Thursday, April 17, 2008

After all the hoopla about "child brides" ...

UPDATE: Original call that led to the raid deemed fake; 33 year old Colorado woman is missing "Sarah"!

AND: From AP, Polygamist sect hearing descends into farce

Here's the official tally of underage women married to older men revealed by the Texas Department of Public Safety in court today, compiled from FLDS records seized at the YFZ ranch (according to the Salt Lake City Tribune): "attorneys representing the state focused in on 10 women between the ages of 16 and 19 listed as married to older men. Five were listed as having children."

So all the talk of 14 year olds married off to old men was BS, at least according to evidence seized in the raid, and there's no evidence of any 15 year olds were married to older men, either. In Texas, a 16 year old can marry with a parent's consent.

The court heard conflicting testimony on whether the caller, "Sarah," who launched all this was a member of the group. I'd speculated she may not exist, but testimony today could wind up contradicting that claim. (I don't understand how she wouldn't know the name of the husband who beat her, or use FLDS terminology, but quien sabe?) As I've said many times, if she exists, hers and every specific abuse case should be prosecuted. But let's not pointlessly sweep up hundreds of other kids and families in the process.

Meanwhile, my lamentation that few law blawggers have written on the FLDS case generated a few takers, including Scott at Simple Justice, Stephen M (Ethesis), Ron's Insanity out of Houston, and Stephen Gustitis at The Defense Perspective. Doc Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy thinks FLDS isn't who legislators were thinking of when they wrote "child rape" statutes that could now apply. Thanks, foks, for reacting. Others?

See also good non-lawyer blogging from Prairie Fire Journal, and The Common Room, a Mormon perspective critique of FLDS from
The Millenial Star, plus a response to TMS and (as usual) other excellent coverage of the case from Messenger and Advocate. The newspaper providing the best coverage continues to be the Salt Lake City Tribune, which is flat-out out-reporting the homegrown Texas press every single day.

Finally, for those who've only read criticisms of the FLDS lifestyle from former members, read the "testimony" from a young woman who left the FLDS sect of her own accord but doesn't believe that systematic abuse as described by CPS is going on there. Very interesting stuff, all around. The blogosphere (led by the Mormon Bloggernacle, which I heretofore didn't know existed) has been catching up, slowly, on this fast moving story.

See related Grits coverage linked here.


kbp said...

Thanks Grits!

I lost power today, so I'm catching up!

The BIGGEST issue I've seen in what went on today is that this is a wholesale hearing that does not look like it is allowing each individual a fair hearing.

In response to various objections, Judge Walther said "I will admit that normal doesn't seem to apply to this case...".

She's just wingin' it as she goes along. It's like she'll work out the details AFTER the hearing is completed.

Lots of after-the-fact work to be done in this case!

Anonymous said...

They really need to take a cold, hard look at 42 USCA 1983, 1988

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the testimony of the woman who left the FLDS of her own accord. It provides some clearer imagery, but just as you kept cautioning people not to believe the "malcontents" who left the sect, don't fully believe the words of someone who offers little criticism.

Even after someone leaves a cult, the indoctrination and underlying emotions of loyalty and shame they harbor often last a lifetime. Rape and abuse victims also deny that they were attacked, or they blame themselves to try to establish a form of internal mental control over the situation. It doesn't mean they weren't traumatized and violated.

"Acceptance" is the last stage of grief, a stage many abused people never reach.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, 8:27, I've linked to critical pieces about FLDS, too, including in this post (see the Millenial Star piece and Ron's Insanity).

I'm not trying to give a one-sided view. In fact, I'm learning a lot myself through these discussions and basically am sharing the information I find and my thoughts and impressions about it as I go. At this point, we don't know who to believe. But the evidence of systematic abuse is looking increasingly slim.

Anonymous said...

We need to know if the State authorities found the rumored thermostat that goes up to 2700 degrees, enough to destroy DNA evidence. About halfway down on this page:

That, mixed with today's testimony that the interviewed girls knew of, but had not, in the days just prior to the raid, seen the Sarah that matched the description from the call, would be worth worrying about.

Best of all would be if a place like the Eldorado Success were able to produce audio clips of Warren Jeffs actually preeching about "blood atonement" (sermons mentioned in the article above) .. the Eldorado Success has other audio clips from Jeffs here:

Anonymous said...

(or )

The Local Crank said...

Meanwhile, Greg Abbott really REALLY needs to stay off television until someone briefs him on the basics of the Texas Family Code. His performance on "Good Morning America" was nearly as cringe-inducing as the robotic-like, seemingly pre-programmed statements of the mothers from FLDS.

Ron in Houston said...

While I applaud your defense of constitutional rights, I really don't think you're taking an honest assessment of the people at the center of this controversy.

Everyone outside of that group is a "heathen." They are the hated. They are agents of the devil.

Since anyone outside the group is an agent of evil, it is 100% acceptable to lie or deceive.

Since they are the "good" and you are the "evil," any means justify the ends.

I don't love the state. I deplore tyranny of any kind. However, you're giving people the "benefit of the doubt" to which they are not entitled.

kbp said...

Ron in Houston

Not certain who that comment was directed at.

I don't want to be select which religion, race, nationality... is due those "constitutional rights".

Anonymous said...

Is it legal for CPS to lie to civilians in order to conduct an investigation? Isn't it legal for detectives to lie?

I think the moms sounded like zombies in that Larry King interview because they are, as far as they are concerned, making an appearance in front of Satan himself and they are nervous and choosing their words carefully.

kbp said...

YES, it's legal for investigators to lie, just not for YOU or I.

The Sarah Search!
Where we are after today's testimony on finding Sarah;

"FLDS men met them at the ranch gate, where the investigators asked about the girl... men shook their heads and said she wasn't there, Voss said; or

"We learned that a few of the girls know of the Sarah we were looking for and that she'd been seen last week and she had a baby," Vause said.; or

"According to testimony, the CPS investigator began to find 16-year-old mothers with small children...; or

"The investigators learn that one Sarah who has been at the ranch is 16 and has a baby, the supervisor said; or

"...from the bishop's papers... a 28-year-old man is "married" to a 16-year-old girl, and they have a son; or

"When the state asked how many "Sarahs" were identified, Vause said there were five and three of those could have been the Sarah they were seeking; or

"Officials have said they do not know if Sarah is in state custody. Court documents say the girl spoke of becoming the seventh wife of a 50-year-old man named "Dale""...
with the last name added in the next sentence of that affidavit!!!!!!!

I also learned today that if records the CPS would like to obtain may not have ever been produced, then the CPS will tell the world those records are "MISSING"!

Anonymous said...

Authorities believe they have found Sarah. Her real name is Rozita Swinton and she's 33. Texas Rangers to give statement tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Ron in Houston. That description you gave sounds just like the evangelical right-wing nuts running the state now.

Ron in Houston said...


Yeah, you're right. Which is why theocracy needs to be opposed. Religious fundamentalist seeking the reigns of power are very dangerous.

The FLDS are savvy and sophisticated. If you move 1000 people into a county that only has 200 residents, you've immediately and suddenly taken over the local government. You now have your own local theocracy.

If you read some of the stories on, you begin to understand how the FLDS controlled Colorado City, AZ.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ron, I don't ignore the sources you're citing, I just don't accept the most extreme ones without counterbalancing my view with other ex-FLDSers who aren't trying to sell books or make a life as a professional anti-polyg activist.

In this case, we now know the call was fake, and authorities found ZERO "child brides," if by that you mean under the legal marriage age (with parental consent). Given that, it's the authorities who I believe have proven they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt, not the YFZ folks.

kbp said...

Thanks Heritage Hills!
(your link did not work)

Local Woman's Fake Call May Have Led to Polygamist Raid

By Tak Landrock

COLORADO SPRINGS - A call from a 16-year old girl, claiming sexual abuse at the Texas Polygamist Compound may have been a prank call from a Colorado Springs woman. 33-year old Rozita Swinton was arrested Wednesday Night by Colorado Springs Police...

This might let Flroa off the hook, for now anyway.

Ron in Houston said...


I'm with ya. You do have to be careful with your sources.

This case is an interesting one for me. I distrust (hmmm, am I being too soft perhaps I should say loathe, despise, or hate) the government. I also have about the same feelings for organized religion.

Anonymous said...

Ron in Houston. It sounds like what you're saying is we need checks and balances to prevent majoritarian dictatorships. The founding fathers wrestled with that problem but came up short on fully addressing it. That being said, we already live under a corporate theocracy, whose prophet is Adam Smith and their bible "The Wealth of Nations." Want to talk about brainwashed, just look around you. Americans in general are some of the most brainwashed people on the planet.

Signed, Member of the Alexander Berkman Society.

Anonymous said...

Ron in Houston -
I don't know what exactly it is you are getting at. The peoples rights have already been ignored, and they cannot find anything wrong; is that not evidence to you that abuse doesn't exist there? You speak of all these problems that they have, but with a little research, every one of them are from Anti-FLDS who have an agenda and who have been proven wrong multiple times. Why don't you open your eyes, and release yourself from the brainwashing of the "experts" of society?