On the EDge: The eyes of Texas saw the opportunity to protect its little girls, while Utah’s remain tightly shut

OPINION – Local law enforcement officials across the state take their direction from the attorney general’s office.

If he says he isn’t going to prosecute certain cases, they take his direction and go after crimes that they are assured won’t be undercut by a defense attorney standing up in court and saying: “There’s no crime here. Even the attorney general says he wouldn’t prosecute this.”

Oversight slips, things get out of hand, the crimes become more heinous.

That is, I believe, what has happened in Utah where Attorney General John Swallow has adopted a hands-off policy in prosecuting polygamy.

Recap of recent events

Incredibly, it seems a reported edict by the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Warren Jeffs, directing three men of his choosing to impregnate all girls and women of the faith 12 and older, is not being taken seriously.

The FLDS embrace the practice of plural marriage. In the context of Jeffs and his followers, marriage to underage girls is perfectly acceptable. There is nothing consensual about these marriages, they are arranged by the prophet. Removing oversight of polygamy violations of law lessens oversight of these vile crimes against children.

There is a sickening outrage stuck deep in my gut as I see the response to questions about this continue to be shrugged off.

I made a plea in print here asking Utah Attorney General John Swallow to act, to remove all of the girls between the ages of 12 and 18 from the Hildale, Utah, enclave where many of Jeffs’ FLDS followers live.

It has fallen on deaf ears.

Response from the attorney general’s office; the role of rumor

Paul Murphy, spokesman for Utah Attorney General John Swallow, told me in email correspondence that “Utah law does not allow law enforcement officers to remove children from their homes based on a rumor.”

Let me remind Mr. Murphy and Mr. Swallow that an April 3, 2008, raid by a cadre of law enforcement officials on the Yearning For Zion compound in Eldorado, Texas, resulted in 12 indictments; that Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigators found that 12 of the 43 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 who had been taken from the ranch during the raid were placed into “spiritual” marriages between the ages of 12 and 15; that seven of them had already given birth to children of their own; that 12 men were indicted on sex charges ranging from assault to bigamy; that it resulted from a rumor — an allegation — that something terribly wrong was going on at the compound.

I am sure that Texas law does not allow law enforcement officers to remove children from their homes based on a rumor, which is why they went to 51st District Court Judge Barbara Walther for an order allowing them to go into that Eldorado compound and, rightfully, remove those young girls, all of it based on one telephone call from a woman in Colorado who may or may not have had a connection to the FLDS compound.

What would have continued to happen to those little girls taken into spiritual marriage by those perverted, older men had somebody in the Texas judicial system sat back and said “we don’t act on rumors?”

What we have here is selective slicing and dicing of words and their meanings to fit a predisposed purpose. In other words, the office of our state attorney general is using a word to defend his inaction.

A rumor of war is enough to send troops overseas. If there was a rumor of murder, you could bet that law enforcement officers would be swooping in to investigate. Why, then, is the Attorney General’s Office so reluctant to send a team of investigators to Washington County to work with the local sheriff’s office to probe the veracity of these allegations?

Murphy went on to tell me in his email: “As you know our office has charged and convicted people with bigamy in relation to other crimes and our prosecutors have found that it is just as difficult to prosecute a person for bigamy as it is for child abuse.”

Actually, the only two times I recall anybody being tried on bigamy/polygamy charges was when the gutsy David Leavitt, who was the Juab County Attorney at the time, prosecuted and won a conviction of Tom Green, who was convicted of child rape for his spiritual marriage to a 13-year-old girl, and Rodney Holm, a cop who was convicted on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old girl and one count of bigamy in 2003 in Hildale.

Our judicial system is designed to make prosecution difficult, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty of the charges leveled against them.

Rumor?

It comes into play because the line between rumor and allegation is thin and gray.

We know it is no rumor that Warren Jeffs raped young girls. He has been convicted of it. So have some of his top followers. We have been told by Willie Jessop, who purchased the massive complex that Jeffs ordered his followers to build, that there was a room in one of the buildings designed specifically for Jeffs that he described as a “porn palace” and “rape room” where Jeffs intended to sexually abuse young girls. We know, as evidenced by the women who have escaped the shackles of polygamy, that very young girls are sexually assaulted, that they become fair game for older men to take as wives as soon as they reach puberty. Why is it such a stretch to believe that Jeffs, who has clearly been running his church from a prison cell in Texas, issued the latest decree?

No witnesses, no investigation

I was told by Murphy in an email that law enforcement officers in Utah and Arizona are aware of the rumor but so far have been unable to find a single witness to substantiate it.

There’s a reason why, of course.

From early childhood on, Jeffs’ followers have had it pounded into their heads that the only path to salvation is to obey his commands, whether it means adhering to the code of silence demanded of the prophet when dealing with those from the outside world or engaging in The Principle, the practice of plural marriage.

What is the most distressing, however, is that Murphy again underscored his previous statement that “the burden to bring perpetrators to justice and provide protection for victims does not just rest with the Attorney General’s Office—it is the responsibility of everyone in the state of Utah.”

I would argue that somebody has done just that, alerting the state, through the media, that Warren Jeffs has made a threat against its children.

The eyes of Texas saw the opportunity to prevent further abuse of those little girls in Eldorado.

Unfortunately, the eyes of Utah remain tightly shut.

 

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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22 Comments

  • Flat Out July 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    In the eyes of the entire worlds, such polygamist abuses against children do reflect badly upon the Mormon church. If Mormons truly are concerned about their image, especially anything that would tarnish their “child oriented” image, they would prosecute these perverts. Aiding pedophiles by allowing them a safe haven in Utah under the disguise of religion bodes badly on the Mormon church. Your Attorney General and your State Government are predominantly Mormon, right?

  • John P. Smith July 19, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    And yet, families are prosecuted for minor infractions. “Environmental Neglect” cause my 3 kids to be taken out of our care and thrown into the foster care system. Why? Because we were living where we could afford and in a complex that we were accepted at. My wife and I have been rejected from most apartment complexes because of our low income. Because we couldn’t move into a different apartment fast enough for them, DCFS took our kids away! But THIS is allowed to continue?! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?! GO AFTER THE REAL CRIMINALS!

  • deb July 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Thank u for not being a coward and sticking up for children. Commen sense, and history already dictates that this is NOT a rumor.. in the sense, ” children, justbbe ready”.. NUFF SAID … so sad.. so very sad..

  • Tyler July 20, 2013 at 12:52 am

    AMEN!! Thankyou STGnews!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Craig July 20, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Swallow is too busy trying to save his own a$$ to give a rats azz about anyone else. He has the same mentality as Shurtleff, claiming they can’t prove anything. If that is the case, why did Texas prove Jeffs is nothing more than a pedophile. Shame on Utah.

    • Flat Out July 20, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Swalllow is a disgrace to both Utah and the Mormons. Worthless bum is getting paid by taxpayers to do nothing other than protect himself from being fired. Shurtleff taught this bum well. Great examples of Mormonism. Not!

  • mom July 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I am from an eastern US state. I have read everything I can find on flds for the past eight years. I have even been able to actually speak to a few former flds on the phone or online. Based on the hundreds of reports I have read and on the things I have heard numerous times from those who were born into flds, I feel certain this “rumor” is more than a mere rumor. I think Mr. Kociela is absolutely justified in his alert to authorities, and yes, it DOES amount to actually having to go into flds areas and remove A LL underage girls. Flds is a criminal organization based squarely upon child bride-taking, polygamy, and abject, slavish, fear-filled obedience to warren jeffs. I therefore totally agree with Mr. Kociela’s outrage and alarm. It is very sad that Utah still has never really done much of anything to stop the madness of this group, but I am hoping that this newest outrage proves just what they are to anyone looking at them, once and for all. The crimes this organization perpetrates under the guise of religious freedom put hundreds in jail across the US every year, but flds continues its outrages almost completely unpunished.
    If one is aware of warren’s many ridiculous and cruel edicts so far, this order for all flds females age 12 and up to become pregnant has a ring of reality to it. And the additional information that it is now a mere three flds males who are supposed to do all this stud work?…that, too has a ring of truth to it, knowing what kinds of things warren has been ordering for years. If one has not studied this cult, it is easy to scream “You are lying” when one first hears the kinds of things “members” (I say slaves) are told to do by jeffs. After hearing the hundreds of accounts of the cruelties this man has perpetrated, it becomes a harsh and very real possibility. These people are raised in fear from day one and are taught they will go to hell for all sorts of things, and especially for EVER questioning their “prophet.”

    • Hooch July 21, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Utah tends to sweep any defects in its image under the carpet, not fix those defects, just hide them.

  • Kristyn Decker July 20, 2013 at 11:38 am

    There needs to be more outspoken people like Ed, who will speak up and out for the children. For over 55 years, nothing has been done to stop the past, present and ongoing crimes of polygamy. Children suffer while the law sits back, ignores, smiles and waits. What are they waiting for–more violated, dysfunctional, abused, ill-equipped for society, uneducated children to grow up and propagate more of the same…. In the first attempted rescue of women and children in Colorado City, there were hundreds, now there are tens of thousands FLDS across the country… The way Utah is going down, the polygamists will be running the show – as originally planned. They’re already well on their way to pay-offs, bribes, infiltrating every aspect of government…

    SAVE THESE KIDS and END this abuse and craziness once and for all.

  • Outsider July 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Talking to you here Mormons. This makes you look oh so very, very bad. You have turned a blind eye for WAY to long. We are talking pedophiles. We are talking child rape. Does this not get through? Wow. Just letting this go on in your own backyard for way too long, how can you live with yourself??

  • Marion July 20, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you Ed, for bringing this into the open. Utah has a terrible track record for looking the other way when it comes to the abuses of polygamy. If this was drugs, instead of children, you can bet that agents would be sent out to gather evidence, not sit on their backsides waiting for it to come to them!

  • Darren July 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Hey, There are a lot of stories floating around… I am 18 i left 2 years ago and have kept in contact with my mother and father… And this sounds like a fake (ed. …) story.. I know FLDS and this story is nothing like it.. So all you media story sucking people, I’m sorry to burst your bubble.. Its funny how we are quick to judge others and demand to bring them to justice when we as a state of Utah come in as #1 in looking at Adult content online, come on! I’m not god and neither are you.

    (ed. …) Ed. ellipsis

    • Hooch July 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Kinda like how Meadow Mountain Massacre was a farce, right? Does the D in LDS stand for Denial?

  • Zabilde July 20, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    To the author and the others trying to lay blame on the Utah AG’s(Swallow did not initiate the policy of not prosecuting) and/or the LDS church. There is one key reason we do not prosecute. The current situation keeps the various polygamous groups on the fringes of society where we can easily monitor them or at least limit their growth. But should we prosecute, the constitutionality of laws against the practice come into play. Yes the FLDS violate the very precept of the concept which is that all participants are consenting adults who willingly choose to participate. Currently even those who meet this description must stay discreet or in the fringes of society. But prosecute them and the constitutionality of the laws against the practice comes into play. There is no viable constitutional support for the laws against this religious practice but it has not been challenged since the 1800’s. Such a challenge to the laws today would easily get such laws overturned.

    This would allow the polygs to come out of the shadows, supporting the “Prophetic” standing of the leaders of the FLDS and other radical groups and make it so much easier to hide such abuses as Texas found. So our AG’s have balanced between very careful monitoring of these groups and trying to limit their spread and influence, and potentially getting court rulings that would throw open the doors for such groups.

    In Utah we’ve watched and dealt with these groups for decades, yes some or even many similar abuses are slipping sadly under the rug, but the risk of wide open practice is far more dangerous, particularly when the polygs are starting to hook their legal position to that of the GLBT movement. You criticize what you have only recently discovered, when we’ve been dealing with these people for decades.

  • Zoltan July 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    No Zabilde. Not good enough. These people are right to call you out. Shame on all of you who let it happen. There is no excuse.

  • Curtis July 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    “Mormons” can’t pursue this as they have no legal authority. The State has to do that within the laws of the land. The article is disingenuous in that it compares the current inaction on a rumor to an incident in 2008 that had more than rumor to move on (even if the cause turned out to be false). What is Texas doing now based on this rumor? What Utah is doing. Nothing but wait and watch for just cause. There’s no legal cause for either state to do anything right now.

  • Pooh Bear July 20, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    “Mormons”, Curtis, control the laws in Utah. Wanna argue that? It took Texas to bring Jeffs to justice. In Texas once this sick practice was learned of, it was dealt with. There is no protecting child molesters you see.

    • Flat Out July 21, 2013 at 11:13 am

      The Mormon church is extremely influential with the laws in Utah. Almost all the state politicians and city and county governments are comprised of mormons. The mormon church stuck its cancerous fingers into California’s politics with Proposition 8. Yet, the mormon church, which attempts to spread its mandates like a social disease, will not act upon the horrific acts of the polygamists within its own immediate surroundings. Is it because polygamy remains a tenant of the mormon church? Money? Why won’t the mormon church take a stand against polygamist child abuse as it did with Proposition 8 or as it did when attempting to deny equal rights to blacks?

      • Simone July 22, 2013 at 12:52 am

        the LDS church greatly influences Utah’s laws and policies. The LDS church hasn’t taken a stand against child abuse that happens in those communities because many of it’s it members parents, relatives and friends still openly engage in the act and many of it’s founders engaged in many of those acts. I would like to point out that, back then, having sex with a child as young as 10 was legal in many states and Utah was one of the lasts states admitted to the union in part because they refused to change the bigamy law. Lastly, I think that most modern Mormons disagree with the things that happen in those communities but do not want to be the one responsible for sticking their friends and family members in jail for the rest of their lives. That and Thomas Monson hasn’t changed his mind yet.

  • Scot July 21, 2013 at 1:23 am

    wHOA there Pooh!!! Mormons don’t just go around screwing their cousins and making retarded kids. I agree with You no protecting a child Molester and those Polygamist they act like they are straight out of the movie children of the corn. Polis they are FLDS Mormons are LDS I think the F stands for freaky ….lol

  • sarah james July 21, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    shame on utah and az. If God judges on how these states treat their young and their elderly they are doomed. Really? What do the law makers do with their time? They should all retire and elect new people who arenot afraid to stand up for the abused.

  • Victoria Prunty July 26, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    What does it take for it not to be a rumor, or speculation? An investigation. Who knows best about what is going on? Either those living in the community and have nothing to lose, or those who have recently left. Where there is smoke there is fire. Hoping Utah’s AG intervenes in behalf of the children to make sure this is only a rumor. Thanks STGnews ! Keep us apprised of any new developments.

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