Judge places newspaper ads looking for church leader in polygamy case

Associated Press/December 5, 2004

Salt Lake City -- A U.S. judge has ordered public notices placed in newspapers near polygamist strongholds in Canada and the United States, trying to compel a reclusive church leader accused of sexually abusing his nephew to respond to the lawsuit.

The ads target Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Third District Judge Stephen Henriod ordered the notices published in newspapers in St. George, Utah; Eldorado, Texas; Cortez, Colo; and in Bountiful, B.C.

In a July 29 lawsuit, 21-year-old Brent Jeffs accuses his three uncles - Warren, Blaine and Leslie Jeffs - of sexually assaulting him years ago when he was a child. Brent Jeffs claims the three told him the actions were a way to make him a man.

The lawsuit also names the FLDS church as a defendant. The church's lawyer, Rodney Parker, said Saturday he still has about 20 days to respond to the lawsuit on behalf of the church.

However, the Salt Lake City lawyer said he does not represent Jeffs in this lawsuit, and does not know if the church leader has another lawyer.

Jeffs is considered a prophet by his 12,000 followers. Most of the FLDS church members, most of whom practise one of the church's central tenets of polygamy, live in the twin cities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

Warren Jeffs' whereabouts are unknown to most outside his closed community, whose members are told not to speak to reporters. His compound in Hildale is surrounded by a three-metre wall.

Other FLDS communities are in Creston, B.C; Eldorado, Texas; and most recently in Mancos, Colo.

In the notice, Henriod wrote that Jeffs' whereabouts could not be determined and that there is "good cause to believe that (Jeffs) is avoiding service of process . . . ."

Once the plaintiffs have supplied proof the summons has been published, Jeffs has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, according to the order.

Brent Jeffs' lawsuit claims the sexual abuse occurred in the 1980s at Alta Academy, the church's now-closed private school in Salt Lake City, when the boy was five and six years old.

He is seeking unspecified damages from his uncles and the church, claiming its leaders knew of the "perversity and sexually predatory acts" but did nothing to stop them.

Brent Jeffs also is asking for reimbursement of all money he and his parents paid into church trusts and an order stopping the church leaders from disposing of any assets.

Parker has denied the allegations on behalf of the church.

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