Diaries and dictations may be used to build underage marriage cases against Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs as a grand jury meets today in Eldorado, Texas.
Court documents obtained by the Deseret News focus on three marriages allegedly performed by Jeffs on July 27, 2006, including one in which Jeffs himself is purported to have been "sealed" to a then-12-year-old girl.
"I seek unto the Lord for his Spirit to be with me and guide this record-keeping," Jeffs began a dictation recorded that night.
The document said it was recorded "at the place of refuge R17," which Texas authorities say is another name for the Yearning for Zion Ranch. In the dictation, Jeffs said he had a vision.
"The Lord showed me a quorum of three ladies to assist. I thank the Lord for those gifts and blessings.
I was shown that I should perform three marriage sealings tonight, Brother Wendell's daughter (name redacted,) my daughter Teresa, and also Merril Jessop's daughter (name redacted)," he said.
The documents were exhibits in a report prepared by court-appointed child advocates in connection with the case of 16-year-old Teresa Jeffs. The girl is seeking to replace her court-appointed ad litem, Natalie Malonis, whom she accuses of not obeying her wishes in custody proceedings.
Teresa Jeffs wants to meet with Judge Barbara Walther in an attempt to oust Malonis from her case.
On Monday, Malonis filed papers seeking to have the report prepared by the Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) sealed, saying, "The report and attachments contain sensitive information pertaining to allegations of sex abuse of a minor."
Malonis acknowledged that the timing was a little late but said she was trying to protect her client. "It would prevent any further dissemination, at least from the court," she told the Deseret News Monday night.
Walther has yet to rule on Malonis' motion. The CASA report was made public late Friday when it was filed in the 51st District Court in San Angelo. CASA is an independent organization appointed by the courts to act on behalf of a child's best interests. Its report said that if Teresa Jeffs' wishes were to be followed, "it would place her in a dangerous environment and subject her to sexual abuse."
The evidence cited in the CASA report came from law enforcement and Texas CPS, the group said. The report urged the judge not to remove Malonis from representing Jeffs.
"The circumstances of this case certainly necessitate the attorney ad litem's substituted judgment for her client," it said.
Based on photographs, marriage records, letters and cards, CASA said it concluded that Teresa Jeffs was involved in an "intimate relationship" with her purported husband, 34-year-old Raymond Jessop.The Deseret News normally does not name alleged sex-abuse victims, but Teresa Jeffs has gone public in media interviews and statements insisting she is not a victim.
In a December 2006 entry in her diary, Teresa Jeffs recalled her wedding day.
"The Lord blessed me to go forward in marriage July 27, 2006, the day after I turned 15 years old," she wrote.
In neat cursive, she described meeting with her father, who told her: "Teresa, the Lord would like you to get married tonight, now what do you think of that? Are you willing?"
In his dictation, the FLDS leader said that he gathered members of his faith's priesthood together for a meeting.
"I then talked to Brother Merril Jessop and Raymond Jessop after the young men left. I told Raymond Jessop the Lord had revealed that my daughter Teresa should be sealed to him tonight, and he should come by 8:30 p.m. He left the room," Jeffs said.
Three sealings were performed that night, Jeffs' dictation said. Among them was a then-12-year-old girl who was shown in photographs that became evidence in a child-custody hearing. The photos show Jeffs kissing the girl in a manner that Texas Child Protective Services lawyers described as "how a husband kisses a wife.""I delegated Merril Jessop to perform the sealing," Warren Jeffs wrote. "And there was sealed (the girl) to Warren Steed Jeffs. That's me!"
After the marriage sealings, Jeffs said he and Merril Jessop discussed an FBI agent who sought to get Jessop to testify against the FLDS leader.
"So there is that effort trying to come right among the people on this land," Jeffs said. "May the Lord deliver us from our enemies."
During a prayer circle, Jeffs spoke of a grand jury proceeding in Arizona.
"And in this circle prayer, we presented before the Lord this woman judge to be handled, the judge over the grand jury hearing in Phoenix, whom the Lord has revealed is a bitter enemy, asking the Lord to remove her from the scenes if needs be, and to open doors of deliverance for the faithful," he said.
At the time, a federal grand jury had been convened in Arizona, presumably to learn the whereabouts of Jeffs. A few weeks after the dictation, Jeffs was arrested in a traffic stop on I-15 outside Las Vegas.
"This has been a marvelous time to be on the land of refuge, as the ordinances of the Priesthood carry on and are administered," Jeffs said in the July 2006 dictation.
"We carry on in administering these ordinances; the Lord doing it. God lives, and He shall have a prepared people. I am willing to all that He directs, the Lord and father guiding and helping me, praying that the Kingdom of God will grow even this night, that a quorum of wives will advance, saying this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." -->
Jeffs, 52, was convicted last year in Utah of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. In Arizona, Jeffs is currently facing charges of sexual misconduct as an accomplice, accused of performing similar marriages in that state.
Rod Parker, a Salt Lake attorney acting as a spokesman for the FLDS Church suggested Monday there is more to the story than was being portrayed in the CASA report.
The CASA report and accompanying exhibits do not explicitly say that any sexual activity occurred. Indeed, FLDS members say consummating a marriage may not take place right after a wedding ceremony in their culture.
"The FLDS people do not believe in force in any area of life. Many marriages are not consummated until months, or sometimes even years, after the ceremony is performed. The husband and wife must first learn to know, love, and trust one another," said a recent posting on the FLDS Web site truthwillprevail.org, pointing out that courtship often takes place after marriage.
Last month, the FLDS Church clarified its position on marriage, committing not to preside over the marriage of "any woman under the age of legal consent in the jurisdiction in which the marriage takes place."
"The church will counsel families that they neither request nor consent to any underage marriages," FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop said at the time.
Regardless, the dictations and diaries could be evidence in ongoing child welfare and criminal investigations. Hundreds of boxes of evidence were seized from the YFZ Ranch, but Texas authorities refuse to comment on their contents.
"I am not able to say anything about any evidence that has been filed with the court, or about any grand jury proceedings," said Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety Monday.
The Texas Attorney General's Office has also refused to comment on the grand jury, noting laws surrounding the secrecy of such proceedings.
The FLDS have come under scrutiny in Texas after an April raid on their YFZ Ranch near Eldorado. CPS workers and law enforcement responded to the ranch after a phone call to a San Angelo family crisis center by someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old girl in an abusive marriage. A Colorado woman has been under investigation as the possible placer of hoax calls.Once on the ranch, authorities claim they saw other signs of abuse and a judge ordered more than 400 children removed. The case fell apart after two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly in removing all of the children.