Ex-Bodyguard Sues Imprisoned Cult Leader

Courthouse News/June 11, 2014

By Jonny Bonner

Custer, South Dakota -- The former bodyguard of imprisoned polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs sued the self-professed prophet over a $2.4 million judgment for burglary-related business losses.
Willie Jessop, Jeffs' onetime bodyguard and Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman, filed an affidavit in support of a foreign judgment in Custer County Court. Also listed as plaintiffs are Utah-based R&W Excavating, and Boulder Mountain Group, of Nevada.
The 3-page document, filed June 3, claims Jeffs, his brother Lyle Jeffs, brother-in-law John Wayman and NewEra Manufacturing owe $2.4 million for a judgment related to a break-in at Jessop's business, R&W Excavating.
Several people allegedly broke in and stole computers, hard drives, court files and personal items from the Hildale-area excavation business and ranch in 2012. As a result, plus mass resignations after sect leaders allegedly threatened to excommunicate employees from the FLDS church if they didn't quit, the business was crippled, Jessop claimed.
Jessop sued the defendants for $57 million in Utah state court in 2012, claiming church leaders harassed his family, kept them under 24-hour surveillance and expelled his children from FLDS schools after he had a falling-out with Jeffs.
Jessop won the lawsuit by default, and was granted a $30 million judgment, after Lyle Jeffs and Wayman failed to respond to a court summons, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Jeffs, president of the FLDS church, was convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting two of his two dozen-plus child brides. DNA at his trial that showed he fathered a child to one of the girls, age 15. The other victim was 12 years old.
 He is serving a life sentence in Palestine, Texas.
Jeffs was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List in 2006, and has been arrested or charged in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Utah.
Jeffs has been regularly involved in legal tangles since his incarceration.
In 2013, Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Mormons sued a trust fiduciary, seeking to have an $8.8 million judgment against a property trust set aside, claiming it was "based upon false, incomplete, and misleading evidence."
Jeffs and the sect claimed a 2007 default judgment entered in state court in Wisan v. Jeffs was "obtained fraudulently."
Trust fiduciary Bruce Wisan, in a 2006 lawsuit, claimed trustees, including Jeffs, Truman Barlow, Leroy Jeffs, James Zitting and William Timpson transferred "approximately 1,311 acres of real property located in or near Apple Valley, Utah to an entity known as Aspen Management."
A state court agreed with Wisan, entering the $8.8 million judgment against the plaintiffs.
Elissa Wall, a former child bridge, separately sued Jeffs for $40 million in March, claiming she was forced to marry her 19-year-old cousin, Allen Steed, in 2001 - when she was 14.
Jeffs was hospitalized for an undisclosed medical condition the same month. He is not eligible for parole until 2038.
The plaintiffs are represented by Mark James with Hatch, James & Dodge, of Salt Lake City.

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