Eldorado, Texas - A new court filing reveals that federal authorities continue to actively investigate the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with more than a billion pages of evidence seized from the polygamous sect's sprawling Texas ranch.
Attorneys for Frederick Merrill Jessop, the one-time bishop of the FLDS Church's Yearning for Zion Ranch outside Eldorado, filed a motion seeking to delay his upcoming trial on charges of conducting an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor. In the document, they revealed the ongoing federal investigation by noting the voluminous amounts of evidence in the cases against FLDS members.
The evidence, presumably marriage records, diaries and other materials, were seized by Texas authorities during the 2008 raid on the YFZ Ranch. During the raid, more than 400 children were taken into state protective custody over allegations of abuse. They were ultimately returned after a pair of court rulings found the state's actions improper. The call that sparked the raid is believed to be a hoax.
The admissibility of any evidence seized by Texas authorities is also being challenged in court.
"This new discovery apparently constitutes electronic items which were seized by federal law enforcement authorities, purportedly pursuant to federal search warrants, the affidavits for which remain under seal," Jessop's attorneys Amy Hennington and Gerald Goldstein wrote.
The attorneys wrote the electronic evidence alone made up two terabytes of data (approximately 2,000 gigabytes) that has not been reviewed. That alone represents about 440 million hard copy pages, "bringing the total discovery received in this case to approximately one billion, seven hundred million (1,764,400,062) pages of materials," Hennington and Goldstein wrote.
The attorneys also said that the Texas Attorney General's Office is also seeking to get copies of federal search warrant affidavits. However, those remain under seal in Dallas, Texas.
In the waning days of the raid on the YFZ Ranch, FBI agents served a search warrant and seized more evidence. Federal authorities have consistently refused to discuss any investigation into the FLDS Church in Texas.
Photographs obtained by Fox 13 show hundreds of boxes of paper evidence that were seized by Texas authorities from the FLDS Church's temple annex in Eldorado. The evidence state and federal authorities have been investigating is voluminous.
A dozen FLDS members, including polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, are facing criminal charges stemming from the raid. Most are related to underage marriages.
Authorities outside Texas continue to search for evidence of so-called child bride marriages. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently announced it was conducting its own investigation into the trafficking of girls across the U.S.-Canadian border for purposes of marriage after Texas documents found their way into a court case in British Columbia considering decriminalizing polygamy in that country.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said in a recent interview with Fox 13 he has had no evidence presented to him of child bride marriages in Utah since 2004, when Utah made child bigamy a second-degree felony.
Meanwhile, from his jail cell in Big Lake, Texas, Jeffs has purportedly issued another proclamation. The document given to Fox 13, which was reportedly sent to followers in Hildale and Colorado City, is described as a "word of warning" from God through Jeffs.
The "revelation" calls for an end to wars across the world, before warning of more earthquakes, violence, "pestilence and famine and disease" before Jesus Christ's return
"And when you reject my word, and my spirit of peace withdraws, darkness rules," Jeffs wrote. "And there shall be violence in many lands and I shall send my judgments to cleanse the more wicked out of every nation and preserve the more righteous in preparing for my glorious appearing on earth."
The document is dated April 6, which is significant in Mormon history -- the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Joseph Smith. The FLDS Church is a breakaway sect.
The document is signed by "members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known among men as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
From his jail cell in Texas, where he has access to a phone, Jeffs has reasserted his control as president of the FLDS Church. He has ousted numerous members. Another member, William E. Jessop, has filed documents with the state of Utah challenging Jeffs' presidency of the church.