FLDS fighting to keep documents out of land trust case

Fox 13 News, Utah/March 26, 2010

Salt Lake City - Documents that may have been taken in the 2008 raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' ranch in Texas have found their way into a civil case in Utah, and members of the polygamous church are fighting to keep them out. The documents were filed by the court-appointed special fiduciary of the United Effort Plan Trust (UEP), which controls land and homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. They contain pages of dictations purportedly by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. They detail underage marriages and the ongoing legal battle.

"The Lord will have me do more marriages of very young girls. This will make the government rage and come against us stronger than ever," Jeffs reportedly wrote in a 2004 dictation filed as an exhibit.

Jeffs was convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice, for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. He faces similar charges in Arizona and Texas.

"He ordered the continual marriage of underage women for the purpose of inciting the government to come and take over the community," said Val Oveson, a spokesman for Bruce Wisan, the UEP's court-appointed fiduciary. "He abandoned the community to Texas. All of that is explicitly outlined in the documents that we referred to."

In its filing the fiduciary's lawyers say Jeffs ordered members to fight court-ordered reforms to the trust.

"I am not surrendering the Church or the United Effort Plan Trust organizations, I am standing firm with God. And what the wicked do against us is their doing and it will being the judgments of God upon them and those that fall away," Jeffs reportedly wrote in another document, attached as an exhibit to the filing.

FLDS members are challenging the inclusion of the documents, suggesting they may be privileged communications. Jim Bradshaw, an attorney representing several FLDS members, questioned where they came from.

"Law enforcement has obtained a number of documents," he said Friday. "Law enforcement won't give those documents to anyone. No one, including the special fiduciary, so there's a very huge question mark about where Bruce Wisan claims that he came across these documents."

Oveson told Fox 13 that they were obtained "legally and lawfully," and that Texas Rangers had authenticated them.

"What do these documents have to do with preserving the assets of the land trust?" Bradshaw countered. "And the answer is nothing."

The UEP Trust, with more than $100 million in assets, was taken over by a judge in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court in 2005 amid allegations that Jeffs and other FLDS leaders mismanaged it. The trust, now millions in debt, has been mired in a legal battle. FLDS members are fighting court ordered reforms, arguing that the proposed subdivision of communal land violates their First Amendment right to consecrate the property to their church.

Wisan has claimed that the trust is in debt partly because of an edict by Jeffs to have FLDS faithful refuse to cooperate with court-ordered reforms and the administration of the trust.

The latest documents filed in the UEP case are similar to other papers seized in the 2008 raid in Texas that have been used in the child custody case involving FLDS families. Other papers seized in the raid have been excluded from Jeffs' criminal case in Arizona, but allowed in the ongoing prosecutions of FLDS members in Texas.

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