12 attorneys are hired to defend FLDS members in raid aftermath

Deseret Morning News, Utah/April 8, 2008

San Angelo, Texas - Twelve attorneys have been hired to defend members and children of the FLDS Church over a raid of its ranch near here.

"We're going to be presenting our side of the story in the courtroom forum," said Patrick Peranteau, an attorney for the FLDS Church who is based in San Antonio.

A court hearing is scheduled here for Wednesday afternoon.

Peranteau declined to say anything else about his clients and the recent raid on their 1,700-acre ranch near Eldorado. Ultimately, more than 400 children from the ranch were taken into state custody pending investigations of abuse.

In documents filed in court, attorneys for the church seek to halt the execution of the search warrant at the YFZ Ranch. They argued the search is illegal and that the warrant did not have enough "probable cause" to justify such an action.

The court filings also argued that "irreparable injury" would be caused if police officers were allowed to enter and search the temple at the ranch. "The temple is one of the holiest sites in the community to the religious denomination living there," one document states. "Members consider it a desecration of one of their holiest sites for a non-member to enter the temple. Similar to the concept of unringing a bell, how would law enforcement propose to undesecrate the temple in a community should the search later be found to have been illegal?"

Attorneys also argued that no birth or marriage records are maintained inside the temple that would justify a SWAT team entering and searching. The attorneys said the temple could easily be secured, because it is surrounded by a tall masonry wall with six gates, until a judge considers their objections.

The briefs were filed on behalf of Warren Jeffs' brother Isaac, ranch leader Merril Jessop and the FLDS Church.

Schleicher County assistant district attorney Allison Palmer argued that there was no precedent to quash the search warrant or issue a stay and said the attorneys would later have opportunities to ask the court to suppress any evidence taken from the ranch.

The temple was searched late Saturday night. Texas officials said members of the polygamous group initially resisted their efforts to enter the temple but eventually relented.

"They were very sensitive to that issue, but we did have a search warrant that covered the entire property," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange.

She would not say if anything or anyone was taken from the temple or how long Texas rangers and police officers were inside.

Both Mange and Palmer said they'd heard reports that the "jaws of life," a device used to get victims out of crashed vehicles, had been taken to the scene to open the temple doors. They couldn't confirm whether that was the case or whether the device was used.

In Utah, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith, who has been involved with law-enforcement issues in the FLDS community of Hildale, said he knew at least a week ago that Texas authorities would raid the YFZ ranch.

"I don't know all the particulars, but apparently in the eyes of the authorities in Texas there was credible evidence to justify their actions," Smith said on Monday, adding he has kept in close contact with Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran ever since members of the FLDS church arrived there several years ago.

"I have to give them (Texas authorities) the benefit of the doubt that they're doing the right thing," Smith said.

"I don't see that I would have done anything differently myself," he said of the raid on the compound. "It's like a bomb threat. They have to go in."

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