FLDS’ exiles reaching settlement in suit
June 20, 2006
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday June 21, 2006
‘Lost Boys’: A group alleges that Warren Jeffs forced marriages on some, ostracized others
Negotiations under way to settle lawsuits against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its property trust may include money and other unspecified benefits for the so-called Lost Boys and other plaintiffs.
Attorney Gregory N. Hoole asked 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg on Monday for more time to see if those talks succeed in averting litigation that targets the polygamous sect and its fugitive leader, Warren S. Jeffs.
“We’re making some good progress,” said Hoole, who with his brother Roger is representing six Lost Boys, Brent Jeffs and a woman identified only as “M.J.”
The Lost Boys and Brent Jeffs filed the lawsuits that nearly two years ago triggered the court-ordered takeover of the FLDS church’s United Effort Plan Trust, which holds an estimated $107 million worth of land and buildings in the adjoining towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
In their lawsuit, Richard Ream and five other boys – Tom Steed, Donald Fische,; Dean J. Barlow, Walter Scott Fischer and Richard Gilbert – allege they were driven from the community for trivial reasons to reduce competition for plural wives.
Brent Jeffs, 22, alleges Warren Jeffs, his uncle, molested him when he was about 5.
Two other uncles initially named in the suit, Leslie Jeffs and Blaine Jeffs, were dropped from the case in April.
Both lawsuits name the trust, the church and its leaders as defendants; in May 2005, after they failed to offer a defense, Lindberg placed accountant Bruce R. Wisan in charge of the trust.
Seven months later, a girl identified as “M.J.” also sued Jeffs and the FLDS church for allegedly forcing her into a “spiritual marriage” with an older man.
Hoole said his clients agreed to put their cases on hold while Wisan and an advisory board worked to revise the property trust. That document is now before Lindberg, who expects to rule on it in about a month.
Wisan also has been occupied with safeguarding UEP assets and collecting past-due property taxes from residents currently living in trust-affiliated homes. He served eviction notices on two residents last Thursday after they failed to pay taxes as requested. Wisan got a quick response.
Just after 8 a.m. on Monday, a person representing James Zitting and William Shapley arrived at the Mohave County treasurer’s office and wrote a check totalling about $7,000 for those taxes, Wisan said.
“I just wish I could do something down there without threatening and legal letters,” Wisan said.
Meanwhile, Wisan and his advisory board, made up mostly of ex-FLDS members, met Saturday with Dan Fischer, a Sandy dentist and benefactor of the Lost Boys, to hear a pitch for the latest settlement proposal.
In court, Hoole referred to that as a “joint” proposal that includes “non-monetary objectives” in the Lost Boys and Brent Jeffs cases, but said the third case may need to be “segregated.”
Any settlement reached could serve as a blueprint for others who believe they have been “injured” in their dealings with Jeffs and the FLDS church, an attorney for Wisan told Lindberg.
“We think it is important to make our best effort to reach a resolution and set an example [for others to follow],” said Zachary Shields.
Those “others” could represent a sizeable group. Fischer has estimated the Lost Boys include around 400 boys and young men – and a handful of girls – who have fled or been kicked out of the FLDS community since 1998.
Outside court, Shields said the original plaintiffs deserve special consideration, however, because they “have contributed to the reformation of the trust.”
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