Judge: Cops must answer questions in polygamous sect leader’s case
An Arizona judge on Tuesday ordered three Texas law enforcement officers to give interviews to defense attorneys representing polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs.
Mohave Superior Court Judge Steven F. Conn gave Texas Ranger Brooks Long, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran and Deputy Sheriff John Connor 45 days to participate in personal interviews with Jeffs’ defense team or face depositions.
All three were involved in an April raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch, near Eldorado, Texas, home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Defense attorney Michael Piccarreta said repeated efforts to set up interviews had failed, slowing progress on a related motion to bar use of evidence seized during the raid in Jeffs’ Arizona trial.
Conn said in his order he was not ruling on that or other issues, including challenges raised about the legality of the search.
Texas authorities raided the ranch after receiving an abuse call that is now believed to be a hoax. Four hundred and thirty-nine children were removed from the ranch and spent two months in state custody before being returned to their parents.
Officials said they found evidence of sexual abuse during their investigation at the ranch, however, and a grand jury has indicted nine FLDS members on charges related to underage marriages.
Piccarreta said in court filings he advised Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith in mid-April that the raid would face legal challenges and any cooperation between law officers in the two states could potentially taint the Arizona proceedings.
Jeffs, 52, faces felony charges related to two underage marriages he conducted, one involving Elissa Wall. Wall was the key witness in Utah’s successful prosecution of Jeffs on rape as an accomplice charges last summer. He is serving two five-to-life prison sentences.
Despite the warning, Arizona Asst. Attorney General Timothy Linnins and Mohave County Investigator Gary Engles spent “days” pouring through “literally thousands of illegally seized documents,” Piccarreta said. He wants the judge to bar use of evidence, but also argues the exposure alone could influence future investigations and the state’s strategy at trial.
The Texas officers may have information that is now crucial to Jeffs’ Arizona case, Piccarreta argues.