Warren Jeffs in court to face contempt charge
Aug. 14, 2007
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday August 14, 2007
Wendell Musser filed a civil suit earlier this year against Jeffs, seeking his assistance in locating his former wife, Vivian Barlow, and their son, Levi James Musser, who turned 2 years old on July 30.
Musser once worked on behalf of Jeffs as a family caretaker while the 51-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist LDS Church was in hiding. Jeffs is jailed awaiting a Sept. 10 trial date on two felony counts of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony.
When Musser was arrested in Colorado for investigation of drunken driving, he was ordered by Jeffs to return to Utah and repent. After several weeks away from his family, Musser discovered Barlow and Levi had disappeared.
Musser said he began looking for them, but had no success.
After filing the lawsuit against Jeffs, Musser was notified by his father to meet family members in Hildale, Utah, where he was able to speak to Barlow and see his son. Musser hasn’t had any contact with them since that time and subsequently sued Jeffs for access to his child.
Following a default judgment against Jeffs, who did not respond to the lawsuit, 5th District Judge James L. Shumate ordered Jeffs to provide Musser with the information necessary to contact Barlow or face financial sanctions.
When confronted with questions about Barlow and Levi during a July 27 deposition conducted at Purgatory Correctional Facility, Jeffs repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
“The question is, what is he raising it (Fifth Amendment right) for?” said Musser’s attorney, Roger Hoole, adding the judge will address the issue during today’s hearing.
According to court documents filed Wednesday by Jeffs’ Las Vegas attorney, Richard Wright, Musser was informed before and after the deposition that Barlow was retaining an attorney to handle the custody issues involving their son.
“Now that Barlow has come forward to participate in legal proceedings to determine the best interest of Levi, the plaintiff (Musser) is in a position to obtain judicial review of his rights respecting Levi,” Wright wrote in the documents. “A deposition for the purported reason of learning contact information appears disingenuous on the part of the plaintiff, since Barlow stands willing with representation to address the issues pertaining to Levi’s best interests.”
Barlow, who filed a motion on Aug. 3 to intervene in the case, alleges that Musser is an alcoholic and drug abuser and should be allowed only supervised visitation with Levi.
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