The former spokesman for the polygamous sect led by Warren Jeffs says in a new lawsuit that sect leaders arranged a nighttime burglary that gutted his business after he was excommunicated for refusing to falsify sect records on Jeffs’ marriages to underage girls.
Willie Jessop, a onetime Jeffs bodyguard and sect spokesman, is seeking more than $100 million in damages for business losses, repayment of money he loaned for sect legal expenses and compensation for abuse his family has suffered since leaving the group.
Filed Thursday in 5th District Court, the suit sheds light on Jessop’s high-profile break with Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its consequences for both Jessop and his family. […]
In the suit, Jessop says he was excommunicated from the FLDS because he refused to place a false letter in the sect’s priesthood record, which is considered holy.
The letter was a response to early 2011 allegations that Warren Jeffs had married 12- and 13-year-old girls brought to Texas from a sect settlement in Canada. The evidence of the marriages was gathered in a massive 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. Jeffs was later convicted in Texas and sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two other underage girls he took as wives.
When the evidence about the Canadian girls came to light in February 2011, Jeffs prepared a letter from his Texas jail cell saying senior church leaders — Merril Jessop and Wendell Nielsen, who were subsequently expelled from the church — had conspired against him with Canadian law enforcement. Willie Jessop was told to put the letter in the church records.
“Knowing that the information … was false, Jessop had refused to place such information in the Church’s records,” the suit alleges. Meanwhile, Willie Jessop said he’d examined other evidence Rangers planned to present against Warren Jeffs, confirmed its authenticity for himself, and decided he couldn’t support Warren Jeffs as his leader.
Jessop says his refusal to put the letter in the records and loss of faith in Jeffs led to a late-night meeting last February in which Lyle Jeffs, the leader who represents his brother Warren in Utah, informed Willie Jessop he’d lost priesthood.
When Willie Jessop told Lyle Jeffs he didn’t believe that “revelation” had come from God, he says Lyle Jeffs threatened to falsely declare him an adulterer if he didn’t accept the directive and leave his home, family and business behind.
Jessop again refused, and his family decided to stay with him. That decision resulted in his children’s expulsion from FLDS schools and verbal harassment from members, including accusation of apostasy and “publicly stating that they have betrayed other church members, and claiming they will suffer eternal damnation,” according to the suit, which also alleges Jessop said he and his business have also been put under 24-hour surveillance by guards and cameras.
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