Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Have Pity For the Bullies
Does she look like a teenager to you? If so, you're qualified to work for the Texas CPS: Sarah, a 37-year-old (yes, that's thirty-seven) "disputed minor" parent, embraces her beautiful daughter after the child was pried from the hands of her State-employed kidnappers.
It still isn't over.
Despite a consistent string of legal defeats and a resounding loss in the court of public opinion, the State of Texas and its child-abduction auxiliary are continuing their jihad against the families of Eldorado's FLDS community.
In doing so the criminals in this matter -- the child "protection" officials who kidnapped the children, and the law enforcement officers who acted as armed accomplices -- are, with the timely help of officials in Utah, making a desperation play for public sympathy by accusing the FLDS of plotting some variety of violent revenge.
Of course, in this entire affair, one side -- the State of Texas -- has told nothing but lies, while the other -- the FLDS parents -- has told the truth, as far as we've been able to determine. And exactly the same division is apparent regarding the use, or threatened use, of violence: One side deployed APCs and sniper teams, the other surrendered without resistance.
Yet we are to believe that the Mighty Child Protectors are mortally imperiled by ... well, by what, or by whom? By such FLDS "enforcers" as "Willie the Thug" Jessop, the FLDS spokesman at YFZ Ranch, last seen politely rebuffing a group of armed CPS investigators and Sheriff's deputies who sought to search the premises without a warrant? Apparently so.
Much of the information about the putative FLDS rogue's gallery was assembled by Kirk Smith, the Sheriff of Utah's Washington County (which includes Hildale, the Utah side of the border-straddling FLDS community). Smith had previously described the FLDS as "docile." Now he considers them to be potentially dangerous. The only thing that's changed is this: The people described in that dossier are now victims of government abuse, and are therefore suspected of harboring criminal intent by the criminals who victimized them.
On the basis of yet another fact-starved and insinuation-obese document, Judge Barbara Walther -- who issued the orders leading to the YFZ raid and the child abduction -- has been given round-the-clock protection by the Texas Rangers. Granted, Walther should be the subject of constant police attention -- but as an inmate, not a judge.
The CPS and its purulent little handmaiden, Judge Walther, were bench-slapped by the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, and then flattened by the state Supreme Court, both of which ruled that there was insufficient evidence to justify the seizure of more than 400 children from the YFZ Ranch.
The state High Court ordered Walther to return the abducted children to their parents. Her dilatory response to that order -- she needlessly forced the families to wait an additional weekend for the reunion -- was apparently designed to extract an agreement from the parents to live under a form of house arrest, subject to unannounced visits by the CPS. This was not only self-serving, dishonest, corrupt, and vindictive; it also displayed ill-disguised contempt for the state Supreme Court.
A decision yesterday by District Judge Martha Tanner kept the CPS's losing streak alive: Tanner granted Joseph and Lori Jessop a restraining order against the child-snatching Buttinskis. Tanner also reaffirmed an earlier order granting the Jessops custody over their children.
During Monday's hearing, CPS counsel Frank King whined for a change of venue to ... guess where? That's right: Barbara Walthers' courtroom, the only one in which the kidnappers have enjoyed any success.
Tanner wasn't having any of it, and her comments from the bench suggested that she's had a surfeit of the CPS's [insert sibilant slang term for fecal material].
"I am not going to allow CPS or any other agency to interfere with parents in this state," declared Judge Tanner, at the risk of inspiring the tiniest tremor of respect for at least one representative of the judicial branch.
Undeterred, the Texas attorney general's office has announced its intention to file an amended petition with the 4th Court of Appeals, in the hope -- once again -- of getting the Keate case in front of Barbara Walther once again. This, despite the fact the 4th Court already denied an earlier request of that sort on May 22nd.
I'm tempted to call this a uniquely precise exercise in judge-shopping, but I'm not sure that expression fits. The CPS isn't shopping the case around in search of a judge who's in the tank for them; they've found the judge they want -- one with a background in the totalitarian practice of "family law," one willing to ignore every principle of due process and defy every canon of judicial ethics in order to facilitate the CPS's assault on the FLDS community.
The melodramatic touch of assigning police protection to Walther, lest she fall by the hand of an FLDS "enforcer," is a transparent PR ploy, of course. But given the way the CPS has made her the indispensable judge, I'm cynical enough to wonder if the agency wouldn't welcome, or even provoke, an incident of some kind involving Walther, if only to overturn the game board and given them a chance to start over.
It must be said that the tenebrous world of Mormon Fundamentalism is inhabited by dangerous people, some of whom are deadly serious about the early Mormon doctrine of "blood atonement." This element of the subculture was capably explored in Jon Krakauer's chilling book Under the Banner of Heaven. Many other Mormon offshoots eschew the teaching and practice of that punitive doctrine. Prior to the ascent of Warren Jeffs as its prophet, the FLDS sect seemed to be less militant than some of its kindred, but this changed dramatically under his whimsical and dictatorial rule.
Many accounts of life in the FLDS -- such as the recently published memoir Escape, written by FLDS defector Carolyn Jessop -- plausibly depict the church as insular and suffocatingly authoritarian. But it is all but impossible to believe that the people in charge of it would be so irrationally violent as to attack a judge, even one as richly deserving of humiliation as Barbara Walther.
Carolyn Jessop was "married" as a "plural wife" to Merrill Jessop, the Bishop of the YFZ Ranch. His chief contribution to the present story was to order those living in the ranch to cooperate peacefully with the people who invaded their home and eventually kidnapped their children.
Once again, this is hardly the behavior of someone prepared to attack a judge.
To get a substantial sense of who threatens whom in this matter, it's useful to revisit the initial raids as they're described in the habeas corpus petition (.pdf) filed on behalf of the Keates and other FLDS parents whose children were seized from them at gunpoint.
In his sworn testimony, LeLand Keate describes how FLDS men -- "unarmed and praying" -- were "surrounded by armed and nervous law enforcement personnel" on the grounds outside the temple, the central edifice of the FLDS settlement.
An APC was used to force the unarmed men aside so that the temple, a sacred site to the FLDS, could be searched. Keate "saw some of the officers with tears in their eyes, a State trooper crying and some officers even put their weapons down," continues the account.
According to another account provided in the petition, as "the men went down on their knees and started to pray" in front of their temple, a witness "heard law enforcement officials cock their weapons."
Think what one will of the beliefs and practices of the FLDS men in that situation, it's clear that the only "threat" they represented to those who invaded their home was the possibility that their helplessness would leave at least some of the assailants paralyzed with shame.
Unfortunately, most of those assigned to attack the FLDS were better-suited for the mission. Later that same evening, while the Keate family was kneeling in prayer, "two State police officers and CPS officials" knocked on the door. When Keate answered, the officials asked "if he knew what was going to happen and he replied [that] based on what he had seen and been told ... they were going to take his family from him."
The intruders then rounded up the Keate children, including their five-year-old son, who was dragged away while screaming, "You don't take me from my mother!" Keate's wife was taken with the children to a local coliseum. When she asked to speak with an attorney, she was told "she did not deserve an attorney until she was 18 years old" -- a compound lie, since it included the assumption that the adult mother was a "contested minor."
When Mrs. Keate produced her driver's license, CPS officials told her it was a fake. When she and her children were relocated a few days later, Keate discovered that CPS had stolen the license from her luggage.
The experience of the Rulon Keate family -- which lived next to LeLand Keate's family in the ranch -- was very similar. The family was singing hymns together as part of a study and worship class when armed men knocked on the door.
"We know you're in there," one of them bellowed. "We'll break down your door." Upon answering the door Keate was told that the visitors -- Texas Rangers and other unidentified "armed men" -- had a warrant to search the home. Rulon asked to see the warrant. He was told the raiding party didn't have it in their possession -- which means they had no legal right to force their way into the home. Within a few minutes the invaders had gathered the children and herded them onto a bus.
These accounts are bound by thematic thread -- the arrogant, lawless violence of the CPS and its hired muscle in dealing with a community of helpless eccentrics with neither the means nor the intent to strike back.
And now we're invited to have pity for the bullies because they've lost every legal round, save those played in their home court, the one presided over by Judge Walther.
As noted above, this affair is far from over. Armed with as much money as it can extort from the taxpayers, the Texas CPS is entrenching itself for a war of attrition. And reinforcements are on their way.
Legal officials from four states (Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas) recently gathered in Las Vegas -- the world's leading producer of instant, disposable marriages -- to work out a collaborative arrangement to go after FLDS polygamists. That effort will build on the documents illegally seized during the FLDS raid. And it will almost certainly result in the tragic -- albeit, for some people, lucrative -- displacement of tens of thousands of FLDS children throughout the region.
Hence the importance of "re-branding" the FLDS as a domestic terrorist group of sorts. And in this connection it's interesting to see that two memoirs from FLDS defectors published just in time for the YFZ raid -- Carolyn Jessop's Escape, and Jessica Wall's Stolen Innocence -- will be made into motion pictures, most likely of the made-for-TV variety to be put into heavy rotation on Lifetime, aka "television for women who hate men."
On Sale Now!
Dum spiro, pugno!