Jul 30, 2008

5 indicted FLDS men appear before judge

Ben Winslow
Deseret News

July 30, 2008

Five members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church indicted by a Texas grand jury made their first appearances before a judge.

The men were arraigned before Schleicher County Justice of the Peace James Doyle late Tuesday afternoon, where they were handed papers spelling out their rights and told not to contact their alleged victims.

"All I do is an admonishment," Doyle told the Deseret News. "I read the warrant so they know what's been charged by the grand jury. I go through their rights."

One man, Dr. Lloyd Hammon Barlow, 38, posted a $15,000 bond late Tuesday and was released from jail pending his next court appearance. The rest remained in jail pending the posting of $100,000 bail, Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange said. The men's next court appearance will then be set by the district court judge, who is based in nearby San Angelo.

Raymond Merril Jessop, 36; Allan Eugene Keate, 56; Michael George Emack, 57; and Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, are all charged with first-degree felony sexual assault. Merril Jessop is also charged with bigamy, a first-degree felony. Barlow was indicted on misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse.

Also indicted is FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who remains in an Arizona jail. Jeffs, 52, is accused of performing child-bride marriages there. -->Texas authorities have said they will seek to have the FLDS leader extradited as soon as possible to the Lone Star state to face a sexual assault charge -->. Jeffs was convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin and was sentenced to a pair of 5-to-life sentences.

In April, child welfare authorities and law enforcement raided the YFZ Ranch outside Eldorado, Texas, after a phone call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old in an abusive marriage to an older man. On site, authorities said they saw other signs of abuse, prompting a judge to order the removal of all of the children.

The ranch's 440 children were ultimately returned to their families when two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and there was no imminent danger of abuse. The original calls that sparked the raid are still being investigated as a hoax.

Hundreds of boxes of evidence were seized from the ranch, including diaries, photographs, thousands of pages of dictations by Jeffs and other FLDS records. These are believed to have contributed to the indictments, which may be the first of a series. The Schleicher County grand jury will meet again next month.

Raymond Merril Jessop is believed to have married Teresa Jeffs (now 17) a day after her 15th birthday in July 2006. Jeffs repeatedly has gone public denying she was a sex abuse victim but was subpoenaed to testify before the Schleicher County grand jury anyway. In the indictment, he is accused of sexually assaulting a girl under 17 in November 2004.

Merril Leroy Jessop is charged with sexual assault involving a girl in August 2006. The indictment also charges him with bigamy, stemming from a ceremony the same day Raymond Jessop married Teresa Jeffs.

"I was mouth at performing the marriage sealings," Jeffs said in a July 27, 2006, dictation filed with a child-advocate's court report and obtained by the Deseret News. "Merril Leroy Jessop received (the girl), and Raymond Merril Jessop received my daughter Teresa Jeffs."

According to the dictation, the FLDS leader himself married a girl in the same ceremony. Texas child welfare authorities believe she was 12 at the time.

A Bishop's Record seized by law enforcement indicates Allan Keate had a 17-year-old wife, and may have fathered an underage child with her. The indictment accuses him of sexual assault in April 2006.

Emack, according to the Bishop's records, has a 19-year-old wife and had a 1 1/2-year-old son with her. The indictment accuses him of sexual assault in October 2004.

Barlow is an FLDS community physician. The indictments accuse him of delivering babies in October and December of 2006 and May 2007, knowing their mothers were children and having cause to believe they were abused or neglected.

With the news of the criminal charges, Utah licensing officials said they will monitor the Texas case before deciding if they will take any action against Dr. Barlow.

"I cannot confirm or deny if we have an investigation going," said Jennifer Bolton, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

E-MAIL: bwinslow@desnews.com


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