FLDS lawyers won a court order requiring that all documents be first reviewed to ensure the sect's religious rights weren't violated. Investigators could not even begin their review of the all the documentary evidence until about six weeks after the raid — when the child custody ruling was well on its way to being overruled.
Willie Jessop, who became the public face of the FLDS after the raid, steadfastly condemned it and accused Texas officials of religious persecution. As Jeffs' trial drew closer, however, Jessop disavowed him and said he been previously unaware of the evidence of what Jeffs had been doing.
Despite all the evidence, Jeffs still has many followers, who consider him God's spokesman and a prophet. Jessop said the entire FLDS had to take responsibility, but that the state's handling of the raid was inexcusable.
"I don't agree with taking away those little children from their mothers. I'll never agree to that," Jessop said. "I believe it was barbaric, I believe it was a wholesale thing."
After viewing all the evidence, Long said there remains little doubt in his mind that the FLDS used religion as a pretext to run "an international criminal enterprise" that trafficked in young girls. He remains unconvinced that ranch residents have learned anything from the raid.
"These are the most loyal of the most loyal of the most loyal of the followers. There is no doubt that they'll continue to do his work," he said.
The FLDS is an off-shoot of the mainstream Mormon church, which rejected polygamy more than a century ago.
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