Papers detail sect's plans

San Angelo Standard-Times, Texas/February 10, 2009

The leaders of a polygamous sect sought to create a trust through their Schleicher County ranch, likely as a way to self-finance the group's Texas operations, according to some of more than 1,000 pages of documents released Monday by the Tom Green County 51st District Court.

The mountains of evidence - used as exhibits in the deposition last month of sect bishop and YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop - contain hundreds of pages of dictations by Warren Jeffs, self-styled prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Ranging from the bizarre to the devout, Jeffs' dictations were seized in an April raid on the ranch by child-welfare and law-enforcement officials.

Some of the dictations have already been released in the course of multiple cases winding their way through the courts, but the release Monday features a swarm of missives sent in a three-year period as Jeffs fled authorities, visited every state capital and settled down for a time at the ranch.

They also include dictations and orders sent from his Utah jail cell, showing that despite his imprisonment, Jeffs maintained a tight grip on the actions of his followers in Schleicher County.

Among the documents are efforts to create a trust in Texas apparently mirroring the United Effort Plan in Utah, which has been the subject of litigation for years.

The sect has long been suspected of using proceeds from the trust to finance the 2004-05 construction of the 1,400-acre ranch, and the documents indicate Jeffs and others had an eye on replicating the system to make the ranch self-sufficient in Texas.

In 2005, according to one dictation, YFZ Land Corp. owner David Allred sold the property to three other FLDS members, who then appointed Jessop the company manager.

"All this is in preparation to transfer the land into a trust," Jeffs dictated.

The deposition exhibits include rough drafts of a document creating the United Order Trust of Texas, some marked with notes taken during a meeting with an attorney. The trust would have made Jeffs the sole beneficiary and administered by a board of up to seven members, according to the documents.

There is no public record that such a trust was ever created.

Such a setup would make sense for the group as a way to essentially turn the ranch into a nonprofit organization with a goal of reinvesting its funds into its own use and expansion, said Sam Allen, a San Angelo attorney who has investigated the sect's use of the UEP, working for its court-appointed administrator, Bruce Wisan.

"It wouldn't be illogical for somebody to use a trust to own and operate a place like the ranch," Allen said.

"The profits are supposed to be reinvested into that entity."

The proposed trust was among numerous affairs Jeffs kept tabs on during his time away from the ranch.

According to the dictations, he arranged and performed "marriages," toured the United States with his daughters and closely ran the ranch operations.

In letters to ranch residents - written while he was on the run from federal authorities, as well as after he was arrested - he discipled his followers, appropriated funds and directed the construction of the YFZ Ranch, which he alternately called the "place of refuge" and "R17."

"The Lord showed me to warn you to beware your weakness of the vanity of liking to be noticed by other men or boys," he wrote to one woman. "In helping Jen on the boys' meals, do not socialize or be around the boys."

Many of the dictations come from a 2005 trip across the country, made while he evaded authorities seeking to arrest him on charges of arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin - of which he would later be convicted.

Jeffs spoke often of the court cases entangling the group, and noticed when he was placed on the FBI's most wanted list. He also condemned what he saw as the excesses of modern America, spending time particularly in New Orleans and determining, "None doeth good here," and that it "needs to be swept clean." He later thanked God when the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Jeffs also visited every state capital, delivering them to God for destruction by shaking the dust of each place from his heels - a biblical allusion given high importance by Mormon founder Joseph Smith.

Jeffs describes visiting suntan booths and learning how to ride a motorcycle. He often seemed to seek out the worst of pop culture - ordering his traveling companions to watch television late at night to witness American depravity. At one point, he wrote, they watched the film "Troy."

He described the trip as "this mission to witness the wicked world in a controlled way without partaking of their ways, to come to the knowledge of how wicked this nation is, and why it must be destroyed."

He would retell his dreams, some apocalyptic in nature, others racist, depicting black people as omens of deceit or conspiracy.

Even after his arrest, Jeffs gave orders from jail regarding all aspects of life at the ranch, writing to Jessop and ordering specific members to listen to specific teachings.

The exhibits became public record when Denton attorney Natalie Malonis entered them into evidence during Jessop's deposition Jan. 26. She's the court-appointed lawyer for a 17-year-old daughter of Jeffs' who was, according to sect documents, married to Jessop's adult son just after her 15th birthday.

Malonis, seeking child support and other financial considerations for her client before the case was dismissed on Friday, made no headway during the deposition, as Jessop cited his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination at least 267 times, including on all questions relating to the proposed Texas trust.

The case's dismissal all but ended Malonis' role in the case, and the avalanche of evidence released Monday essentially closes one of the highest-profile threads in the expansive litigation.

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