ELDORADO, Texas A grand jury investigating allegations of criminal activity involving members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church has ended for the day, issuing no indictments.
The grand jury is expected to meet again next month.
A number of FLDS members appeared before the grand jury to give testimony, as did law enforcement and attorneys. Among those testifying was a 16-year-old daughter of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.
Asked if she testified, Teresa Jeffs turned and smiled at reporters before being hurried into a waiting car.
"I don't want to do it," Jeffs said as she walked into court earlier today. "It's weird."
While waiting to testify, Jeffs decided to climb a tree, amusing some spectators.
San Angelo attorney Brad Haralson represents several mothers. "I can't say a thing," he told reporters as he walked to his car.
"I don't know if there's really a schedule. They're just doing it. No agenda was sent out to anybody."
Jeffs' court-appointed attorney, Natalie Malonis, was also escorted into the courthouse earlier. Other attorneys representing FLDS women have also been present for the grand jury proceedings.
Yellow police tape has been placed around the entire court complex, which sits in the middle of a park on the same block where the Schleicher County Sheriff's Office and other government buildings are. Several parking lots have been sealed off, with sheriff's deputies manning each entrance. News media is being kept far away from anyone going in or out of the courthouse. A Deseret News reporter was even confronted by deputies, asked for ID and photographed.
Although grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, this hearing had been anything but thanks to court filings and a legal tug-of-war between Jeffs and Malonis.
Jeffs has been in a legal spat with her attorney, who sought a restraining order against FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop. Malonis has accused Jessop of coercing Jeffs into avoiding a subpoena to testify as well as interfering with her relationship with her client. Jeffs has asked the judge for a new lawyer.
On Tuesday, a deal was struck to extend the restraining order for another 90 days. A new attorney, who said he is representing Jeffs in criminal matters, appeared with her outside the courthouse.
The grand jury is reportedly investigating crimes within the FLDS Church, stemming from the April 3 raid on the polygamous sect's YFZ Ranch.
Acting on a call from someone claiming to be a 16-year-old girl, Texas child welfare workers and law enforcement went to the ranch. Once there, authorities said they saw other signs of abuse, prompting a judge to order all of the children removed from the property.
Texas Child Protective Services alleged a pattern of abuse on the YFZ Ranch, with girls groomed to become child brides and boys growing up to become sexual perpetrators. Many of the state's claims have not proved to be true, including pregnant teenagers and abused children. The original call that sparked the raid is being investigated as a hoax.
Texas CPS' case imploded when Austin's 3rd Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state acted improperly in removing all of the children. The 440 children were returned to their parents after weeks in foster care facilities scattered across the Lone Star state.
The child welfare investigation continues, as does a criminal investigation.
Law enforcement served a series of search warrants and seized nearly 1,000 boxes of evidence. Some of that evidence includes lists of families, children and other documents. A now-notorious photograph has also been made public that shows FLDS leader Warren Jeffs kissing a 12-year-old girl in a manner that Texas child welfare lawyers described as "how a husband kisses a wife."Beyond the Schleicher County grand jury, a federal investigation is under way. Also, a coalition of law enforcement from Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas recently met in Las Vegas to discuss crimes within polygamy specifically, the FLDS Church.
Contributing: Ben Winslow E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]