Mothers of Sect
Children Forced to Leave
Google News ^ | 14 April 2008 | By JENNIFER DOBNER and MICHAEL GRACZYK
Posted on Monday, April 14, 2008 7:17:56 PM by BlackVeil
This raid on
the FLDS compound in
We have also
on this website chronicled articles on these same protected behaviors, among Hassidic
Orthodox Jews, and among Fundamentalist Muslims. And we state here that in the
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) Texas officials who took 416 children from a polygamist retreat into state custody sent many of their mothers away Monday, as a judge and lawyers struggled with a legal and logistical morass in one of the biggest child-custody cases in U.S. history.
Of the 139 women who voluntarily left the compound with their children since an April 3 raid, only those with children 4 or younger were allowed to continue staying with them, said Marissa Gonzales, spokewoman for the state Children's Protective Services agency. She did not know how many women stayed.
"It is not the normal practice to allow parents to accompany the child when an abuse allegation is made," Gonzales said.
were given a choice: Return to the Eldorado ranch of
The state is accusing the sect of physically and sexually abusing the youngsters and wants to strip their parents of custody and place the children in foster care or put them up for adoption. The sheer size of the case was an obstacle. (Right here the State is declaring that the numbers here represent a legal hurdle that has them worried. They worry they have is that the FLDS from other locals will pool resources to fight this, and beat it back with an army of lawyers, and force the state to fight each case one at a time a prove that each women and each child we actually involved in such acts making these cases last for years and cost the state tens of millions to be able to prove, only to be blown out on technicalities. Whereas few individuals arrested for child molestation, and pedophilia have had these kind of resources to mount a legal defense, like Michael Jackson, or Charlie Chaplin.)
"Quite frankly, I'm not sure what we're going to do," Texas District Judge Barbara Walther said after a conference that included three to four dozen attorneys either representing or hoping to represent youngsters.
were taken away Monday after they and the
children were taken by bus under heavy security out of historic
Some of the youngsters' mothers complained to Gov. Rick Perry that the children were getting sick in the crowded fort. About 20 children had a mild case of chickenpox, said Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu with the state Health Department.
Perry spokesman Robert Black said the governor did
not believe the children were being housed in poor conditions at the
CPS said the move to the coliseum had been in the works since last week, but couldn't be done sooner because the facility had been booked for another event and had to be cleaned and set up for the children.
CPS also said about two dozen teenage boys were
moved to a facility outside
Monday's courtroom conference was held to work out the ground rules for a court hearing beginning Thursday on the fate of the children.
The judge made no immediate decisions on how the hearing will be carried out. Among the questions left unanswered: Would a courtroom big enough to hold everyone be available at the Tom Green County Courthouse, or would some kind of video link be employed?
The sheer numbers left the judge perplexed as she considered suggestions from the lawyers for how to handle Thursday's hearing.
"It would seem inefficient to have a witness testify 416 times," the judge offered. "If I gave everybody five minutes, that would be 70 hours."
In an unintended illustration of the problem, Walther gave the lawyers 30 minutes to break into groups and report back to her with ideas. It took almost two hours for everyone to reassemble.
The raid followed a call to a domestic violence hot line from a 16-year-old girl who said she was beaten and raped by her 50-year-old husband.
In addition to becoming a monumental legal morass, the case is proving to be a public-relations headache for the state.
Over the weekend, some of the mothers went on the offensive, complaining the children are falling ill and are frightened and traumatized from living in cramped conditions at the fort, with cots, cribs and playpens lined up side by side.
The secretive nature of the sect and the indoctrination children receive from birth to mistrust outsiders have added to the confusion.
Randoll Stout, one of the lawyers who plan to represent some of the children, said the youngsters "seem to change their names. Adults change their names. Children are passed around." (This opens the door to DNA tests to prove which children belong to who, and if these are convicted to declare these children were put in others hands for safe keeping)
Betty Balli Torres,
executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said 10 women
went into the
Attorneys began meeting with the women over the weekend. She said it was vital that the mothers be represented by lawyers. Otherwise, they could lose their children "what we call kind of the death penalty of family law cases," she said.
A church lawyer, Rod Parker, said the 60 or so men remaining on the 1,700-acre ranch have offered to leave the compound if the state would allow the women and children to return to the place with child welfare monitors. But the state Children's Protective Services agency said it had not yet seen the offer and had no comment on it.
The sect practices polygamy in arranged marriages
between underage girls and older men. The group has thousands of followers in two
side-by-side towns in
"Reunite these children with their families. Let them go home," said Kent Johnson, an 18-year-old in a pinstripe suit who choked up.
Associated Press reporter Kelley Shannon contributed to this story from