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Polygamist appealing sex conviction seeks hearing

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 4:23 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A follower of jailed polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs is asking a Texas court to rehear an appeal of his conviction on sexual-assault charges that came after a 2008 raid on a church-owned ranch.

Michael Emack contends that a second search warrant used by police to seize church and family records during a raid on his church's Eldorado, Texas, ranch was invalid. In court papers filed Tuesday with the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, attorneys for Michael Emack said the court failed to consider that the information used to justify the warrant was wrongly based on the misrepresentations of state family services workers who interrogated dozens of ranch children. The attorneys also said it should be considered "fruit of the poisonous tree."

Authorities used the records from the Yearning for Zion ranch to bring charges against 12 Fundamentalist LDS Church men, including the faith's president and prophet, Jeffs. Emack, 60, was the first to be prosecuted.

An initial warrant allowed authorities to enter the 1,691-acre ranch. The second sought a broader search of all buildings, temples, temple annexes, places of worship, vaults, safes, lockboxes, locked drawers, medical facilities, structures, places and vehicles.

In August a three-judge appeals court panel upheld the validity of both warrants as part of Emack's initial appeal of his conviction.

But Emack's new attorneys contend that in the case of the second warrant, the court "went awry when it failed to recognized that the misrepresentations made by (state) officials allowed them to illegally enter the ranch," and that the information gathered from sect children should be suppressed.

A comment from the Texas Attorney General's Office was not immediately available on Friday.

Emack pleaded no contest last year to charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. He's now serving a seven-year term in a Texas prison.

Among six others convicted so far is Jeffs, 55, who was convicted in August of sexually assaulting two underage sect girls, whom he took as spiritual wives. He's serving a life sentence and won't be eligible for parole until he is 100.

Five other men are still awaiting trial.

A victory for Emack could potentially affect the earlier convictions.

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