Trial of former FLDS Frederick Merril Jessop bishop moved

SAN ANGELO, Texas — The trial of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints former bishop Fredrick Merril Jessop on a charge of conducting an illegal ceremony will be held in Coke County.

Jessop was indicted on charges that he conducted a ceremony prohibited by law by marrying an underage girl to Warren Jeffs, the church head of the FLDS in 2006.

The San Angelo Standard-Times says

At a final pretrial hearing Friday in San Angelo for the 75-year-old Jessop, 51st District Judge Barbara Walther allowed the change of venue requested by the defense.

The trial will start Oct. 31.

Representatives of the San Angelo media were called to testify at Friday’s hearing about extensive reporting of the April 2008 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, the seizure of more than 400 children and coverage of sect leader Warren Jeff’s trial. […]


Jessop’s attorney, Rae Leifeste of San Angelo, argued that while the majority of the news coverage was about the raid and Jeff’s trial, many stories referred to related cases including that of his client. […]

Coverage alone isn’t grounds for change of venue, Walther said, and asked Lefieste to show prejudice, inaccuracy or bias in the reporting.

Lefieste presented a newspaper opinion article published three weeks ago, a list of headlines he said showed the newspaper expressed an opinion, and negative comments attached to online stories.

He suggested the trial be moved somewhere else in Texas, but did not provide media reaction in other cities. State prosecutors argued that FLDS coverage was not onlyTexas-wide, but nationwide. […]

Performing an illegal ceremony is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 22, 2013