The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to hold a hearing in Washington, D.C., next week on alleged crimes involving the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
Politicians, activists and ex-FLDS members are being contacted by staffers for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and asked if they would be willing to testify before the committee on July 24.
"I have been asked to testify," ex-FLDS member Carolyn Jessop said Monday, the day she was contacted by the senator's office. Jessop was the fourth wife of Merrill Jessop, who leads the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. She chronicled her life in the polygamous sect in her bestselling book "Escape."
Jessop said Monday she had not decided if she would attend.
"My hope would be to educate them on how difficult it is if a woman wants to leave to get on their feet and accomplish that," she said.
Others who are being asked to testify include Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
"They want me to talk about how the feds could be involved," Shurtleff told the Deseret News. "Specifically with regards to organized crime and RICO (racketeering laws)."
Both the offices of Reid and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (who sits on the committee) said Monday that nothing has been formally scheduled yet. Reid has been pushing for a U.S. Justice Department investigation into any law violations involving the FLDS Church, and even got a senior-level federal prosecutor to help out.
A Salt Lake attorney acting as a spokesman for the FLDS told the Deseret News that he was aware of no FLDS representatives being asked to testify.
"Isn't that interesting?" Rod Parker wondered aloud. "It's just the same old one-sided thing."The committee hearing comes on the heels of a task force meeting in Las Vegas last month that appeared to target the FLDS. A high-level meeting was held that involved the U.S. attorneys for Utah, Arizona and Nevada, the attorneys general for the three states, as well as law enforcement and county prosecutors. A Texas Ranger was also at that meeting. Law enforcement officials have told the Deseret News the task force was focusing on crimes within polygamy and the FLDS in particular.
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