Wife of ex-FLDS member wades into lawsuit against Jeffs

Deseret Morning News/August 4, 2007
By Ben Winslow and Jeffiner Dobner

The estranged wife of an ex-member of the Fundamentalist LDS Church is wading into a lawsuit filed against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.

A motion to intervene on behalf of Vivian Barlow was filed Friday in St. George's 5th District Court. It seeks to interject her into a lawsuit her estranged husband, Wendell Musser, has filed against Jeffs.

"One would have to assume Vivian Barlow might have some rights that are being affected by this action," the court filing states.

Musser's lawyer claims it's an attempt to divert pressure from Jeffs.

"It wasn't until the pressure was really on Warren that magically they've been able to get Vivian to come forward through a lawyer who has represented FLDS interests," attorney Roger Hoole told the Deseret Morning News late Friday.

Barlow has retained attorney Reed Braithwaite, who declined to comment on the filing.

"You can say that I do not represent Warren Jeffs," he told the Associated Press. "And if Wendell ever wants visitation with Levi, he can contact me. I'd be more than happy to facilitate that."

Barlow is seeking sole custody of their son, 2-year-old Levi, claiming Musser is unfit for custody or unsupervised visits. She also asks for $250 per month in child support. The motion indicates she is living in Mohave County, Arizona, where many polygamists live.

Wendell Musser sued Jeffs earlier this year, demanding that the FLDS leader reveal the whereabouts of his wife and son. Musser married Barlow in a ceremony presided over by Jeffs in 2005. In his lawsuit, Musser said he was a loyal Jeffs follower who was even assigned to care for some of the FLDS leader's wives while Jeffs was a fugitive.

After Musser was busted for DUI, he claims, Jeffs stripped him of his FLDS membership and cut him off from his wife and son. A judge ordered Jeffs to reveal where Barlow and Levi Musser are or face a $600 per day fine and be forced to give a deposition.

Musser's lawyers deposed Jeffs during an hour-long conversation at the Purgatory Jail last week, but the FLDS leader refused to answer many questions.

"Based upon the advice of my counsel, I decline to answer the question because my answer may be used against me contrary to the protections afforded me by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution," Jeffs said in a transcript of the deposition filed in court earlier this week.

Lawyers for Musser are seeking court sanctions against Jeffs and said they will ask a judge for another chance at a deposition.

"We need to get answers to our questions," Hoole said.

Jeffs, 51, is charged in 5th District Court with rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of marrying a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin. He is scheduled to go on trial in September.

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