SAN ANGELO, Texas Lawyers will go to court today seeking a permanent restraining order to keep a high-profile FLDS member from contacting a 16-year-old girl.
The girl has fired off a letter to the judge overseeing the massive custody case involving the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch, seeking a new lawyer. In e-mails sent to the Deseret News and posted on pro-FLDS Web sites, Teresa Jeffs accuses her court-appointed lawyer of not acting in her best interest.
"My attorney is going against my wishes. Maybe you need a restraining order that you can absolutely have nothing to do with me and you have to stay 1,000 feet away from me! What do you think of that?" she wrote in an e-mail to her attorney ad litem, Natalie Malonis.
Jeffs has been subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before a grand jury investigating crimes involving FLDS members. The Texas Attorney General's Office said it could not find Jeffs to subpoena her, and Malonis went to court seeking a restraining order against FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop. In court papers, she accused Jessop of coercing the girl to avoid the subpoena and interfering with her relationship with her client.
Judge Barbara Walther signed a temporary restraining order that technically prevents Jeffs' mother from allowing her daughter to have any contact with Jessop. A hearing on a more permanent restraining order will be held this afternoon.
On Monday, Malonis said she spoke with the attorney for Jeffs' mother, but no agreement could be reached.
"I hoped we could, but no ... ," she told the Deseret News.
Malonis said she is prepared to call witnesses and present evidence to suggest that the girl is being intimidated and pressured by FLDS members. The judge is not expected to consider Jeffs' request for a new lawyer.
When the Texas Supreme Court ordered the hundreds of children taken in the April 3 raid to be returned to their parents, Jeffs was exempted.
Malonis said in court papers it was because the girl was an identified sex-abuse victim who had been "spiritually united" to an older man at 15. A special order was put in place for Jeffs, preventing her from contacting her father FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and a man named Raymond Jessop, who was not further identified.
But Rod Parker, a Salt Lake attorney acting as a spokesman for the FLDS, believes Malonis is not following her court-appointed duties. Because Malonis is Teresa Jeffs' attorney ad litem and not her guardian ad litem, her job is to be an advocate for the child, he said.
"Her duties under the statute are to represent the child's expressed objectives. And if the child expresses certain objectives the child wants pursued, that's what the attorney is supposed to do," Parker said.
Having Malonis represent Jeffs is not in the young girl's interest, said Parker, who doesn't like what Malonis has been saying in interviews, including an appearance on the Nancy Grace show.
"I think that she's really out on a limb in doing what she's doing and injuring her own client in a very public way," he said. "This is just a very unhealthy and dysfunctional attorney-client relationship. The court ought to grant Teresa's wish and give her another lawyer. This system of justice does not work appropriately when attorneys and their clients are at odds with each other."
Parker noted there were exceptions to the attorney ad litem rules for extraordinary circumstances. But he said, "I don't see them in this case."
Although the hearing is supposed to be limited to the restraining order, Parker hoped the issue of Jeffs' attorney would be brought up, since that was what initially led to the restraining order.
Parker said he did not know if Jeffs currently has a guardian ad litem representing her.
The Deseret News normally does not name sex-abuse victims, but the girl has gone public in media interviews and in an e-mail forwarded to the Deseret News. She insists she is not a victim.
In her e-mail, the girl said neither Willie Jessop nor Raymond Jessop has ever threatened her.
"That have treated (sic) so very kindly," she wrote.
Jeffs wrote in the communication with Malonis that she did not want the grand jury subpoena, but acknowledged being served."Well, they want me to appear before a grand jury. I do not have confidence in you and how can I get you to help me in such a situation that I am in when it feels like to me all you are doing is going against me," she wrote. "So, that is the reason that I am asking you to step aside and let me do what I need to do to and get me a different attorney."