Catching Up With the FLDS One Year After Warren Jeffs’ Conviction

Are the kids at the Yearning for Zion safe?
Fri August 3, 2012 9:10 pm
AP Photo | Eric Gay

Around this time one year ago, a Tom Green County jury found themselves sitting in a freezing-cold courthouse full of locals, former FLDS members, and reporters , listening to Warren Jeffs’ monologues. ( Example: “The conditions of present defense is such that I cannot use them they not having all-needed understanding for my defense which writing and representation by one who knows and understands the facts of these [thirteen-second pause] truths that can reveal a true defense involves not having the present counsel be the writers.”) On August 4, he was found guilty on two charges: aggravated sexual assault of a twelve-year-old and sexual assault of a fifteen-year-old. Five days later he was shipped off to Huntsville.

This week’s Texas Observer cover story , “No Refuge,” asks if the kids at the Yearning for Zion ranch are really safe. The evidence was troubling when I asked the same question in my 2009 article , “With God On Their Side,” and the Observer’s updated story has a good round-up of some new events that have taken place in recent months: the erection of a concrete stadium as wide as a football field; plans for a 30-foot-tall statue of Jeffs holding a little girl’s hand; Willie Jessop’s defection; a ban on toys, bicycles, and trampolines; and Jeffs’ selection of fifteen males to father all FLDS children.

For those who don’t follow the newspapers, blogs, and alerts, here are a few other FLDS-related events from the past year:
  • Workers at Yearning for Zion raised and then destroyed a 100-foot concrete tower complete with an observation deck.
  • Jeffs has continued excommunicating members while others have opted to leave
  • The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the most populated FLDS community—the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah—alleging religious discrimination 
  • New police began patrolling Colorado City, AZ,  “to provide fair and unbiased law enforcement services to this community on the Arizona-Utah border.” 
  • Jeffs has continued having revelations. (The Salt Lake Tribune ’s fabulous polygamy beat reporter Lindsay Whitehurst created this handy calendar.)
  • Warren removed his brother Lyle as bishop of the FLDS
  • Former FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop sued Warren Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs, et al. and went on to win a $30 million judgment in the case.
  • The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Warren Jeffs’ appeal.

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