Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lege to examine Great Eldorado Polygamist Roundup

This is going to be a complete zoo!

Yesterday Rep. Patrick Rose, Chair of the Texas House Human Services Committee, created a subcommittee to analyze the largest child-seizure operation in US history at a polygamist community in West Texas by the state's Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS). Reports the Deseret News:

At the start of a hearing of the Texas House Human Services Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, announced the formation of the subcommittee.

"The situation in Eldorado over the interim presented real challenges for the department and real challenges for the state," Rose said. "A lot of us have been talking about those issues during the interim."

Rose said the subcommittee will schedule hearings in the coming weeks and would present a final report to the legislative committee, but he did not say what its specific focus would be.

"Those of us who are on the committee … care deeply about what we can learn, what lessons learned from that experience are," he said.

Members of the Subcommittee on Investigations of Abuse and Neglect of Children and Interagency Cooperation will include Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin; Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston; and Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.

"Although it is unlikely that we will see an investigation of this size and scope again, it is important that we hear from caseworkers, law enforcement officers and local elected officials to learn how each of these groups and relevant agencies can better cooperate in investigations of abuse and neglect," Naishtat said Tuesday. "It is important that the state learn from this experience to better protect Texas children."

The Great Eldorado Polygamist Roundup, which garnered international media attention, was set off by a hoax phone call alleging child abuse. The state at one point claimed 466 kids were victims of sexual abuse, but almost all of those cases were later dropped.

Rep. Drew Darby's participation on the subcommittee is especially ironic since he was the "real estate attorney who helped create the YFZ Land LLC to purchase the ranch." Later, however, he was a strong supporter of the raid, declaring "I'm so proud of our state for acting in the manner it has acted." Along with state Rep. Harvey Hildebran, he has vowed to file legislation targeting FLDS.

Thankfully, Austin state Rep. Elliot Naishtat will chair the subcommittee, not Darby, so one hopes that means the hearing won't just be a whitewash session.

Nobody claims there weren't any underage marriages among the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Eldorado, but it soon became clear the raid-supporters' goal wasn't to go after specific allegations of abuse but essentially to run the FLDS out of town. At the end of the day, there's little doubt the state's actions created boatloads more "human misery," to use Darby's term, than it prevented.

The problem arose because, rather than go after individuals on specific charges, DFPS essentially kidnapped every child they could lay their hands on, even when they didn't know who their parents were or any specific information about them at all. Indeed, after months of vetting every single household, DFPS now claims to have identified only 12 underage marriages, seven of which, they say, produced children. Some of those, however, occurred many years ago and outside of Texas.

The Third Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court later ruled the agency had acted unlawfully by claiming that the religious beliefs of parents at the YFZ Ranch constituted per se abuse.

There certainly are a lot of unanswered questions from the raid and its aftermath:

For starters, why hasn't the hoax phone caller been arrested and charged with a crime for her part in launching this mess? I believe it's because her prosecution would reveal incompetence or misconduct by official actors that the state wants to cover up. I'd love to see Rozita Swinton, the hoaxer herself, actually testify at the hearing, but I seriously doubt that will happen. Ditto for Flora Jessop, the anti-FLDS activist who was in communication with Swinton for several days before the raid.

What really happened at the San Angelo Coliseum after FLDS children were taken away from their mothers? The committee should investigate allegations of abuse and neglect by state workers charged with caring for the children.

Relatedly, will the committee hear from MHMR workers who dealt with the kids after they were separated from their mothers and believed the state subjected FLDS kids to abuse? Here are some of their letters:
Throughout this process CPS put out misleading, inflammatory statements that routinely turned out to be false or grossly exaggerated. Will the subcommittee analyze their myriad debunked claims and hold the agency's feet to the fire for its misrepresentations?

DFPS got approval to hire 90 new staff people to handle the FLDS case. Will the agency keep those positions? What's the status of that impromptu expansion?

More importantly, does DFPS have too much authority to seize children without adequately documenting real abuse? It's not just a problem with polygamist households.

Finally, though the Deseret News said the subcommittee would hear from "caseworkers, law enforcement officers and local elected officials," IMO the witness list shouldn't be so limited. There were many ad litem attorneys appointed to represent the kids in this case and I'm hopeful some of them will show up in Austin to tell the story from their perspective.

Let me know in the comments what other questions you think the subcommittee should address and what witnesses they should ask to appear before them.

29 comments:

The Pharisee said...

Rozie has been running around the country, and has a blog and a "My Space" page (trust me, it is hers), but Texas can't arrest her. They can't even question her.

She even took the time to get pictures taken of herself in the Burley Idaho Ace Hardware, which if you look quickly enough, still exists in Google's "Cache."

There's even one or two of her floating around out there playing with kids in late 2008 (scary) and sitting on Santa's lap.

TxBluesMan said...

Maybe they can ask Merril why the FLDS insist on breaking the law...

libertarianlady said...

I always assumed that Swinton was a raving lunatic. Now I see that she's together enough to have been an Obama delegate and she's traveling the world? My question: On whose dime? It's too weird- all of it.

The Pharisee said...

Oh yeah, pricey legal help usually reserved for felons and pricey inpatient mental health treatment, all with no job, no house, and no job.

Now she's hobnobbing around the world, sitting on Santa's lap and taking care of people's kids.

bob42 said...

I have a new logo idea for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

TxBluesMan said...

On what basis should she be arrested? Do you have proof? Did someone see her make the calls? Did she confess?

Could she have left the phone setting down on a counter and someone else used it?

You have to have at least probable cause, and in her case, for a felony level offense since you can't extradite for a misdemeanor.

Y'all seem real quick to throw away civil rights when it comes down to a person that y'all don't like...

The Pharisee said...

Hey!

Moron.

She's already BEEN arrested once.

karateka said...

TxBluesMan talking about "probable cause?" Think I've heard everything now. So, in the case of the FLDS religious bigotry constitutes "probable cause," but in the case of Swinton a traced phone number does not?

At least Javert was consistent.

Anonymous said...

People wouldn't be so quick to defend the FLDS if they harbored a lot of middle aged women married to and having sex with teenaged boys. Or if they were men having sex with boys who were of age. But because it was teenaged girls who were being exploited, people think it's quaint and traditional. This isn't about being open minded to religion. It's about people being "open minded" to sexism and the cradle-to-grave control of the female sex.

TxBluesMan said...

Hey!

Dufus!

On a different charge that they can prove.

I know from prior conversations that you don't understand the concept of probable cause, but you have to have it on each and every charge...

You can't just make it up as you go.


Karateka,

If you arrest her on Texas charges now (and I haven't heard any of y'all say what you would charge her with), with no more proof than that, she'll walk. Or you can see if the investigation turns up anything else.

And a traced phone number, in and of itself, is not probable cause unless you can show that a particular person used that phone.

Bigotry, has nothing to do with it. The proof of that was just posted on my blog, with a video of someone who generally has the same views as the FLDS.

mhojho said...

"And a traced phone number, in and of itself, is not probable cause unless you can show that a particular person used that phone."


but a bogus phone call is enough to take hundreds of children from thier parents?

biggotry has everything to do with it, anyone who sanctions genocide is a sick individual.

Anonymous said...

biggotry has everything to do with it, anyone who sanctions genocide is a sick individual.

What? Who was killed in this situation? Where's the massacre you're alluding to? Whatever your opinion on the situation, the people had the press, attorneys, and the courts with which to make their cases. To compare what happened here with mass murder is a gross exaggeration and a waste of time.

mhojho said...

anon

While precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2, of this convention defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."[1]

maybe you should think before posting!I wasn't refering to mass murder I was refering to transfering children from one group to another and causing mental harm so dont be as sick as them by trying to justify "yes" GENOCIDE!!!

Lucille said...

Genocide has never been defined as solely consisting of "mass murder". The man who coined the term did not limit the concept to mass murder. And it's not defined as such in international law.

Genocide is the "cide" of a "genos", not necessarily any individuals.

Lucille said...

This isn't about being open minded to religion.

Yes, anon (why can't you sign an name to your posts?), it is.

Or, rather, it's being close-minded when it comes to government abuses of power, and realizing that the harms a government agency can do outweighs by far the harm a man whose decisions, affect maybe a couple thousand people at the most, is capable of.

See, before this whole affair broke out, I had never heard of the FLDS, as far as I remember. And I thought CPS was, in general, an unfortunately necessary government agency.

Now, after reading about this affair, I started reading about lots more of their abuses of power, not just in Texas but nationwide, including some notorious cases in my own state, and I'm a lot more critical of them.

This whole affair has furthered immensely my cynicism about government agencies.

The Pharisee said...

Lucille (pssst...) It's PROBABLY because it is Blues, trying to look like he has friends.

Lucille said...

Mmmm.. probably not. If Anon were echoing some of TBM's typical talking points, I might agree with you.

TxBluesMan said...

Anon 11:55,

The Pedophile Polygamist Support Group folks don't like to claim genocide, without considering the entire definition, specifically the part requiring 'intent to destroy...' They can't prove that part, so they ignore it.

It is just like they claimed there were no underage pregnant girls, and once those were found (and the molesters indicted), they claimed it doesn't count because none of the girls claim that they were victims...

Lucille said...

Funny how TBM is talking about "formal definitions" and in the same comment uses the term "pedophiles" in relation to postpubescent teenagers.

And as for intent to destroy? Get your head out of the sand.

Toes said...

Interstate communications involving false claims does seem to break federal statutes; I recall seeing reference to a recent case in Kansas City with such charges (sorry, I don't have a url, but I'm sure any knowledgeable attorney could do a quick search.)

Accusation does not equal guilt. Let's have an equal and non-biased application of civil rights.

If we are to allow Rozita the benefit of doubt, and say there is a possibility that she left her cellphone along with her brother's cellphone on a counter somewhere, and someone else used them to place these calls, then we must also allow the same consideration for the accused men in Texas.

We would have to consider the possibility that some underage FLDS women may have participated in wild parties in the woods, such as have been reported in the past by rebellious FLDS teenagers, and simply came home pregnant, much like many other underaged pregnant non-FLDS women in Texas.

Toes said...

By my above statement, I in no way meant to cast aspersions on the moral standards of righteous young women of the FLDS, nor to villify their reputations.

The Pharisee said...

It remains my contention that Blues has few friends, and cannot get attention, unless we give it to him.

TxBluesMan said...

LOL.

This if from someone that can't identify the difference between a CPS affidavit and a search warrant affidavit...

Anonymous said...

The word genocide was first used in about 1944 to describe the Holocaust. It's roots are in the greek word genos, meaning race or kind and the latin word cidere, to kill. The correct way to form that word would be genticide.
At any rate, genocide is a very strong word that that most aptly describes the mass killing/destruction of a whole racial/cultural group of people. Using the word to describe the round up of some Polygamists is a bit of a stretch. Comparing this to the Holocaust or Rawanda(sp?)etc. reduces or waters down the intended use of the word.
While I am all for religious freedom, I do support those that violate the rights of others. If we say that children's brains are not fully developed until they are 17 or 21, I can't remember which, than we cannot go along with the idea that a 14 yr. old was mature enough to choose to marry a 54 year old man with 5 other wives. Anyway, polygamy is against the law in Texas isn't it? Phewy on calling it's acceptance religious tolerance. What about the Muslim man who recently cerimoniously beheaded his wife because she was going to divorce him? Do we ignore human rights, women's rights and the laws of this country in our support of religous tolerance?
CPS, FPS etc.. tend to create and abide by many stupid rules and guidelines that make no sense and overstep the boundaries of parental rights. A long as individuals support the role of government as parent there will be organizations that abuse the power.

mhojho said...

"The Pedophile Polygamist Support Group folks don't like to claim genocide, without considering the entire definition, specifically the part requiring 'intent to destroy...' They can't prove that part, so they ignore it.

"It is just like they claimed there were no underage pregnant girls, and once those were found (and the molesters indicted), they claimed it doesn't count because none of the girls claim that they were victims..."

LOL and this comment was made to do what?

Blues a while back you said you didn't care which way the law read
yet every comment you make is designed to destroy the FLDS!

and btw an indictment is an accusation not a conviction :innocent until proven guilty remember?

and as far as the intent to destroy? pretty obvious isn't it?

TxBluesMan said...

mhojho,

I don't see it as obvious.

I do find it extremely funny that you are quite willing to use the U.N. definition of 'genocide' while conveniently ignoring their position on polygamy...

Since the U.N. Commission on Human Rights states that:

Polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependents that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited. The Committee notes with concern that some States parties, whose constitutions guarantee equal rights, permit polygamous marriage in accordance with personal or customary law. This violates the constitutional rights of women, and breaches the provisions of article 5 (a) of the Convention.

The United States signed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination in 1980. This included the requirement to protect women against polygamy, as noted above. Since polygamy is a Human Rights violation, should the FBI go after the FLDS for violating human rights?

Just curious, since you seem to want to use only part of the U.N.'s stuff, and not the rest...

mhojho said...

Blues
I just want the religious descrimination to end there is a thing or two on that in the un commission too, it seems your idea of good government is to throw everyone in jail....besides its not polgamy that I defend it is the flds right to practice thier religion which includes polygyny!

As far as the United Nations go I think thats pretty dangerous to have a commission of people trying to write international laws that conflict with the Constitution of the United States of America.
The first amendment still stands and it is pretty clear on religion,
somthing you and your child snatching state are trying with all your might to destroy....I suppose you view it with glee when you see the pain on the childrens faces, is that what you mean by funny?...disgusting!!!!

Lucille said...

At any rate, genocide is a very strong word that that most aptly describes the mass killing/destruction of a whole racial/cultural group of people.

Comparing this to the Holocaust or Rawanda(sp?)etc. reduces or waters down the intended use of the word.


The definition as originally coined:

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.

The definition adopted by the UN:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


All emphases are mine.

It is simply untrue to say that the term "genocide" was ever intended to refer exclusively to mass murder. Do your research, Anon.

Anonymous said...

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945