Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will take his quest for a federal investigation of a polygamous sect before the Judiciary Committee next week.
The Nevada Democrat requested and received the July 24 hearing before the committee, during which he will present evidence to support a federal crime investigation of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a spokesman said.
Jon Summers, who works in Reid’s Washington, D.C., office, said Reid and others are set to testify.
“He is trying to step up federal enforcement against abuses that often occur in these polygamous sects,” Summers said Monday.
Reid has pushed for several years to get the U.S. Attorney’s Office to form a federal task force to look at polygamous sects and has renewed that effort because current Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey “seems more receptive to it,” Summers said.
“We have the states working together to combat this, but assistance from the federal government could also be helpful to protect women and kids,” he said.
Reid sent Mukasey a letter in April asking for his help in fighting “pervasive criminal activity” occurring in polygamous groups – specifically, the FLDS.
Over the past two decades, the states of Utah and Arizona have prosecuted cases of sexual abuse, bigamy and sexual conduct with minors involving FLDS members. The U.S. Department of Labor also has cited some FLDS businesses for violating child labor laws.
Reid contends that the FLDS are an organized crime syndicate that has engaged in bribery, extortion, fraud, embezzlement, witness tampering and labor violations. He wants the Justice Department to launch a federal racketeering investigation.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman has resisted that idea, saying that the federal government already is working with the states to investigate crimes in polygamous sects. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also has pushed for a racketeering investigation of the FLDS.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to hold a hearing in Washington next week on alleged crimes involving the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
Politicians, activists and ex-FLDS members are being contacted by staffers for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and asked if they would be willing to testify before the committee on July 24.
“I have been asked to testify,” ex-FLDS member Carolyn Jessop said Monday, the day she was contacted by the senator’s office. Jessop was the fourth wife of Merril Jessop, who leads the FLDS Church’s YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. She chronicled her life in the polygamous sect in her bestselling book “Escape.”
Jessop said Monday she had not decided if she would attend.
“My hope would be to educate them on how difficult it is if a woman wants to leave to get on their feet and accomplish that,” she said.
Others who are being asked to testify include Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
“They want me to talk about how the feds could be involved,” Shurtleff told the Deseret News. “Specifically with regards to organized crime and RICO (racketeering laws).”