Judge was under guard during polygamist hearings

Associated Press/June 12, 2008

San Anotnio - The home of a judge in Texas who ordered the removal of 440 children from a polygamist ranch was placed under guard after Utah and Arizona authorities warned of "enforcers" from the sect, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Police assigned to Judge Barbara Walther's San Angelo, Texas, house were provided dossiers and photos of 16 men and women deemed a threat, the Deseret News in Utah reported.

"There are many individuals who are willing to give up their life for the cause and you can never underestimate what a religious fanatic is capable of," said e-mails obtained from the Washington County sheriff's office through state public records law.

It was unclear, however, whether Walther still was getting extra security at her home Wednesday, nearly two weeks after the Texas Supreme Court said the children should be returned to their parents.

Lt. Curtis Milbourn of the San Angelo Police Department said officers provided additional security for the judge during the custody hearings in April and May. However, he didn't know whether the protection still was in place.

He referred questions to the judge's office. An administrator there said she couldn't answer questions Wednesday.

Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City-based attorney for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said law enforcement did not have to worry about FLDS members seeking revenge.

"Have they ever seen an act of intimidation or violence against law enforcement from the FLDS community at all, ever?" he told the newspaper. "Before they start spreading those kinds of rumors, they ought to be able to ID an example of them ever doing that in the past."

Willie Jessop, a group member who was a spokesman during the Texas case, agreed.

"Washington County officials do not let the facts get in the way of a good story," Jessop said. "These are the types of paranoid allegations that can hurt a lot of innocent people if they are allowed to go unchecked."

Texas officials removed the children in April because of concerns they were being abused. The Texas Supreme Court, however, said the children should be returned.

The newspaper reported that law enforcement has been on alert since an FLDS-related Web site published Walther's home address and telephone numbers.

Walther signed the original order to remove all of the FLDS children from the Yearning For Zion Ranch and place them in state custody.

A Web site that talks of a threat to "pay Ms. Walther's home a visit" is not sanctioned by the FLDS Church, Parker said. The site is run by Bill Medvecky, a Fort Myers, Fla., man who has donated to the fund for FLDS children, Parker said.

Parker told church leaders the post could be construed as a threat, according to the newspaper. They contacted Medvecky and had him remove the judge's address, he said. But her telephone numbers remain on the site, which describes Walther as the "leader of the Gestapo" and includes a link to a petition to impeach the judge.

Medvecky noted Walther's address is in the phone book.

"They are not confrontational whatsoever. I am," Medvecky told the Deseret News. "They are not me, and they have nothing to do with the site. We support them 100 percent."

The FLDS is concentrated in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

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