Thursday, August 31, 2006


As I'm sitting here watching Greta Van Susteren on FOXnews, I'm just disgusted with the Warren Jeffs case already. The actual warrant for the guy's arrest is for rape, and as they read the court documents, I can already tell that this case is as thin as Pluto's atmosphere. Sheesh.

From the Arizona Republic: Prosecuting a Prophet
He was riding in a brand-new red Cadillac Escalade just outside of Las Vegas with a brother, one of his wives and $54,000 in cash.

Now he's in jail.

Now the word "captured" runs under the pictures of polygamous cult leader Warren Jeffs on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitive list.

Now the hard part begins.

It isn't going to be easy to prosecute a man seen as a holy prophet by as many as 10,000 people. This man is so revered that former followers say parents give him their daughters for child brides and shun their sons at his decree.

Jeffs' followers stuck by him when he was a fugitive. They kept money flowing to fuel his Cadillac lifestyle.

Members of his polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints aren't going to line up to testify when he becomes a defendant.

That's why it took courage to pursue Jeffs.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith deserve credit for doing what decades of their predecessors did not do. They went after the alleged sex offenders in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

But as the Mohave County experience shows, it can be a thankless job to try and enforce the law.

In one of eight cases pursued by Smith, Kelly Fischer was convicted on July 7 of two felony sex crimes in connection with his polygamous "marriage" to his stepdaughter when she was 16.

Here's why going after cases takes courage: The child bride not only did not testify at the trial, she wrote a letter to the judge urging leniency toward the man she calls her husband - the man her mother also calls husband.

Prosecutor Smith used the birth certificate of the child bride's first child as evidence against Fischer, and won his case. The judge sentenced Fischer to 45 days in jail.

Forty-five days.

Consider another young bride in one of the other cases being prosecuted by Smith. Last summer she testified before a grand jury about how she became the second wife of Randolph Barlow when she was 16 - on orders from Jeffs. She said the consummation of that "marriage" was not consensual.

Yet she balked at cooperating with prosecutors at trial. She won't testify.

Finding someone willing to testify against Jeffs will prove even tougher.

Prosecutors could get burned. That's what happened in 1953, when an attempt to stop the polygamous cult became a public relations nightmare. That's why nothing stopped the cult from swelling and thriving along Arizona's northern border.

That's why the public needs to see the capture of Warren Jeffs for what it is. It is a victory over a cult of secrecy in which evil has reportedly grown stronger than the love of parents for their children.

The capture of Jeffs is not, unfortunately, a deathblow to that cult. It will take continued tenacity, such as that shown by Gary Engels, the investigator for the Mohave County Attorney's Office who collected evidence against the cult bullies.

It was routine when a Nevada Highway Patrol officer pulled over a red Caddie on Monday. It was serendipity when that officer recognized Jeffs. It will take a lot more to effectively prosecute this prophet.

One of the most important elements in that effort will be strong, vocal public support for the people who took on a tough job just because it was the right thing to do.

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