Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Did Ranger mislead judge into issuing Eldorado warrant?

It was revealed Tuesday at the Texas House Human Services Committee hearing (see Grits coverage) that a court filing today would provide more detail about the still-murky backstory of what occurred in the five days between the initial hoax phone call to a San Angelo women's shelter and the legal and political catastrophe that became the Great Eldorado Polygamist Roundup at the YFZ Ranch. Here's the initial MSM coverage:
Brooke Adams' account in the SL Tribune is typically excellent:

in a sworn affidavit used for the first search warrant, Texas Ranger Brooks Long said Barlow was at the ranch, the motion says. Brooks also failed to disclose he had confirmed with an Arizona deputy sheriff that Barlow needed permission to leave Arizona as a condition of his probation.

In addition, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran spoke to Barlow by telephone and confirmed he was in Arizona, not Texas.

"Like the clock that strikes thirteen, this fact alone should have called everything they had heard before into question," the motion states.

Long also "failed to even make a single telephone call to corroborate or verify this caller's information" and, despite checking, was unable to verify her claim of recent treatment at the Schleicher County Medical Center, the motion says.

After being told no "Sarah Barlow" existed, officers asked to interview all females between the ages of seven and 17 and were granted access to the ranch. That showed their intent not to "seek evidence of a special crime" but to "check evidence of any crime against the children present," the motion states.

After three days of searching, there was still no sign of "Sarah Barlow, the motion states.

"It is clear that the authorities used a hoax phone call as an excuse for staging a massively intrusive raid upon a disfavored religious group," it says.

The search of the ranch, which is bigger than some Texas cities, based on one "general" warrant "far exceeds that of any reported case in this or any other jurisdiction," it says.

"This wholesale search of an entire village, pursuant to a single warrant, is by far the most sweeping and expansive invasion of our citizens' right to privacy since our founding fathers attempted to do away with King George's 'writs of assistance' more than two hundred years ago."

It contends that the state's "omissions, misstatements, and failure to exercise the requisite diligence, protocol and expertise expected of any reasonably well-trained law enforcement officer" led to "one of the most intrusive, invasive and wide-reaching raids of a religious community in our country's history."

That's quite a ringing critique! Looks like the legal wrangling over these cases may heat back up again while the Legislature is still in session.

I've been beefing about the breadth of that search warrant since right after it was filed, so it will be interesting to see it finally, formally disputed. The Third Court of Appeals has already held the whole ranch was not a single household, so the state begins its reaction to this motion very much on the defensive.

Says the San Angelo Standard Times, "The motion covers 10 of the 12 defendants, excepting sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is facing charges in Arizona, and ranch doctor Lloyd Barlow, who faces only misdemeanor counts."

Related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...


I'll be interested to see if Ranger Long and any of the decison makers in the TX Rangers are held accountable. Several high-level administrators is DPFS were forced to resign or demoted because of this multi-million dollar mess.

Rage Judicata said...

I was with you on this one from the start as well--if they knew in advance that the call was fake, it endangers the admissability of any subsequent discovery of criminal acts. So even if they find crimes, they may not get to prosecute.

Congratulations DPS, you may have just let a bunch of child molestrs go free.

Hugh McBryde said...

If Scooter Libby can go down for lying to a Grand Jury, Brooks ought to be sweating.

You haven't even mentioned the fact that Newbridge personel SUPPLIED the name of Dale Evans Barlow to Rozita.

doran williams said...

Damn right the Ranger mislead the judge.

The matter about the Ranger "despite checking, was unable to verify her claim of recent treatment at the Schleicher County Medical Center," is new material, at least to me, that demonstrates the Ranger's duplicity.

There were EMTs and at at least one doctor living at the Ranch. There is nothing in the Ranger's affidavit, that I noticed, to indicate that he/she talked to them. If the Ranger did talk to those doctors, and they also could not verify any beatings of Sarah, then the Ranger's duplicity is even worse.

Hope that Ranger is looking for a new job. Not in law enforcement.

TxBluesMan said...


Are all of you really going to base your position on a motion from one side?

Doran at least knows (or should) that a motion is not proof, especially one as poorly written as this one was.

Has anyone here actually read the motion besides me?

Hugh McBryde said...

I don't knows nuttin' 'bout readin' no motions....that's for me betters...

doran williams said...

Why not, Tx? You've done the same thing vis a vis the State's position.

Why don't you address some of the allegations in the motion, and the apparent failure of the Ranger to corroborate the call by talking to the medical persons at the Ranch? I'm interested in your viewpoint on this and on the lack of corroboration from the Schleicher County Medical Center not being mentioned in the affidavit.

Maybe it is your position that a Ranger, or any other peace officer, can deliberately withhold information which bears directly on the issue of probable cause because that info would tend not to show probable cause?

Anonymous said...

"Congratulations DPS, you may have just let a bunch of child molestrs go free."(sic)

Rage, it can also be said that they should be congratulated for scatting all over the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution. You say a bunch of molesters, but what is a bunch? The last I heard there were very few confirmed cases of abuse, and even fewer that are supposed to have committed the terrible acts. Your posting attempts to make it into something more than what it actually is, a small group of 3 to 5 people hiding in a much larger group that all in all were law abiding (minus the polygamy thing).

This is another reason for a total re-work of the mandate for any arm of law-enforcement in this state. Oversight committees should be put into place to review line by line the SOP of all law enforcement orgs. That coupled with the recording of confessions, criminal responsibility to officers that are NOT on the up and up with things such as this and maybe we might see some of the 'Los Zetas-like' corruption expelled from the enforcement branch of state government.

TxBluesMan said...


I'm working on a post on my blog on that very issue.

I'll let you know when I post it.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

[sarcasm]But, wait! The call was NOT a hoax! There's no proof it was a hoax!/sarcasm]

You know what is interesting about that article? How many times have you ever read a news account that lays out just the defense side of the story in an ongoing criminal case? Now, how many times have you read a news article that lays out just the prosecution side of the story in an ongoing criminal case? All those police beat writers should think about that every time they write an article by summarizing and quoting law encforcement news releases.

The hearings over the search warrant will be very interesting. The fact that it was pretty easy to verify that the caller was not truthful is certainly a factor in favor of the defense. I also think the judge was an absolute moron for signing a warrant for the entire ranch. It really was overly broad.

Of course, all this hubub over the warrant means nothing if the courts in the state aren't willing to actually enforce the 4th Amendment.

Hugh McBryde said...

Just for the record, I've read the motion. I found it so riveting that I will probably read it several more times.

doran williams said...

As I've said before, since this mess was first dumped out, Judge Walther is extremely unlikely to grant a motion to quash based on the problems with the search warrant affidavit. It won't matter how good a legal case/argument the Defense puts on, the Judge would have to admit that she made a mistake and that the Texas Ranger fooled her. I've not seem anything about the performance of Judge Walther in this case which leads me to think that she can make those admissions.

Judge Walther is probably not alone in being reluctant to quash the fruits of search warrant which she signed. I've done some criminal law over the years, and watched a lot more in courtrooms, and I've never even heard of a judge who will over-rule herself. They deny the motions to quash and leave it to the appellate courts to make the determination, after trial and a lot of expense for everyone.

This area of pre-trial procedure in criminal cases needs some reform. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure should be amended to provide, upon the motion of the State or of the Defense, for motions to quash based upon faulty search or arrest warrants affidavits, a hearing by a judge who did not issue the warrant.

Hugh McBryde said...

Well der Doran, of course it will go to a higher court. I would be as astounded if not more astounded than you, if she rules in favor of the motion.

It's the first step though. As you evidently know, this must be done to get to the next court.

gravyrug said...

Umm, forgive my ignorance, but why does Judge Walther get to rule on the validity of the warrant she originally signed? Wouldn't that constitute flagrant conflict of interest? Shouldn't she recuse herself?

Hugh McBryde said...


Theoretically Judge Walther is impartial, and when presented with new evidence, she would not be ruling against herself, but simply ruling.

As politicized and personal as this has been and as court cases have generally become all through the nation, she is seen as "ruling against herself."

To ME, this represents an opportunity for Walther to extricate Texas from the mess it's in, or to start to, but she won't. I think she has much to answer for and must keep the door closed to the investigation of what went wrong, because of what she has a lot to cover up herself. She's in the process up to her chin already. She's always been part of the prosecution and can't afford for that to be seen.

This is an Alamo situation though, she's just prolonging the inevitable.

TxBluesMan said...

Doran said,
Why don't you address some of the allegations in the motionAs you requested, the response is here.

Anonymous said...

The Eldorado episode was emotionally-charged and therefore quickly became political, just as the 2007 TYC episode did. I saw first-hand the way Ranger operations can be affected by politics. I used to think they were ten feet tall -- no more.


Hugh McBryde said...

Whoopsie. Long and Doran will not respond to a criminal subpoena in Arizona, because YFZ evidence is now SUPPRESSED.