SAN ANGELO A Texas judge on Sunday ordered law enforcement officials to immediately confiscate all cell phones in the possession of FLDS women and children now housed in temporary quarters here.
"I just called to say, hi. They are about to collect the phones, I think," one soft-spoken FLDS woman said during a telephone call to another member of the Fundamentalist LDS Church who was outside of the shelter. "I don't like what they're doing."
Several of the women inside the shelters spoke by cell phone to the Deseret News on Saturday to describe the living conditions there. Children could be heard crying in the background of each conversation. The News published an article on Sunday, quoting the women who complained there was no privacy and that their children were getting sick.
FLDS faithful outside the shelter are convinced Sunday's court order is a direct result of the women speaking to the newspaper.
"This is nothing more than retaliation of Child Protective Services to punish those who were disclosing what is really happening behind the walls of this concentration camp," said Don, an FLDS member who asked that his last name not be used. "These are my family members."
FLDS members outside of the shelter said authorities wearing rubber gloves and using metal detectors combed the facilities looking for cell phones.
"They looked in every baby diaper and over every woman and child," said one man.
Texas officials removed all 416 children from the YFZ ranch belonging to the FLDS church last week as part of a sweeping investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
Authorities allowed 139 mothers who were at the ranch at the time of the raid to accompany the children. Many of the women took cell phones with them when they left the ranch, giving them a way to place a private call. Some of those calls were made while women hid in the portable showers, one woman told the News.
Judge Barbara Walther of the Texas 51st District Court signed the order on "emergency ex parte motion to prevent the possible tampering of witnesses" at 9:20 a.m. on behalf of coordinating attorney ad litems Randol L. Stout and Carmen Symes Dusek.
The judge's order included the immediate removal of all cell phones, PDAs and smart phones from the children and all adults in the two shelters in order to "prevent improper communication, tampering with witnesses and to ensure no outside inhibitors to the attorney-client relationship."
Family members of the women and children inside the shelters have implored Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his help.
"We wish you would come and have a first-hand look at the conditions the state has put these beautiful children in," Monica S. Jessop, Patricia Keate and Shannon Maria Johnson wrote in a letter mailed Saturday to Perry. "Our innocent children are continually being questioned on things they know nothing about."
The women also hope to set up a meeting with the governor before attending a scheduled Thursday court hearing on the children's status.
FLDS attorney Rod Parker challenged Texas authorities to allow reporters and photographers inside the shelters.
"If conditions are as good as they say they are, allow the women to come out and tell their stories and then go back inside," Parker said. "If there is nothing to hide, allow reporters and photographers inside to take pictures."
An emergency meeting of the San Angelo city council was scheduled Sunday afternoon to consider adopting a disaster declaration in response to what the council called an extraordinary emergency situation."The declaration was in response to a request by the state to provide a secure facility and other necessary services for the women and children removed from the ranch.