An attorney for the Fundamentalist LDS Church says Utah authorities are spreading "slanderous statements" and jeopardizing public trust by profiling members of the polygamous sect.
Reacting to a Deseret News report about dossiers of FLDS members deemed a potential threat, FLDS spokesman Rod Parker sent a letter to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap and Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith. Copies of the letter were also sent to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., St. George's mayor and police chief, the Washington County Commission and the director of the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training, which certifies and disciplines police officers.
Parker said he wrote the letter on behalf of FLDS member Willie Jessop and others who were identified in the profiles given to Texas authorities by Utah law enforcement.
"We believe those profiles contained statements which your office either knew or should have known were unsubstantiated or from unreliable sources," Parker wrote. "Such irresponsible use of the justice system puts at risk numerous citizens and law enforcement officials of other jurisdictions and states."
Under Texas public records law, the Deseret News obtained e-mails from Utah authorities warning Texas law enforcement about certain FLDS members deemed potential threats. It came in the aftermath of the raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
Much of that information was gathered during last year's high-profile trial of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who was convicted of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Parker suggested that the massive security beef-up around the courthouse was based on "paranoia."
"Willie Jessop, for example, had sniper weapons aimed at him, extra security placed around him, and accusations made that his mere presence in this public proceeding was intimidating a witness, yet your own security officers acknowledge that they observed nothing intimidating in his conduct," Parker wrote.
Jessop was referred to in the dossiers as "Willie the Thug." Other FLDS leaders were also deemed potential threats. In his letter, Parker blamed any bad relations between the polygamous sect and law enforcement to their willingness to be manipulated by "hate groups who wish to see the FLDS destroyed."
Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith told the Deseret News on Tuesday that he did not wish to comment on the letter.
Utah attorney general's spokesman Paul Murphy noted that his office did not compile the dossiers, but said Parker appears to be doing what he has accused law enforcement of doing "painting with a broad brush."
"We do the best we can to gather reliable information and pass it along," Murphy said Tuesday. "If he has information that can help correct anything that's been said, we welcome that information. I think he unfairly characterizes where we get our information."The Utah Attorney General's Office recently began a dialogue with Jessop over the FLDS' statement saying it no longer condones underage marriages and said it hopes to have future meetings about other issues.