Bigamy charges against cult leader Yisrayl Hawkins dismissed in plea deal

Bigamy charges against West Texas church leader dismissed

Bigamy charges against West Texas sect leader Yisrayl Hawkins were dismissed Thursday after the head of the House of Yahweh pleaded no contest to four cases involving child-labor violations, the Callahan County attorney announced.

Hawkins, 74, was scheduled to go on trial Nov. 9 in Weatherford after 42nd District Judge John Weeks granted a change of venue from Callahan County. Hawkins’ attorneys had argued that an impartial jury could not be seated there.

County Attorney Shane Deel said in a statement that Hawkins agreed to pay a $2,000 fine and serve 15 months of probation in each child-labor case.

Two factors contributed to the dismissal of charges, he said.

“First, the change of venue made the case financially impractical to try. Second, there were some substantial issues with the case and the statute of limitations,” Deel said.

“While we literally have a mountain of evidence against Yisrayl Hawkins in relation to these cases, most of it dates back to before 2005. At that time, bigamy was a Class A misdemeanor with only a two-year limitations period. While I can make an argument about the continuing nature of the conduct, it is simply not worth the county’s resources to pursue the case in Parker County with the necessary expenses that that will entail when the outcome is as uncertain as it is.”

The Legislature made bigamy a felony crime in 2005. Last year, Deel charged Hawkins with four counts of promoting bigamy and one of practicing bigamy. The charges of violating child-labor laws by forcing children to work at the church’s property are misdemeanors.
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The dismissal of the charges shocked Margo Hawkins, Yisrayl Hawkins’ 36-year-old daughter, who left the House of Yahweh when she was 22. “It’s a cult. They brainwash people,” she said.
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: Bigamy charges against West Texas church leader dismissed, Steve Campbell, Star Telegram, Oct. 19, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Deel said the district attorney’s office will continue to closely monitor the House of Yahweh.

Deel said he will continue to assist those who wish to get out of the House of Yahweh.

“Many people were duped into changing their last names to Hawkins as part of an indoctrination into the cult,” Deel said. “We will help them get their names changed.”

Deel offered to change the names on a pro-bono basis with the individuals only having to pay court costs.

He also would like for women of the group and former members to pursue efforts to collect child support.

– Source / Full Story: Bigamy charges against Yisrayl Hawkins dropped , Celinda Emison, Abilene Reporter-News, Oct. 29, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Yisrayl Hawkins is the leader of the House of Yahweh, a religious cult in Abilene, Texas.

Hawkins is notorious for his frequent doomsday predictions — most recently announcing that nuclear war would begin on June 12, 2008 — or sooner.

Hawkins prophesying nuclear war to start on September 12, 2006

In Kenya, hundreds of his followers actually hid in basement bomb shelters and donned gas masks on the date.

Former members say there is a method to Hawkins’ madness, that the doomsday predictions help him make money and keep disillusioned members from leaving, for fear they will be killed when the end comes.

“He’s been saying just give me two more years, we’re right at the end,” said former member Miriam Martin who left in 2004.

“Why would you give up now? That’s how he controls people, is through fear,” Martin said.

Other former members say they are required to buy doomsday food and supplies from a company that Hawkins owns personally, Life Nutrition Products.

“Everything that he preaches has to do with people buying something,” said former House of Yahweh elder David Als of New York City.

– Source / Full Story: Texas Sect Leader: Doomsday Begins Next Thursday, June 12, ABC News, June 6, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Bigamy trial of House of Yahweh cult leader Yisrayl Hawkins moved; sect puts Jesus in jumpsuit

Hawkins trial moved to Parker County

The bigamy trial of House of Yahweh leader Yisrayl Hawkins has been moved to Parker County, after 42nd District Judge John Weeks approved a change of venue today.

The trial will be held Nov. 9.
[…]

Hawkins stands charged with four counts of promoting bigamy and one count of practicing bigamy. Each bigamy charge is considered a second-degree felony and carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison with a $10,000 fine.

He also is charged with breaking child-labor laws, a Class B misdemeanor. According to court documents, up to 40 children spent 40 hours a week working on the House of Yahweh property in Callahan County.

A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

– Source / Full Story: Hawkins trial moved to Parker County, Celinda Emison, Abilene Reporter News (Texas), Oct. 14, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Sect Depicts Jesus in Jumpsuits

ABILENE, TX—The House of Yahweh mailed out a 33-page publication this week depicting Jesus and some of the apostles in the same orange jumpsuits worn by its leader, Yisrayl Hawkins.
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The publication, called The Prophetic Word, also includes letters from Hawkins, newspaper clippings that refer to his arrest and impending trial, and prophecies about the end of the world.

Three different pictures of Jesus show him wearing the same orange jumpsuit and white undershirt that Hawkins has been photographed in numerous times.

Various paragraphs state that orange jumpsuits are used to de-individualize people and “carry associations of guilt and conviction,” and that the color can be traced back to the occult.

“You have clothed the Only Prophesied Savior in orange,” it states above a depiction of Jesus being brought to court.

Hawkins has made national headlines over the past few years, predicting nuclear war that would end the world in 2006, then 2007, then 2008. Former members, like Doug Hawkins, says the doomsday predictions are meant to keep members from leaving the sect out of fear.
[…]

– Source / Full Story: Sect Depicts Jesus in Jumpsuits , Laura Kellerman and Victor Sotelo, KTAB, Oct. 9, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

View KTAB’s video report

House of Yahweh leader claims sect is unfairly targeted

Yisrayl Hawkins House of Yahweh leader Yisrayl Hawkins has penned a four-page newsletter sent to thousands of residents in Taylor, Callahan and Jones counties, claiming the news media has wrongly portrayed the group.

House of Yahweh adviser John Young said the newsletter isn’t an effort to influence potential jurors when Hawkins goes to court — probably later this year — to face bigamy and other charges. [Read more...]

House of Yahweh sect elder sentenced to 30 years

Yedidiyah Hawkins A judge sentenced a religious sect’s elder to 30 years in prison for molesting an 11-year-old girl during a phony cervical cancer exam.

Hawkins has no medical training but used a gynecological medical instrument to examine the girl at a home in 2005, according to trial testimony. A former House of Yahweh member testified that Hawkins actually was worried the girl was not a virgin. [Read more...]

House of Yahweh sect elder convicted of sex assault of child

Erin Prophet Yedidiyah Hawkins, 40, a House of Yahweh elder, was convicted Monday of aggravated sexual assault of a child. A judge will set the sentence, expected within 45 days. Hawkins earlier decided that he wanted a judge to assess the punishment if jurors found him guilty.

The sect’s leader, self-proclaimed prophet Yisrayl Hawkins, faces trial later this year on bigamy and child labor charges. He is accused of having more than 20 wives, performing polygamous weddings and forcing about 40 children to work jobs at his 44-acre compound in rural Clyde near Abilene. [Read more...]

Girl testifies in Yedidiyah Hawkins’ sexual assault trial

Yedidiyah Hawkins Testimony from a 15-year-old girl revealed new details Friday about the allegations of sexual assault of a child by a House of Yahweh elder.

The girl, 11 at the time of the alleged assault, testified that her stepfather Yedidiyah Hawkins, 40, used a vaginal speculum — a medical instrument used by gynecologists — to perform an examination on her. [Read more...]