ELDORADO, Texas Four members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church indicted by a grand jury here made their first formal court appearances Monday.
Raymond Merril Jessop, 36; Allan Eugene Keate, 56; Michael George Emack, 57; and Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, appeared for pretrial hearings on sexual assault charges. Merril Leroy Jessop also had a hearing on a bigamy charge.
The men filed into the Schleicher County Memorial Building, which once a month acts as a courthouse for this tiny rural Texas county. Folding tables served as the judge's bench and the prosecution and defense tables. Lawyers, clerks, inmates and spectators sat on folding chairs set up in the one-room building.
"Any preliminary discussions about the resolution of this case?" Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther asked as she called Raymond Merril Jessop's case.
"No, your honor," said Jessop's attorney, Mark Stevens.
"We have provided them with some initial discovery," assistant Texas attorney general Angela Goodwin said of the evidence in the case. "There's going to be a lot more discovery."
"And what we have is already extensive," Stevens replied.
The men all sought to have the terms of their bond changed. Under the terms of their bail, they were forbidden from traveling outside of Schleicher County.
That creates problems for the men trying to find work, their attorneys complained. Emack's attorney, Randy Wilson, said his client is a Utah resident who voluntarily surrendered when he learned he had been indicted.
"His vehicle, his tools are all in Utah," Wilson told the judge. "We can agree to stay in Texas, as long as we have a little time to get his things."
Prosecutors agreed to allow the men to leave Schleicher County to find work, but they are forbidden from leaving the Lone Star State. The judge also reiterated no contact with any of the alleged victims or witnesses in the case.
Emack and Raymond Merril Jessop were then arraigned on new bigamy indictments handed up when the grand jury met in August.
"We waive formal arraignment and plead not guilty," Stevens told the judge.
Emack also pleaded not guilty to the charge. The men are all due in court again for hearings on Oct. 27.
Six men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have been indicted by the grand jury convened to consider evidence of crimes within the polygamous sect. It stems from an April raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch, which resulted in hundreds of children being placed in state protective custody after a phone call alleging abuse.
The secret panel is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 23.Texas authorities have said they will seek to extradite Jeffs to Texas to face criminal charges. The 52-year-old church leader is currently in an Arizona jail where he is facing sexual misconduct charges, accusing him of performing underage marriages. Jeffs is serving a pair of five-years-to-life sentences after being convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.