Defense Files Challenge to Raid on Polygamist Sect Compound

Criminal defense attorney Gerry Goldstein, lead counsel for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has wasted no time in filing a blistering attack on the raid on the polygmanist sect's Texas compound:

At the crux of the 39-page motion Goldstein filed Thursday in the Texas 51st Judicial District Court on behalf of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a revelation that the man authorities were looking for, Dale Evans Barlow, was in Arizona at the time of the April 3 raid. Texas Rangers searched the polygamist sect’s Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, for a week after receiving reports from a woman claiming to be a 16-year-old named Sarah Jessop, who alleged that Barlow was sexually abusing her. However, police now suspect the reports were a prank engineered by a woman in Colorado Springs with a history of false reporting.


“Those officers could have and should have exercised greater diligence in verifying and determining the true whereabouts of a known convicted felon serving a probated sentence in another state. At the very least, alleging that Dale Barlow was located on the YFZ Ranch — without checking with the Arizona Probation Office these officers knew to be supervising him — constituted a reckless disregard for either standard law enforcement protocol or common sense,” reads Goldstein’s request for a hearing to investigate the issuance of the search-and-arrest warrants.

“Moreover, prior to executing the initial warrant, (Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran) was advised that Dale Barlow was in Arizona and not on the premises sought to be searched. In fact, prior to entering the premises Sheriff Doran actually spoke to Dale Barlow in Arizona by cell phone, confirming his driver license number and the fact that he was in Arizona.”

And about that cell phone call from a woman in Colorado Springs:

“The veracity of the factual underpinnings for any probable cause in support of (one of the search warrants) is further undermined by the revelation that the telephones utilized by the alleged sexually abused, pregnant, 16-year-old mother claiming to be Sarah Jessop to contact the New Bridge Family Shelter ‘Crisis Hotline’ in San Angelo, Texas, have been traced back to a 33-year-old, childless African American woman in Colorado Springs, Colorado,” Goldstein states.

Gerry is also challenging the way the DNA was taken:

His filing goes on to accuse authorities of withholding salient facts from the court, and searching and seizing property at the ranch in an “unreasonable” and “expansive” way that infringed on the polygamists’ constitutional rights. Of particular concern is the seizing of blood, pubic hairs and other DNA from members of the polygamist sect, it said.

“Officers took action beyond the scope that these warrants authorized,” Goldstein claims.

By the way, the woman in Colorado Springs, Rozita Swinton, is a pledged local delegate for Barack Obama. I doubt that when the state convention meets on May 17th to choose the delegates to the national convention in Denver, she will be selected as one of them.

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    That situation (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by AnninCA on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:11:51 AM EST
    is such a mess.  The only good part is that it's now going to be a legal mess rather than a violent confrontation.

    You sure that's good? (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:43:52 AM EST
    Sometimes I wonder....I'd rather be punched in the face than deal with the US criminal justice system.

    Compared to Waco, (none / 0) (#7)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:58:14 AM EST
    I think this is much better.

    I'm glad to see Goldstein step up to represent these folks.  He is a longtime champion of justice.


    I see your point.... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:53:38 AM EST
    though I wonder if some of those mothers wouldn't rather choose death to having your child ripped from your arms.

    They are in for a long, hard, frustrating fight...and it's very difficult to beat the man at his game.


    Choosing death (none / 0) (#20)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:06:34 PM EST
    That may be true, but considering Waco, it wouldn't just be the parents dying.

    Some of the credit.... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 03:19:13 PM EST
    for avoiding another Waco must go to the members of the sect.

    If they had resisted, I don't doubt for a second the authorities would have stormed the gates, and bloodshed would surely have followed.


    If The Former Prophet (none / 0) (#31)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:31:32 PM EST
    Warren Jeffs had been around and not in jail, a Waco like outcome would have been more likely to happen.
    And it would fit the pattern if the church's next prophet (one has not yet been named) responds to the present situation by becoming even more controlling in the future. Past history and current long-term trends suggests that if the church survives, its future leaders are at high risk of becoming far more domineering with time.

    Sara Robinson

    and here


    There's a lot more going on here than meets (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by scribe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:51:33 AM EST
    the eye - as bad as the situation is.

    "Child rape" - the rallying cry around which this raid was built - is also the central point in a couple other things going on.  There's the case from Louisiana, currently before the Supreme Court (Kennedy v. Louisiana), in which it appears the Supremes are looking for a way to allow capital punishment for something-other-than-murder.

    There are other efforts, in other cracker-run states (Georgia comes to mind) to similarly punish "child rape".

    Then, there is the recent me-too-ism by the Democratic candidate for governor in Missouri, going along with the tub-thumping for adding capital punishment as the sentence for child rape.  Just google "blunt missouri child rape democrat"  and see how many results you come up with.  I took the first one, here, and read it.  You should too.  It's a particularly nice touch by that paper, BTW, putting the mug shot of the accused about whom the politicians are inveighing next to the article in which they call for his death.  In case you were wondering, he's black, and has hair braided sort of like Snoop Dog's.  How convenient.

    Then, there's a whole 'nother aspect no one seems to want to touch.  This whole new crusade - directing in the Texas case against some fundie Mormons - has overtones (and undertones) of being an inter-religious battle using the local police as the weapon.  There just seems to be a strong fervor in the fundie Christianists for going after anyone whose familial arrangements don't conform to their chosen model.  

    I would not be surprised if this whole child rape crusade were a 2008's model of 2004's gay marriage wedge issue.  It surely stirs the base like little else, hitting a hot button and all that.  That it goes after a group the fundie Christianists look on as heathen cultists who will bring all sorts of trouble down on their heads (and whose ideas of liberty can be somehow tied to Democrats, through the wizardry of propaganda), only serves to fuel the fire.

    What all this stirring-up conveniently overlooks is that the whole idea of postponing marriage until 18 or so is a relatively recent phenomenon.  Until the mid-20th century it was pretty common for girls to start getting married and having kids (though not necessarily in that order) in their mid-teens, often to men 10 or more years older than they.  The men would have gotten their feet on the ground and established themselves as earners capable of supporting a family by then.  

    FWIW, one of my grandmothers was 16 and pregnant when she married my then-23 y/o grandfather.  They stayed married for another 52 years and had 10 kids.  Of course, they were immigrants, too.

    And, state laws (like Texas') allow such "underage" marriages.  While the vast majority of states require parental consent for marriages of people under 18, my reference tells me that in Texas, 14 y/o males and 13 y/o females can be legally married with parental consent (though, it appears, a judge may have to get involved at some indeterminate age between 13/14 and 18).  FWIW, in California, there's no minimum age for marriage, though, again, judicial involvement might be needed for under-18s.  

    I'm not suggesting that 7 year-olds (as in the Missouri case I pointed out) should be fair game.  What I am suggesting is that the sudden (re)appearance of the "child rape" issue appears to be a hot-button issue being stirred up at a highly convenient time to activate the fundie part of the Republican base, by presenting them with some horror of horrors that can be averted by voting Republican.

    And, I'd bet that had something to do with the genesis of the Texas case.

    Marriage age (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:05:33 AM EST
    In Texas, the age to get married used to be 14 (you had to have parental consent to marry at that age).  It was only recently bumped up to 16, and that was in response to this compound having sprung up in the state.  

    You are right that the idea that girls getting married before they were legal adults being considered some kind of sexual abuse is a relatively recent one.  

    One of my major concerns with this case was the arguments put forth in the hearing by a child shrink and the state that the children were being abused psychologically because of the beliefs their parents and community were teaching them.  That is extremely dangerous territory.

    From everything I've read, though, there's very little doubt in my mind that they went way overboard--and probably violated the law--in the way they requested the search warrant and the way they executed it.


    Good points (none / 0) (#15)
    by scribe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:55:06 AM EST
    First - my reference on multi-state marriage laws is a 2006 ed., so thanks for the update.

    Second you quite correctly note:

    One of my major concerns with this case was the arguments put forth in the hearing by a child shrink and the state that the children were being abused psychologically because of the beliefs their parents and community were teaching them.  That is extremely dangerous territory.

    This works on at least 2 levels.

    First, this is no different in nature (only in degree) from the misuse of psychiatry under the Soviet system.  Back in the 80s, the National Review (among other places) went absolutely nuts over the then-current Soviet practice of institutionalizing dissidents because they were mentally ill.  The (simplified) argument the Sovs would use was "Our socialism is perfect.  This person dissents.  Therefore, this person must be mentally ill.  Thus, we are entitled to institutionalize (and forcibly medicate with psychotropics) this poor mentally ill person, until he is again well."

    Second, the whole argument you note is based around religious fundies deciding which beliefs are "correct" and which are "abusive", then carrying those beliefs into working on people they disagree with.

    Fact is, if one looks enough, one can find a shrink who will say just about any belief is harmful, abusive, or deranged.  They won't have to look far in Texas, 'cause the fundies are strong there.


    There Is A Case (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:28:56 PM EST
    In that the Texan legislature changed the marrying with consent law to 16 from 14 only because of the sect/cult moving in. Here is some background:

    link via 1980Ford


    Huh? (none / 0) (#24)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:42:48 PM EST
    I don't understand what you mean by "there is a case" because they changed the law due to the sect moving in.  I said in my earlier post that the FLDS compound was what spurred the law change, but what do you mean "There is a case" because of that?

    Sorry (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:58:11 PM EST
    For my poor english. I believe that it is illegal to change the laws in order to target a religious group.

    From grits for breakfast

    So how does that jibe with the plain language text of the US Constitution's first amendment, which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"? I'm quite surprised my former employers at the ACLU of Texas haven't jumped all over this. I believe Hildebran may well have crossed the line by passing laws specifically aimed at a religious group.

    via 1980Ford


    I think the ACLU would be wise to (none / 0) (#28)
    by scribe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 02:41:46 PM EST
    hold its fire on this until after the election - for all the reasons I noted in my main comments above.  Once they step in, it will set the propaganda apparatus into full gear.

    In reading the statutes (none / 0) (#27)
    by scribe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 02:40:29 PM EST
    (skimming, actually), where they linked into the other post, i.e., here, the thing I find most interesting is the use of the language "marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under
    Section 25.01 [the bigamy statute].".

    "Marry or purport to marry" - seems pretty obvious to me that this was intended to go right after any polygamists.  And any three people living under the same roof, for that matter.  After all, under the fundies' construction, marriage is one man and one woman.

    I have never seen that sort of construction anywhere else in all the time I've been reading statutes.  Can anyone else comment on whether they have?


    My only comment to this is (none / 0) (#32)
    by splashy on Sun Apr 27, 2008 at 04:38:30 AM EST
    That is one of the reasons people were so much smaller in the past. The women were having children before they had attained their full growth, harming their children and stunting their own growth. That is also why so many women looked so old by the time they were 40, from all the nutrients the embryos took from them when they were pregnant.

    There is a solid biological reason to not have children before 18 years of age. Just because someone can, doesn't mean they should. Even farmers know that when it comes to their dairy heifers. They do their best to keep them from having calves until they attain a certain size, usually a year or so after they first come into heat, because if they have them when they are too young all kinds of complications happen. Both the heifers and calves are far more at risk of dying, just as is the case with humans.

    It's a form of child abuse, only recognized in the last 100 years or so because women were only  recently recognized as actually being fully human.


    A story about crime? (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by madpie on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:59:36 AM EST
    Wait, I thought this blog was dedicated to posting nothing but pontification about the election.

    Sigh. I miss the old days of TalkLeft.

    Well, (none / 0) (#10)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:06:13 AM EST
    they did get that dig in about the phony "abuse victim" being a pledged delegate for Obama.

    Amen to that. (none / 0) (#11)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:30:05 AM EST
    I have to wonder what happens to TL after the elections...

    As to the topic at hand, can anyone please explain to me why these groups aren't being investigated for welfare fraud?

    I've read that is how they get a lot of their funding.  Since you can legally only be married to one person, the other "wifes" collect the various public funds available to unwed mothers and children.  

    Is this simply myth or what?  


    I'm hoping after the elections.... (5.00 / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:50:11 AM EST
    that TL returns to its former glory...the best place in all of cyberspace to discuss criminal justice issues.

    I barely recognize the place these days.


    Heck... (none / 0) (#14)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 11:54:13 AM EST
    ...it has gotten to the point that I actually miss the ole' resident troll.

    That's just sad...


    Speaking of trolls, (none / 0) (#16)
    by scribe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 12:09:24 PM EST
    where are all our old friends?

    Frankly, I hardly recognize the site these days.  I mean, the elections are important and all, but so is stuff like teasing out some truth from the Bybee/Yoo Torture Memo (which I've been working on all month), looking at all the usual injustices in the CJ system (the feds are going to retry the 80-something y/o former Pittsburgh coroner, after having sent the FBI out to interview the jurors who hung in the first trial, and they're going to retry - this makes the third trial - the 6 remaining Miami-Liberty City knuckleheads).

    Traffic is a great thing, but I'm more than tired of people singing "my candidate's better than your candidate".


    my candidate sucks less than your candidate (none / 0) (#17)
    by jerry on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 12:12:46 PM EST
    I miss the old gang..... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 12:38:44 PM EST
    too man.  

    The election coverage is so tired....I don't give 2 sh*ts who wins, we're losing anyway you slice it.


    My sentiments. Exactly. (none / 0) (#19)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 12:51:11 PM EST
    Other Side (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 02:06:26 PM EST
    Of the story. I know that this site is a defense oriented site, and that is why I have followed TL for so long, but in this particular case it is worth looking at the other side, at least for context.

    It seems clear that the cops have bungled their warrant and are lying as usual, and I do not have any problem with people practicing their religion as long as they do not bother me, but this  sect/cult really bothers me in that it can be seen as a fertility cult that abuses women and children. I think that there are civil right issues here and legal lines that have been crossed.

    Sara Robinson has a looooong post about the sect and the raid. She has been following the story for some time now.

    Thanks for the link - a thoughtful and (none / 0) (#30)
    by allimom99 on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 03:59:56 PM EST
    intelligent assessment, particularly her point about it being a good thing Warren Jeffs is in the big house while all this goes on. what a mess.

    I'm just glad she blew the whistle on them n/t (none / 0) (#3)
    by rockinrocknroll on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:48:05 AM EST

    That really is frightening (none / 0) (#4)
    by blogtopus on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 10:48:20 AM EST
    Coupled with the 'click here to be arrested' sting operations that have been going on lately, it really is amazing how much our govt has changed.

    I've been trying to figure out... (none / 0) (#22)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:36:25 PM EST
    ...how this serial false reporter in the Springs is tied to this whole thing.  It just doesn't make any sense for her to be dropping the dime.  

    There is absolutely no connection between the two that I can see.  Did she just make a lucky guess or something?

    The woman (none / 0) (#23)
    by standingup on Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 01:39:50 PM EST
    might be more accurately described as having a record of making false reports.  This article in the Salt Lake Tribune reports on her history and record.  

    FWIW (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 06:16:56 PM EST
    SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- More than half the teen girls taken from a polygamist compound in west Texas have children or are pregnant, state officials said Monday.
    A total of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are in state custody after a raid 3 1/2 weeks ago at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. Of those girls, 31 either have children or are pregnant, said Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar. Two of those are pregnant now, he said; it was unclear whether either of those two already have children.


    Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with parental permission at 16, but none of these girls is believed to have a legal marriage under state law.

    A call seeking comment from FLDS spokesman Rod Parker was not immediately returned. Church officials have denied that any children were abused at the ranch and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution.
    Civil-liberties groups and lawyers for the children have criticized the state for sweeping all the children, from nursing infants to teen boys, into foster care when only teen girls are alleged to have been sexually abused.