Fugitive FLDS Leader Faces New Charges
Authorities in Utah this April added two counts of rape to the 10 felony charges already facing fugitive cult leader Warren Jeffs in Arizona. Jeffs, who teaches his 10,000 followers that blacks are "filthy and uncouth," is leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which has been strongly rejected by the mainstream Mormon Church. Most charges against him are related to his role in arranging marriages between underage girls and much older men.
While reports of a new 100-acre compound in South Dakota recently surfaced and FLDS members have finally completed a spectacular 60,000-square-foot limestone temple in El Dorado, Texas, most of the news facing those faithful to Jeffs in the twin cities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, has been troubling.
This May, Jeffs, who has not been seen in public in more than 18 months, was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, alongside Osama bin Laden and the like, raising the reward for information leading to his capture from $60,000 to $100,000. That development and the new rape charges reflect a general tightening of the noose by authorities on the polygamous community and its hard-to-find leader.
• Last December, a woman identified only as M.J. filed a civil suit against Jeffs requesting damages for being forced as a teenager to marry a much older man. "The nonconsensual spiritual marriage, the required sexual relations and M.J.'s resulting pregnancies have been spiritually and emotionally devastating," her lawyer charged in court papers.
• On April 7, James Allred, a church elder and assistant postmaster, and Mica Barlow, a deputy town marshal, were jailed for contempt of court after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury.
• In mid-April, eviction notices were sent to residents of Colorado City and Hildale who, on Jeffs' orders, have refused to pay property taxes.
• On May 1, Jeff's younger brother pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive. He had been stopped in November carrying nearly $200,000 and letters addressed to "the Prophet." It's not known if he is now cooperating with authorities.
• Authorities also are investigating the unlawful removal of several buildings from the Colorado City/Hildale area, including a large grain silo. Church assets estimated at $110 million were placed under court control last year and cannot legally be moved. Several police officers loyal to Jeffs have been questioned about their failure to stop the buildings' removal but have refused to cooperate with investigators.