Temple used for sex with young girls, officials say

Fort Worth Star-Telegram/April 9, 2008

Eldorado - The temple inside a polygamous sect's outpost was used by husbands when they had sex for the first time with their new underage wives, according to an affidavit released Wednesday by Texas officials.

The search and arrest warrant affidavit said the temple at the YFZ Ranch "contains an area where there is a bed where males over the age of seventeen engage in sexual activity with female children under the age of seventeen."

The affidavit, which was signed by Department of Public Safety investigator Leslie Brooks, said investigators found evidence inside the temple that "at the initial time of marriage" the men would force the young girls to have sex.

Followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints resisted investigators' efforts to enter the temple on Saturday, briefly raising fears of a Branch Davidian-style standoff. The sect followers eventually relented and allowed investigators to enter the temple.

Once inside the gleaming white structure that towers over the compound, investigators found "multiple locked safes, locked desk drawers, locked vaults, as well as multiple computers and beds," court documents said.

Investigators also found evidence that one man at the compound had 20 wives that all lived in the same residence at the ranch near Eldorado.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange would not comment about what else investigators have found on the 1691-acre ranch.

But during a court hearing Wednesday in San Angelo, attorney Gerald Goldstein, who is representing the FLDS church and Lyle Jeffs, a church bishop, said he expected "hundreds of boxes" of documents and computers to be examined by lawyers to determine if they contain attorney-client privilege.

In a court motion filed by Goldstein seeking relief from the search warrants, he said FLDS members "James Jessop, Rulon Keat and Luke Jessop were present and praying as officers drug them out of the way to gain entry to the temple. Officers were also observed firing weapons into the woods on the northwest corner of the temple as they entered the temple gates."

Goldstein contended in his motion that the temple was a "religious sanctuary" and the authorities violated the First Amendment rights of church members.

But 51st District Judge Barbara Walther let the search warrants stand.

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