FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. €” An Arizona judge has ordered a former member of a polygamous sect to submit to an interview with attorneys for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs with only her attorney present.
Flora Jessop was scheduled to give a deposition on Nov. 24 in Phoenix. But when she arrived, Jeffs’ attorneys said she had a television reporter and cameraman with her and insisted that the proceeding be recorded by the media.
Attorneys for Jeffs called that an unacceptable publicity stunt that they would have no part in. They asked Mohave County Judge Steven Conn to prohibit media recordings of pretrial interviews.
Conn granted the motion this week after prosecutors said they didn’t object.
“The court determines that a desire to turn a pretrial discovery process into a media event, whether for self-promotion purposes or otherwise, is a failure to cooperate in granting a personal interview,” Conn wrote in his ruling.
Jeffs’ attorneys want to question Jessop about a raid of a polygamous sect ranch in Eldorado, Texas, earlier this year. They say she was in constant contact with the woman believed to have made a call to Texas authorities that led to the raid.
Jessop fled the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a teenager and is executive director of the Child Protection Project, a Phoenix-based organization that helps girls and women leaving the polygamous culture.
She recorded nearly 40 hours of conversations with someone who claimed to be the twin sister of the woman who made the initial call to Texas authorities.
Jessop acknowledged on Thursday that she invited a reporter to the deposition. But she says that was only after Jeffs’ attorney, Mike Piccarreta, had invited one, too, who Jessop declined to have present.
“I don’t care if the cameras are there or not. The point was Mr. Piccarreta invited media of his choosing, who is pro-polygamous, to the interview,” Jessop said. “I opted to have somebody there that would tell the truth, and that’s what he didn’t like.”
Jeffs, leader of the FLDS, is jailed and awaiting trial in Arizona on four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor. Those charges stem from the marriages of two teenage girls and their adult male relatives.
The call that prompted the Texas raid is now considered a hoax, but children were separated from their families for about two months while police and child welfare authorities investigated.
Jeffs attorneys are scheduled to interview three Texas law enforcement officials about the raid next week.
Piccarreta has questioned whether Arizona law enforcement officials have been “tainted” by exposure to evidence he says was illegally seized in the Texas raid.
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