Texas braced to defend raid on FLDS ranch
Texas officials are mounting their first legal defense of a raid on a polygamous sect’s ranch, saying the sect’s claim of search and seizure violations are groundless.
In a newly filed court document, the Texas Attorney General’s Office sets out arguments it will make at a one-hour hearing set for Oct. 1 before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther.
It comes as the state continues to build a criminal case against members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on charges related to underage marriages.
A grand jury, which has already indicted six men, will meet for the fourth time next week to consider additional charges.
Lyle Jeffs, Merril Jessop and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints filed motions challenging the state action days after the April 3 raid.
Authorities removed 439 children from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado based on allegations of sexual abuse related to underage marriages.
Jeffs and Jessop argue authorities violated members’ religious rights with a sweeping seizure of documents, photographs and electronic equipment. The warrants were so broad they “literally allowed the search of an entire neighborhood.”
They also say officers knew before entering the ranch that neither the man accused of abuse nor his alleged victim were there.
The state asks Walther to deny the FLDS claims since no charges have been filed against either Jeffs or Jessop and they thus have no standing in the case. Nor does the church, which does not own the ranch, the state argues.