and that’s a huge power that he has over his people and it’s allowed him for many, many years because law enforcement has turned a blind eye to his activities to become a demagogue and a tyrant and to commit these crimes.
KING: Mark, we know there are I guess thousands of polygamist families in Utah. Why aren’t they arrested?
SHURTLEFF: Well, there are thousands and there are tens of thousands of children that belong to those families. We just simply do not have the resources, Larry, to put every adult consensual bigamist in jail and then put their kids into the foster care system.
We felt like it was important to use our limited resources going after those who are — who commit the most heinous crimes and Warren Jeffs certainly is one of those people. And, by the way, I’ve talked to a lot of these polygamists and they, many of them outside of the FLDS church, abhor what Warren Jeffs is doing. They don’t support him and they support us in our efforts to try and catch him and bring him to justice.
KING: Are you a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?
SHURTLEFF: I am indeed, Larry. I’ve got a history in my ancestry tree of polygamy when it was practiced well over 100 years ago and people have asked me about that and it doesn’t matter.
I mean obviously my church today excommunicates people for that practice and it is against the law and it is being used in a way by Warren Jeffs and others to commit crimes, heinous crimes against women and children and young boys in the name of religion and that’s just wrong, flat out wrong.
And we need your help. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate, Larry, with your tens of millions of viewers they need to look for this man and contact the FBI and that is the way we’ll bring him to justice and we hope it can happen peacefully.
KING: Does the — is this an embarrassment to the church?
SHURTLEFF: You know I can’t speak for the church. I know that they are concerned because there is still some confusion when you show shows like “Big Love” and people are still confused over the fact that these are fundamentalist excommunicated Mormons who are practicing this. So, I think there is some concern there.
And, I know that you’ve run statements from LDS Church leader Gordon B. Hinckley about this. I’m a law enforcement official. My job is to get out there and do what we can to try and bring these folks to justice and to protect women and children. And, unfortunately for 50 years, Larry, they hadn’t been protected.
KING: And, Mark, do you fear possibly in the capture or attempted capture, violence?
SHURTLEFF: I do, Larry, for the fact that I know many of his bodyguards. I know that they are zealots that they see this man as not just a prophet but God on earth and they are armed. And, I am very concerned that they will fight to protect him.
But, it’s really in Warren’s hands. If he’s watching you, and I hope he is, I hope he will just turn himself in. His people have. I don’t know why he feels he’s above that. He says God is fighting his battles and we want — if that’s true then Warren come in and let him fight them in court. Please don’t let this turn to violence. Turn yourself in.
KING: Do you know him, Mark?
SHURTLEFF: I have never met him. From day one, now five years ago, I’ve extended invitations to try and sit down with him well before we had charges that had been filed against him. We were simply looking for evidence and information. I got word in that I would love to sit down with him and he’s always refused that.
Now, why, I think he thinks he’s above it. He’s thumbed his nose at the law these many years. He’s been allowed to commit these crimes. You know what, bottom line, Larry, I think he’s a coward, flat out, and he’s hiding because of that and I just wish he’d step up, come in peacefully. Let the courts decide this and let’s move on.
KING: Well said, Mark Shurtleff, the attorney general of Utah, thanks for joining us, Mark.
SHURTLEFF: Thanks, Larry.
KING: As we go to break, and by the way Michael Watkiss, who is the producer of the award-winning documentary “Colorado City and the Underground Railroad,” we’re going to show you a clip from that, he’ll join our panel.
We’ll also be including your phone calls. Don’t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shortly after the funeral it was announced, to no one’s surprise, that Rulan (ph) Jeffs’ favored son, Warren Steed Jeffs, was to become the town’s new prophet.
During his father’s final years, Warren Jeffs had already assumed much of his father’s power, a power that Warren Jeffs began asserting almost immediately in ways that would bring the publicity-shy polygamists more controversy and turmoil than they had seen in generations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our panel remains and we are joined by Michael Watkiss, Phoenix television reporter who has covered the fundamentalist LDS community extensively. He’s producer of the award-winning documentary “Colorado City and the Underground Railroad.” He’s at KTVK in Phoenix. What got you onto this, Michael?
MICHAEL WATKISS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, KTVK: Grew with a polygamous background, Larry. I was mainstream Mormon, raised in Salt Lake City and had polygamous, like Mark Shurtleff, like most people in Utah. Polygamists in my own ancestral tree, saw these violations going on over the last 30 years.
And for many years there was handful of us telling these stories. It’s wonderful that this is now being exposed on a level of CNN and with you because really it is the toxic garden of secrecy that this has been allowed to go on for so many generations. And now the light of day with “Big Love,” with “America’s Most Wanted,” with you, finally people are listening.
KING: What do you make of Warren Jeffs?
WATKISS: I think he’s dangerous man. And I think the thing we need to understand is he’s charged with these crimes, rape in Utah, sexual conduct with underaged girls here in Arizona. He’s now being sought.
He continues that pattern of behavior even though he’s on the run. He continues to place underage girls into marriages with his already married adult male followers. His followers continue to fleece tax dollars at any turn and then give that money to him. He is on the run, surrounded by a following of bodyguards who are armed and then around them are women and children.
So one of your guests mentioned the specter of Waco. That hangs heavy over this story because he’s probably spending much of his time in that big compound in Texas, which is all private land. He’s got security guards around it. They go in there, there could be trouble.
KING: I want the opinion of everybody on the panel. Brent, do you think he’s a total believer in this? What do you think he thinks?
JEFFS: I think he thinks that no matter what, he’ll be protected and he’ll go to any cost or length to do so. So, I think we need to — we need to do this very smart and very quietly.
KING: Caroline, do you think he’s a, for want of a better word, a believer in his own concepts?
JESSOP: Not particularly. I actually think he’s more of a coward. I agree with Mark on this one. I think he’s been raised in an environment he’s never had a consequence for his actions and I think he’s terrified of facing some consequences because he’s committed some pretty horrific crimes against people and he’s aware that he has.
KING: Pennie, do you think he has to know that bringing a teenage girl to marry a 48-year-old guy is wrong?
PETERSEN: I think he knows that it’s wrong, but I also think that in his own twisted way, he believes that he is the mouthpiece of God. So he does believe he’s wrong, but yet he believes that he is God’s spoken — the one that speaks for God. So the way he handles it, I think is twisted. And I think he is going to be one — a hard one to catch and I think he is dangerous.
KING: John, what does he get out of it?
QUINONES: Well, I mean, he gets to keep all his millions and he gets to continue…
KING: To spend where?
QUINONES: … Well, that’s a good point. I should point out that a couple of days ago, his younger brother Seth was arrested, his 33-year-old brother in southern Colorado on charges — on suspicion of drunk driving. He was carrying with him $142,000, letters and correspondents earmarked for his brother Warren. He was also carrying seven brand- new cell phones and $7,000 worth of untraceable prepaid debit and phone cards, all, and then he later pleaded guilty to knowingly harboring and concealing his brother, the fugitive, Warren Jeffs.
KING: Brent, do you know him?
JEFFS: Yes, I do know Seth. I went to school — he was in that school with me when I grew up.
KING: What do you make of this story, Seth, with all that money?
JEFFS: I think it was great that he got caught like that. He got caught with his pants down. And embarrassed Warren and everything about him. I think that him pleading guilty also just pretty much proves that Warren is at wrong in every way.
KING: Michael, could — the attorney general thinks it’s possible, could this all end violently?
WATKISS: No doubt about that, Larry. Again the specter of Waco and Ruby Ridge hangs heavy over this entire story.
Warren Jeffs is not going to give himself up. People psychoanalyzing this man, I think he’s a sociopath, I think he’s cynical enough to know what he is doing is wrong.
But — and the real point of this, the victims in this are his own people. The cruelty that he has inflicted on his own following, taking men and saying, “I don’t like you anymore so I’m going to take your eight wives and then parcel them out to other men.” Other men want them because the old wives can come in and cook and clean for them and then that man can start marrying the daughters.
I mean, it is so twisted and so sick, they’ve likened this to organized crime. That’s exactly what it is. This is a criminal enterprise and they should approach it as such.
KING: John, do any of his followers ever submit to interviews?
QUINONES: Well not in Colorado City. We’ve knocked on his doors, we’ve tried to talk to people there and they always send the cops after us to try to chase us away.
There are pickup trucks that go around the city gunning their engines and there have been confrontations with us and our camera folks. I have been there a dozen times in the last few years, probably covering the story more than any other network. And every time we go there, they refuse to talk us to.
Now Larry, one other thing. There are other extreme versions of sex within this church that do believe — don’t believe in marriage with young girls or sex with young girls, but they do think it’s time that America embraced the idea of plural marriages at a time when same-sex marriages are being legalized in some states. They think maybe this time it’s come in modern society, for plural marriages. They argue that it does work and I’ll be doing more stories on folks who do believe in that.
KING: What do you think of it?
QUINONES: What do I think of what?
KING: Plural marriages from your observation.
QUINONES: Well, it seems to work. We visited one big mansion. You showed tape of this the last time we were on this show. And everyone there seems to be at peace. Women say they’ve learned to get along with each other, that they know where the man has been the night before. The children — and there were 75 kids in this household, all seem to be well-educated and well-disciplined. I’d like to shed more light on that and we’re going to.
KING: We’ll take a break and come back and we’ll include your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Mary Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney will be with us for the hour on Wednesday night. Don’t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I’ll tell you something else. I’ve defended Warren Jeffs all the way. If he loses this war, you lose, too. If you can come into a man’s home and take away his land because of what he worships and teaches in his church, then you can take…
QUINONES: The issue is not religion, it’s the plural marriages, it’s polygamy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s bull (BLEEP).
QUINONES: It’s child abuse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That’s bull (BLEEP).
QUINONES: We discovered this angry woman is Ruth Cook (ph), one of Laureen’s (ph) 55 siblings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a right to worship any damn thing I want and wear any damn clothes I want and I’m sick of hearing how stupid and retarded we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let’s include some calls for our panel, and we go to Los Angeles. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I firmly believe you can worship what you want but it’s my understanding that the American taxpayers are paying for this lifestyle. My question is I’ve heard that polygamists encourage their wives to abuse the welfare system. I just want to know if this is true and if it’s not, how you support a 40 or 75 member family or how you generate income.
KING: Carolyn, you want to take it first? -
JESSOP: Yes. I would like to respond to that question. When I was a child growing up in the community, few people did welfare, we worked hard and took care of our families. From what I understand there are many polygamist families that do not use welfare and are not involved in welfare fraud. The welfare fraud came into place with FLDS community several years after Jeffs took the leadership role in the community and he began encouraging large families to get on the system. Before that we found ways to survive without it.
KING: I’m sorry. Finish.
JESSOP: I was going to say, when Warren took over, the welfare fraud became extreme.
KING: Brent, do you agree?
JEFFS: I agree with what she said to a degree. When Warren took over, he tried in every way to bleed the system.
KING: John, you agree with that, too?
QUINONES: Yes. It’s called bleeding the beast. The American federal system. When we were there, we found many folks who were on not only welfare and food stamps but also property taxes not being paid and lawsuits filed on that. They’re finally cracking down, the authorities, because dozens and dozens of folks who live in that community aren’t paying property taxes.
KING: St. Louis, hello.
CALLER: Thanks for taking my call. Some of the members on the Utah Police Department are practicing polygamy. Why aren’t they being rounded up and put in jail if not removed off the police department.
KING: You mean the Salt Lake City Police Department, not the highway patrol.
CALLER: Yes, sir.
WATKISS: Many of the officers in Colorado City, in Hildale, Utah, are in fact polygamist card carrying members, followers of Warren Jeffs. Arizona, with the screams of activists like Penny Petersen and a handful of people in the media have now started to decertify these police officers, a very significant step because the law officers in Colorado City have been basically the Gestapo for Warren Jeffs, executing his dictates, running young boys out of town and chasing young girls down and bringing them back to these marriages. That’s a significant step.
There are polygamists throughout the American southwest and going and throwing them all in jail is probably unrealistic.
KING: Salt Lake City, hello. CALLER: Hi, Larry. My question is to the attorney general.
KING: The attorney general is gone. We’ll try to answer it.
CALLER: I want to know why is it my state has taken so long to enforce the laws on the book. I am a Utah native, non-Mormon and non- polygamist. We’d like to know why they never enforce the laws. I can spot a polygamist a mile away. Why can’t other people?
PETERSEN: We’ve been asking the same question, I’ve been asking it for 10 years since they married my 12 year old sister off and a year later my 14 year old sister off. That a very good question and we’re still asking.
KING: Do you know, Brent?
JEFFS: I don’t, I’m sorry.
JESSOP: I would like to respond to that. These crimes that occurred in these polygamous communities are difficult to get at from a prosecuting point of view because of the secrecy. The attorney generals office in the state of Utah is making quite an effort to open up the polygamous communities from the frame of reference that they cannot prosecute everyone involved in polygamy but they do need to prosecute crime and many people involved in polygamy are not advocating a crime.
KING: Before we take a break, I’ll come right back with you, Penny. Let’s check in with Anderson Cooper in New York City tonight. Novelty night, he’s home. He will host “AC 360″ at the top of the hour. What’s up?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: New poll numbers show President Bush’s approval rating hitting new lows, Iraq a factor. You might be surprised what else is dragging the president down. We talk to former presidential adviser David Gergen about whether he can pull out of this slump and we’ll examine Karl Rove’s strategy for Republicans come November
We’ll also take you to Darfur, Sudan, where Nic Robertson made a narrow escape from an angry mob, caught it all on the camera of his cell phone and more on the hunt for the polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.
KING: That’s “ANDERSON COOPER 360.” We’ll be right back, don’t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad had 56 children.
QUESTION: How many wives?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four wives.
ANNOUNCER: It was an oppressive childhood. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember looking out the window and feeling like I was trapped and wishing I was free.
ANNOUNCER: A year a later at 19, she’s married to Val Jessop, an older man chosen by the sect.
QUESTION: Did you know him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:: I knew him a little bit. My sister was married to him.
QUESTION: How could you marry a man you really don’t know? He happens to be married to your sister?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always felt like an intruder.
KING: Before we take our next call, Michael, what say he’s caught, is there a new leader waiting in the wings?
WATKISS: Absolutely. People think they will catch this guy and it will all go away. There have been polygamous splinter groups that splintered off the Mormon Church and they have been splintering off each other ever since. Another guy will step in there. The power in that community this is guy who can give the brides. Another man will step in and take that position.
KING: Brent, do we know the heir apparent?
JEFFS: To be honest, it’s hard to say. I think if anybody tries to take it over after we catch him, they won’t, I don’t think they’ll practice it the way he does. I hope not. It’s hard to say on that one.
KING: Port Richey, Florida. Hello.
CALLER: Yes, hi, good evening, Larry.
CALLER: My question is for John. When he was doing these interviews was he threatened in any way by the police department? And my second question is to Brent. Your family that has come out against him, do you feel any retaliation back at him — from him in any way?
KING: All right. John first.
QUINONES: We weren’t threatened while we were in the homes. We usually tried to pull them out of them and interview them outside of that town of Colorado City. Although every time we did anything on the streets of that town, as was said earlier, the cops in this town are polygamists themselves. The mayor is a polygamist.
So they clearly, quickly surrounded us, and in a couple of instances knocked our cameras down, tore off the microphones and tried to chase us out of town even though we were standing on public property.
KING: Brent, do you think you’re in any danger or your people close to you?
JEFFS: No. I don’t think he would try and come after me or my family. If he did, that would just lead a trail back to him. So I think we’re well protected.
KING: Commerce, Texas. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: Earlier, the district attorney said something about…
KING: The attorney general.
CALLER: The attorney general said something about that they knew Warren Jeffs had been hanging around the compound in El Dorado, Texas, and that he was known to have gone there various times. And I’m wondering why, especially with the Waco thing — you know, on Sunday, February 28th, 1993, they went on charges of illegal firearms and explosive charges, and that’s it. And they went in and, you know, raided the homes…
KING: Are you saying why didn’t they go in then?
CALLER: They have severe — more severe — you know, child molestation, all that stuff.
KING: Yes, why didn’t they go in sooner, Michael, when they had a chance or wasn’t it a crime? Or what?
WATKISS: You mean with Warren Jeffs?
WATKISS: These criminal charges are just within the last year. The feds have gotten involved. Again, the ark of this story goes back. This has been a ten year battle to bring it to the public’s attention. Your correspondent from ABC says they can’t talk to anybody.
That’s because a handful of us had been in there and talked to the police chief, the mayor and every time they have appeared on our cameras over the many years, it has not worked well for them because the light of day is not their friend. And they recognize that. So now, as reporters come onto this story, all doors are closed because the polygamists have recognized the light of day doesn’t help them.
And now everything’s closed down. Warren’s on the run. He’s backed into a corner. It is a dangerous situation for law officers. And they need to be wary of that. If they go stumbling into that big gated, armed compound in Texas, there could be a terrible problem.
KING: And we’ll be back with some more moments on this important topic right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While most of Colorado City’s children now attend church-run charter schools when they go to school at all, the local school district has continued to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars from Arizona taxpayers, money going to a district that now teaches only a handful of pupils, money that critics say is really going into the pockets of Warren Jeffs and his most faithful cronies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Franklin, Pennsylvania, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question is to the ladies on the panel.
CALLER: What do they do about medical care? Are they allowed to go to regular hospitals? Are they allowed to — how do they go through with their deliveries?
KING: OK. Carolyn?
JESSOP: Yes, I would like to answer that. I actually was delivered by a mid-wife who delivered my mother — yes, delivered my mother when she was being born, and the same mid-wife delivered my first four children. We are not allowed any pain medication. The baby is born in a clinic, and there is some medical care there. There is a pretty good emergency team that stands by if we have to go to the hospital. But we’re not allowed the same medical conveniences the other women enjoy during childbirth.
KING: Pennie, you have the same experience?
PETERSEN: Yes, my mother had 18 of us, had a mid-wife, had us at home. None of us went to the hospital or no medication.
KING: Hayward, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: I do sympathize with these ladies. I am a Muslim, and in the Muslim world the men are allowed to marry four women at one time. And to answer your question that was to John, is it OK to have multiple marriages? No, it’s not OK. Usually women are very unhappy, not happy at all.
KING: Do you have a question?
CALLER: My question is that are these women ever have access to a telephone or you know…
KING: Pennie, were you able to make calls?
PETERSEN: No, there was a pay phone that I had to go call Collect. And that’s how I got out is by using the pay phone and calling Collect. And I actually agree with you. Polygamy is not a nice lifestyle. It is very painful for everyone involved. And I don’t care how wonderful you try to that say it is, I know the pain that is in these families. And it’s very secretive, and it’s very well hidden. I don’t care what family that’s living it, it is painful and it is destructive on a human soul.
KING: Brent, you think your uncle will be caught?
JEFFS: Yes, I do. It’s a matter of time. And with the help of everybody and looking out for him, I really think he’ll get caught soon.
KING: John, do you?
QUINONES: With all of the attention, with local, state and officials now working closer than ever, and they are very confident that they are going to get him.
WATKISS: The end game is near, Larry.
KING: The end game is near. You think would the FBI list help, Michael?
WATKISS: Oh, absolutely. This brings an international spotlight on a guy that we’ve been chasing around Arizona for the last 10 years. He’s on the run. They have got to pick him off on the road because it’s dangerous go into one of these compounds. But to perform the marriages he has to go to his groups of followers.
So if the feds — and it’s the U.S. marshals. It’s local law enforcement. There’s a lot of layers involved. There is a federal grand jury investigating this here in Phoenix right now. You need a score card to keep track of all of the government agencies involved. Hopefully, they will get him on the road surrounded just by his bodyguards, and we won’t get any women and children hurt.
KING: And you think — we only got 20 seconds — he’ll continue to conduct these marriages?
WATKISS: Absolutely. He’ll never stop until he’s forced to stop. And he looks at himself as a martyr. He’s not going to go down easy.
KING: Thank you all very much. Brent Jeffs, the nephew of FBI fugitive Warren Jeffs, Carolyn Jessop, Pennie Petersen, John Quinones of ABC’s Primetime and Michael Watkiss of Phoenix television reporter KTVK, the producer of the award-winning documentary “Colorado City and the Underground Railroad.”
Judge Judy returns tomorrow night and Mary Cheney on Wednesday night. Right now we turn to New York City, busy night for Anderson Cooper, lots of things to cover, including what we have just been talking about. He will have a postmortem on that as well. “AC 360,” Anderson, what’s up?
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