6 men from polygamist sect charged

July 23, 2008|By Dallas Morning News

ELDORADO, Texas - Six men from a West Texas polygamist community - including incarcerated sect leader Warren Jeffs - have been indicted by a grand jury on charges including felony sexual assault of a child.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the charges against members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints yesterday evening.

He said he hopes to extradite Jeffs, 52, who is now in an Arizona jail awaiting trial on other charges, "as quickly as possible." He would not reveal the identities or whereabouts of the other men from the Yearning For Zion ranch.

"The indictments issued today are part of an ongoing and continuing criminal investigation," Abbott said. " ... There will be an aggressive attempt to apprehend them."

Neither attorneys for the FLDS nor Willie Jessop, who is leading the Eldorado sect in Jeffs' absence, could be reached for comment after the indictments. But outside the courthouse yesterday afternoon, Jessop told reporters that he hoped there would be no criminal charges and said the grand jury proceedings were "a continued harassment" of the sect.

The state, he said, "has spent millions of dollars on this, and now they've got to justify it."

The state alleges that sect members permitted a culture of sexual abuse and "spiritual" marriages" between young girls and older men to flourish in the polygamist community.

This spring, child welfare investigators got a court order to seize 440 children and roughly two dozen women from the ranch and put them under state custody. That action was overturned by the Texas Supreme Court months later.

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