FLDS members claim raid breaches constitutional rights

SAN ANGELO, Texas – For the first time, the FLDS have responded to the state raid on the YFZ Ranch that began last Thursday and is just now nearing completion.

In five filings released today, Isaac Jeffs and Merrill Jessop said the sect’s constitutional rights were violated in a massive search that was overly broad and vague in its focus.

Merrill Jessop oversees the ranch and its residents. Isaac Jeffs is the brother of Warren S. Jeffs, who led the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints until he was convicted last year of two counts of being an accomplice to rape.

Isaac Jeffs was with his brother when Warren Jeffs was arrested outside Las Vegas in 2005. The charges against Warren Jeffs were based on a marriage he conducted between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001.

Attorneys Evan Pierce-Jones and Nathan Butler of San Angelo and Patrick T. Peranteau of San Antonio are representing Jessop and Isaac Jeffs, who also filed documents objecting to the raid on behalf of the FLDS church.

A hearing is set for Wednesday before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther to hear the mens’ motions.

The men say it is “impossible” that the sealed affidavit that triggered the investigation at the ranch listed sufficient evidence to search “each and every residence, structure, school, vehicle, place of business, temple or other facility.”

The filing describes the ranch as essentially an “unincorporated city or neighborhood of 300 to 400 residents” that includes single and multiple family homes, a doctor’s office, a cheese manufacturing plant, a cement plant and other buildings spread over 1,691 acres.

The men also point out that the arrest and search warrants targeting Dale Barlow are moot since he has been located in Colorado City, Ariz.

The motions, which were filed Saturday at 11 a.m., also objected to law officers entering the temple located on the ranch.

FLDS members “consider it a desecration of one of their holiest sites for a non-member to enter their temple,” it said. “Such a desecration would be irreparable.”

A second document said the temple contains no birth, marriage or other records listed in the search warrant and that the Texas constitution “will not permit the rummaging through of a sanctified religious sanctuary . . . any more than it would permit authorities to rummage through the Vatican.”

It said the temple has six gates that could be easily secured for a brief period – suggesting that the FLDS were willing to let the officers enter the building briefly.

About 12 hours later, a SWAT team did enter the temple and took just five minutes to secure it.

Allison Palmer, assistant district attorney for the 51st District, filed a response that said neither men has standing, or a legal right to participate, in the matter or an expectation of privacy on the ranch. She also said arguments to suppress evidence seized are premature.

Also released today was a new search warrant issued by Walther at 10 p.m. on Sunday.

It authorizes searches of all buildings, temples, temple annexes, places of worship, vaults, safes, lockboxes, locked drawers, medical facilities, structures, places and vehicles at the ranch.

Without naming a specific person, Walther authorizes officers to seize various records and items related to girls under the age of 17 who have been married to older men.

The list includes prenatal and birth records of children; marriage records; wedding photos; computer storage devices of all types that might include images of such girls with their purported husbands; family Bibles or books listing similar information; medical records; bed linens, undergarments, hair fibers, bodily fluids, blood and clothing; video cameras; and cell phones.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday April 8, 2008.
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