Informant: Men had sex with underage girls in FLDS temple. Judge rules sect can challenge massive search.

SAN ANGELO, Tex. – Adult FLDS men were having sex with underage brides inside the massive limestone temple at the polygamous sect’s Texas ranch, a confidential informant told authorities.

According to a request for a search warrant unsealed today by a Texas judge, Schliecher County Sheriff David Doran has been working with a confidential informant who has shared information about the ranch over several years. On Saturday, as a sweeping raid was underway at the YFZ Ranch, the informant spoke to Doran and made the allegation about the temple, the court filing said.

The affidavit was from Texas Ranger Leslie Brooks Long, who reported being at the ranch and observing a bed inside the temple with disturbed linens and a long hair, apparently from a female.

The document was filed in support of the state’s request for a second warrant to search the ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That warrant was signed Sunday; an earlier warrant had been signed on Thursday, the day the raid began.

Since then, authorities have removed 419 children, accompanied by 139 women.

Tom Green County District Judge Barbara Walther unsealed the documents during a hearing today.

She also ruled three members of the sect have the legal right to challenge the massive search, and said she will appoint a special master to review documents and computer hard drives seized from the sect’s ranch. The special master will determine what material is privileged and protected as strictly religious.

Gerald Goldstein, who is representing sect members, estimated that hundreds of boxes of documents have been taken from the YFZ Ranch.

“We ought to be able to cull out those that are sacred,” he told the judge. “If it relates to the children, they get it. If it doesn’t, they don’t.”

Police can seize any documents related to family lineage, he acknowledged.

Allison Palmer, assistant district attorney for the 51st District, argued that sect members did not have legal standing, or should not be allowed to challenge the search. No arrests have been made, she pointed out.

But the judge disagreed, granting legal standing to three men:

• Lyle Jeffs, representing himself and the FLDS church. He is the bishop of the FLDS church’s Short Creek stake on the border of Utah and Arizona and the father of two children taken from the ranch.

• Ranch overseer Merrill Jessop, who is also is a presiding elder in the sect.

• Isaac Jeffs, a brother of the sect’s leader.

Goldstein said the men are no longer seeking to quash two state search warrants used so far by officials, conceding the point is moot because a federal search warrant has been issued.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 10, 2008.
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