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Thu, April 25

FLDS defendants to appear in Texas court

ELDORADO, Texas - Court hearings for members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church indicted by a rural Texas grand jury have been delayed.

Attorneys for the men asked a judge in Eldorado, Texas, Monday to put off pre-trial hearings until Dec. 1 so they could go over evidence and discovery issues with prosecutors, Schleicher County court clerks told the Deseret News.

Lehi Barlow Jeffs, 29, and Abram Harker Jeffs, 37, made their first appearances in court on Monday on sexual assault of a child and bigamy. The other cases called in court were:

• Raymond Jessop, 36, indicted on sexual assault of a child and bigamy.

• Allan Eugene Keate, 56, indicted on sexual assault of a child.

• Michael Emack, 57, charged with sexual assault of a child and bigamy.

• Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, indicted on sexual assault of a child and bigamy.

Keith William Dutson Jr., 23, had a Dec. 1 court date set for a sexual assault charge filed against him.

Nine people have been indicted by the grand jury investigating crimes within the FLDS Church, including polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs. The men are accused of having sex with girls under 17, some in bigamous relationships.

FLDS community physician Lloyd Hammon Barlow, 38, faces misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.

No court date has been scheduled for his case, court clerks said.

The grand jury was convened shortly after the April raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch just outside Eldorado. Child welfare workers and law enforcement responded to a complaint alleging abuse.

Hundreds of children were placed in state protective custody, then returned to their parents two months later when a pair of courts found the state acted improperly.

So far, 415 people have been "nonsuited" in the ongoing custody battle. That leaves approximately 50 children still involved in pending legal cases. The Deseret News' tally includes the 26 so-called "disputed minors," FLDS women that Child Protective Services initially claimed were minors, but later nonsuited when the agency determined they were adults

The criminal investigation into allegations of underage marriages is proceeding. The grand jury is scheduled to meet again in November and December.


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