Texas AG office to prosecute polygamist sect cases

Houston Chronicle/May 6, 2008

A judge at the center of the largest custody battle in U.S. history has approved a request to bring in the Texas Attorney General's office to prosecute any future criminal charges in the case.

State District Judge Barbara Walther on Monday approved Tom Green County District Attorney Stephen Lupton's request for a special prosecutor in the case involving the Yearning For Zion Ranch north of Eldorado.

On April 3 and 4, the state began removing more than 400 children who lived on the ranch with their parents who are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon group that embraces polygamy.

Texas Child Protective Services eventually removed 464 children from the ranch and placed them in foster care after finding several pregnant underage girls. CPS officials said that all of the children had either been sexually or physically abused or where at risk of being abused, prompting the removal.

So far, no adult male on the ranch has been charged with sexual abuse, but officials have indicated the likelihood criminal charges will be sought against the husband of the underage girls.

Jerry Strickland, spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott, confirmed that Abbott's office had been asked to assist.

"The attorney general's office receives requests from district and county attorneys on a variety of issues," Strickland said.

The AG's office usually steps in, at a county's request, when there is a conflict of interest, because of the additional resources the AG's office can provide in a complicated case or the area of law is one the AG has particular expertise.

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