The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has formally scheduled a hearing next week on crimes within polygamous sects.

The July 24 hearing in Washington has been formally titled: "Crimes associated with polygamy: The need for a coordinated state and federal response."

The committee announced the hearing on Wednesday, but did not include a witness list. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sits on the committee.

The main target of the committee hearing appears to be the Fundamentalist LDS Church, whose ranch in Eldorado, Texas, was raided by child welfare authorities and law enforcement in April on allegations of abuse. Hundreds of children were removed from the YFZ Ranch, but ultimately returned after two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly.

Among those invited to testify are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and ex-FLDS members. Shurtleff told the Deseret News on Thursday he may not be attending.

"I've alerted the judiciary committee it's probably because of my medical condition that it's not going to be possible," he said.

Shurtleff is recovering from a round of surgeries to repair a leg he severely injured in a motorcycle accident.

"I confirmed I'd meet their request," ex-FLDS member Dan Fischer said in an e-mail to the Deseret News on Thursday.

Carolyn Jessop, who was married to YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop and chronicled her departure from the church in her bestselling book "Escape" also said she had been invited, but was unsure if she would attend.

FLDS members have not been invited to testify, but planned to show up anyway.

"We've become an easy target because we've been polite," said FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop.

Reid has been pushing for federal intervention into crimes within polygamous sects, even asking the U.S. Justice Department to get involved.

Authorities from Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas met behind closed doors in Las Vegas recently to discuss how to work cooperatively in combating such crimes.

A grand jury in Eldorado is also scheduled to meet next week to hear evidence of crimes within the FLDS Church.


Contributing: Associated Press


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