County Attorney responds in Jeffs case

Kingman Daily Miner, Arizona/October 06, 2008

Kingman - Warren Jeffs' attempt to relinquish control as the "key holder" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints may have backfired.

Jeffs' attorneys filed a motion last month to suppress any evidence gathered from the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. Texas authorities raided the ranch earlier this year, after receiving a call from a woman claiming to be a girl who had been sexually abused by her 49-year-old husband.

Michael Piccarreta, one of Jeffs' attorneys, stated in the motion that Jeffs' Fourth Amendment protection from illegal searches and seizures was violated when Texas officials served the warrants, and therefore, the evidence from the Texas raid was seized illegally and could not be used.

The warrants used to search the property were over-broad and did not pinpoint which areas of the ranch were to be searched, he wrote. They also did not describe what items law enforcement officers were supposed to seize.

Furthermore, the warrants were not supported by probable cause and were based on false information, he wrote.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith filed a response to the motion on Sept. 26. He argued that Piccarreta and Jeffs had no standing to file the challenge to the Texas search because during his incarceration in the Washington County Jail in Utah, Jeffs had relinquished his leadership of the church and his control of church property.

"The Lord has shown me that I am one of the most wicked men on the face of the Earth since the days of Adam, that I do not hold priesthood anymore and that you, my family, should look to Brother William E. Jessop as key holder of (the) priesthood and Brother Merrill is his second counselor," Jeffs said, according to telephone transcripts from Jan. 27, 2007, attached to Smith's response.

Jeffs repeats the same message in at least three other telephone conversations on the same day.

Jeffs' attorneys also had provided no physical proof that Jeffs owned the property in Texas, Smith wrote. Legally, Jeffs could not assert the right of privacy for anyone else who was living on the ranch.

Smith pointed out that Jeffs' attorneys were jumping the gun by filing the motion to suppress now: His office had not filed charges against Jeffs based on information gathered from the Texas ranch.

He also argued that the Texas warrants were not overly broad and specifically limited the search to the ranch property and any buildings on it.

He said the "girl" who made the call to Texas authorities had told them that members of the sect would not let her leave the property, and she feared what might happen to her if someone found out she had called authorities.

And the Texas Ranger who requested the search warrants did not know where the girl or any medical or marriage records connected with the case might be hidden on the ranch; therefore, he asked that the warrant include all the buildings on the ranch property.

Smith also argued that Texas authorities did not know for certain that the Dale Barlow cited by the girl in her phone call to authorities was the same man serving probation in Arizona. Barlow is a common name in the FLDS sect, Smith wrote.

The motion to suppress will go before Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn.

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