Salt Lake City - A private investigator who works for attorneys pursuing a polygamous church was banned from the homes and offices of a sect member in a restraining order issued Wednesday by a Utah judge.
District Judge G. Rand Beacham banned Sam Brower from going within 500 feet of the homes or business offices of Willie Jessop, an elder of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Jessop sought the order Tuesday, contending that Brower has trespassed on his property - once with a TV news crew - frightening Jessop's children and harassing employees of his excavating business.
Brower is employed by attorneys who have filed civil and criminal cases against the church and some of its members.
He denied the allegations Wednesday and said the order is retaliation for his role in a Texas child welfare case that involved a daughter of jailed FLDS president Warren Jeffs.
Brower was a witness for attorney Natalie Malonis, who was granted a restraining order against Jessop because she believed he was exercising too much influence over the daughter.
"All those allegations are just simply not true," Brower said. "I'm not surprised that desperate people do desperate things, and I'm sure (the FLDS) are getting desperate. They are trying to divert attention from the real issues."
Jessop has served as church spokesman since an April raid on an FLDS ranch near San Angelo. Texas authorities acting on a report of child abuse removed more than 400 children from the custody of their parents. The children have since been returned, although a child welfare investigation continues and a grand jury is said to be considering possible criminal charges.
The FLDS is an insular faith of nearly 6,000 whose members are traditionally based in twin communities along the Utah-Arizona state line. The faith practices polygamy in arranged marriages that have sometimes involved underage girls.
Jeffs, 52, is currently hospitalized in Las Vegas. He was taken there Tuesday from a jail in Kingman, Ariz., after officers found him feverish and convulsive.
He is facing two Arizona trials on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor stemming from the marriages of two underage girls.
Last year, a Utah jury convicted Jeffs of two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice for his role in the 2001 marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison.