SAN ANGELO, Texas A hearing about who should represent two children caught up in the custody battle involving the Fundamentalist LDS Church returns to court today.
"We're asking the court to provide another ad litem lawyer for Teresa Jeffs in substitution for the ad litem she has," Alan Futrell, an attorney who has been hired by Jeffs' mother, said Tuesday.
Futrell has also been hired to represent the mother of Warren Jessop, a boy also represented by Natalie Malonis, who was appointed by the courts to act as an attorney for them.
Jeffs, who is the daughter of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and an aunt to Warren Jessop, has been engaged in a public feud with Malonis, whom she has accused of not obeying her wishes. Malonis told the Deseret News she has an obligation to protect her client.
"It's not a matter of wanting to (represent her), it's a matter of it's my duty," she said Tuesday. "I think it's necessary to protect her interests."
When hundreds of FLDS children taken in the April raid were ordered returned to their parents, Jeffs was exempted. Malonis sought special protections for the girl, saying she was an identified sex-abuse victim. Jeffs has gone public in media interviews and on Web sites insisting she is no victim.
"Shut your mouth up and quit calling me a victim of sexual abuse," the 17-year-old wrote in an e-mail to Malonis, which was published on an FLDS Web site. "I am so sick of being called that when I am absolutely not a victim of sexual abuse and you have no evidence to prove that I have ever had sexual relations."
A report prepared by the Court Appointed Special Advocates, an independent organization appointed by the courts to act on behalf of a child's best interests, cited evidence saying that Jeffs was married at age 15 to a man named Raymond Jessop, who has since been indicted on sexual assault and bigamy charges by a grand jury in connection with the FLDS case.
CASA's report said that if Jeffs' wishes were to be followed, "it would place her in a dangerous environment and subject her to sexual abuse."
Malonis obtained a restraining order against FLDS member and sect spokesman Willie Jessop, accusing him of interfering in her relationship with her client. She said her relationship with her client is working now.
"We still have an intact attorney-client relationship. She relies on me for legal advice," Malonis said.
Teresa Jeffs was among hundreds of children taken in a raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in April, when child-welfare authorities and law enforcement responded to a call alleging abuse. The children were ultimately returned when two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and there was no evidence they were all in imminent danger.
On Tuesday, Texas Child Protective Services filed to "nonsuit" four more children, said agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins. The filings ends court jurisdiction over their cases, but not CPS supervision.According to the latest numbers released by CPS, that brings the number of nonsuits filed in the case to 257, including 26 "disputed minors" whom child welfare authorities initially claimed were children but later conceded were adults.
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