Attorney stymied by anti-polygamy activist’s TV demand

Interview regarding alleged hoax calls by Rozita Swinton

An Arizona attorney plans to seek a court order to require an anti-polygamy activist to answer questions after she refused to cooperate Monday unless a television crew was allowed to tape the meeting.

Flora Jessop had agreed to a voluntary interview with attorney Michael Piccarreta, who represents polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs. Piccarreta had asked Jessop to bring recordings of her conversations with a caller who used a phone linked to Rozita Swinton, a Colorado woman.

The phone also was used to call a Texas shelter in April, triggering an investigation at the sect’s Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado.

Jessop is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and an outspoken critic who has helped girls and women leave the sect. The FLDS have challenged the accuracy of Jessop’s claims on its Web site,

Arizona law allows attorneys to conduct voluntary interviews with individuals they believe have information relevant to their cases. Unlike depositions, such interviews are not conducted under oath. Jessop’s interview was scheduled at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix.

Piccarreta said Jessop refused to proceed unless Mike Watkiss, a reporter with KTVK Channel 3 News in Phoenix, and his cameraman were allowed to record the meeting.

Piccarreta said he had never had such a demand in 34 years of criminal defense work. “That is not the purpose of an interview, to provide entertainment on television,” he said.

He said the request also was inappropriate due to a courtroom ban on television cameras in Jeffs’ Arizona proceedings. Jeffs faces charges related to two underage marriages he conducted — one involving Elissa Wall, whose marriage at age 14 to a 19-year-old cousin was the basis of Jeffs’ conviction in Utah.

Jessop declined to immediately comment Monday.

Piccarreta said he will ask Mohave County Superior Court Judge Stephen Conn to order Jessop to sit for a deposition. He wants to ask Jessop about conversations she had between March 22 and April 16 with a caller who used the phone linked to Swinton; law enforcement in Arizona and Texas; and child welfare officials in both states.

Swinton, 33, has a history of charges of false calls for help in Colorado but has not been charged in connection with the calls to the Texas shelter. In calls that began March 29, the caller claimed to be a 16-year-old being abused by her husband at the sect’s ranch.

Jessop has said she received her first similar call on March 30. In numerous calls taped by Jessop, the caller claimed to be a young girl in Colorado City, Ariz., who was being abused by her husband. Jessop alerted authorities on April 4, but officials were unable to substantiate the claim. Jessop later said she became convinced she had been talking with Swinton.

– Source: Attorney stymied by anti-polygamy activist’s TV demand, Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah, USA), Nov. 24, 2008
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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday November 25, 2008.
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