Nine more indictments issued against FLDS members

Go San Angelo, Texas/November 12, 2008

Eldorado - Nine more charges were brought Wednesday against four members of a secretive polygamous sect whose sprawling Schleicher County compound was raided in April.

The indictments were issued by the Schleicher County grand jury after a meeting in which it appeared no witnesses were called. They bring to 26 the number of charges filed against 12 members of the

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - all regarding alleged underage marriages conducted during the years since the sect bought property northeast of Eldorado and built the YFZ Ranch.

Sect leader Warren Jeffs was among the four men charged Wednesday, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Already indicted in July on a charge of sexual assault of a child, Jeffs was charged Wednesday with aggravated sexual assault.

Charges against the other three men are as follows, according to the Attorney General's Office:

  • One suspect, a charge of third-degree felony conducting of an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor.
  • A second, on three counts of third-degree felony bigamy.
  • The third, on four charges - first-degree felony bigamy, second-degree felony bigamy, third-degree felony bigamy and third-degree felony tampering with physical evidence.

The Attorney General's Office and Schleicher County District Clerk Peggy Williams do not release the names of those who have been indicted before they are arrested. Jeffs is serving a prison term for conducting the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin in Utah, and is awaiting trial on similar charges in Arizona.

The grand jury, which first met on unrelated cases in June, will meet again Dec. 12 in what will likely be the panel's final meeting before the end of its six-month term.

The case springs from an early April raid by law enforcement and the state's Child Protective Services agency investigating allegations of physical and sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl - reports now believed to be a hoax.

The Colorado woman tied to the phone calls that sparked the raid, Rozita Swinton, appeared in a Colorado courtroom Wednesday as a judge canceled her scheduled January trial on a charge of misdemeanor making a false report to police while she continues to undergo a mental-health evaluation. That charge is unrelated to the FLDS case.

Since the raid, in which CPS seized 439 children in the largest custody case in U.S. history, the agency has sought the dismissal of 402 children while determining an additional 26 alleged children were actually adults. Six children have been placed in state custody, with one of those removed from her parents' care.

A report on the agency's investigation since the raid is expected to be finished by the end of the month, said spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

The dismissals do not necessarily mean CPS determined no abuse was present in a situation, Crimmins said.

"We don't believe that court oversight is necessary," he said. "There still could be some contact with CPS separate from court oversight."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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