Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - History - Legal Trouble and Leadership Struggles

Legal Trouble and Leadership Struggles

In 2003, the church received increased attention from the state of Utah when police officer Rodney Holm, a member of the church, was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old and one count of bigamy for his marriage to and impregnation of plural wife Ruth Stubbs. The conviction was the first legal action against a member of the FLDS Church since the Short Creek raid.

In November 2003, church member David Allred purchased "as a hunting retreat" the 1,371-acre (5.55 km2) Isaacs Ranch 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Eldorado, Texas, on Schleicher County Road 300 and sent 30 to 40 construction workers from Colorado City–Hildale to begin work on the property. Improvements soon included three 3-story houses, each 8,000 to 10,000 square feet (930 m2), a concrete plant, and a plowed field. After seeing high-profile FLDS Church critic Flora Jessop on the ABC television program Primetime Live on March 4, 2004, concerned Eldorado residents contacted Jessop. She investigated, and on March 25, 2004, Jessop held a press conference in Eldorado confirming that the new neighbors were FLDS Church adherents. On May 18, 2004, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran and his Chief Deputy visited Colorado City, and the FLDS Church officially acknowledged that the Schleicher County property would be a new base for the church. It has been reported in the media that the church has built a temple at the YFZ Ranch, which is supported by evidence, including aerial photographs of a large stone structure (approximately 88 feet (27 m) wide) in a state of relative completion. A local newspaper, the Eldorado Success, reported that the temple foundation was dedicated January 1, 2005 by Warren Jeffs.

On January 10, 2004, Dan Barlow (the mayor of Colorado City) and about 20 other men were excommunicated from the church and stripped of their wives and children (who would be reassigned to other men), and the right to live in the town. The same day two teenage girls reportedly fled the towns with the aid of activist Flora Jessop, who advocates plural wives' escape from polygamy. The two girls, Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm, soon found themselves in a highly publicized dispute over their freedom and custody. After the allegations against their parents were proven false, Flora helped them flee state custody together on February 15, and they ended up in Salt Lake City at Fawn Holm's brother Carl's house.

In October 2004, Flora Jessop reported that David Allred purchased a 60-acre (240,000 m2) parcel of land near Mancos, Colorado, (midway between Cortez and Durango) about the same time he bought the Schleicher County property. Allred told authorities the parcel is to be used as a hunting retreat.

In July 2005, eight men of the church were indicted for sexual contact with minors. All of them turned themselves in to police in Kingman, Arizona, within days.

On July 29, 2005, Brent Jeffs filed suit accusing three of his uncles, including Warren Jeffs, of sexually assaulting him when he was a child. The suit also named the FLDS Church as a defendant. On August 10, former FLDS Church member Shem Fischer, Dan Fischer's brother, added the church and Warren Jeffs as defendants to a 2002 lawsuit claiming he was illegally fired because he no longer adhered to the faith. Fischer, who was a salesman for a wooden cabinetry business in Hildale, claimed church officials interfered with his relationship with his employer and blacklisted him. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the company and found that Fischer was not fired from his job, but quit instead. The district court ruling was overturned in part on the basis that Fischer was discriminated against on the basis of religion when he reapplied for his position and was denied employment because he had left the FLDS church. The parties eventually settled the case for an agreed amount of damages to Shem Fischer.

In July 2005, six young adult "Lost Boys" who claimed they were cast out of their homes on the Utah–Arizona border to reduce competition for wives, filed suit against the FLDS Church. "The have been excommunicated pursuant to that policy and practice and have been cut off from family, friends, benefits, business and employment relationships, and purportedly condemned to eternal damnation," their suit says. "They have become 'lost boys' in the world outside the FLDS community."

On May 7, 2006, the FBI named Warren Jeffs to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

On August 28, 2006, Warren Jeffs was captured on Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, Nevada, after a routine traffic stop. Jeffs was tried in St. George, Utah, and a jury found him guilty of two counts of being an accomplice to rape.

The mayor of Colorado City, Terrill C. Johnson, was arrested on May 26, 2006, for eight fraudulent vehicle registration charges for registering his vehicles in a different state than he lived, which is a felony. He was booked in to Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, Utah, and was released after paying the $5,000 bail in cash.

Read more about this topic:  Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, History

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