Sect-raid target not in Texas

Legal challenge

By Troy Hooper
Special to The Denver Post

In a sweeping indictment of the raid on a secretive polygamist compound in Texas, Aspen attorney Gerry Goldstein accused law enforcement authorities of reckless disregard and unlawful taking of DNA and demanded a review of their actions.

At the crux of the 39-page motion that Goldstein filed Thursday in the Texas 51st Judicial District Court on behalf of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a revelation that the man authorities were looking for, Dale Evans Barlow, was in Arizona at the time of the raid.

Texas Rangers raided the sect's Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, on April 3 after calls from a woman claiming to be a 16-year-old named Sarah Jessop, who alleged that Barlow was sexually abusing her.

Police, however, are investigating whether the reports were fakes engineered by Rozita Swinton, a Colorado Springs woman with a history of false reporting.

"Prior to executing the initial warrant, (Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran) was advised that Dale Barlow was in Arizona and not on the premises sought to be searched. In fact, prior to entering the premises Sheriff Doran actually spoke to Dale Barlow in Arizona by cellphone, confirming his driver license number and the fact that he was in Arizona," the filing says.

Barlow advised the sheriff that he did not know Sarah Jessop, he had not been to Texas in more than 20 years, nor had he ever been to YFZ Ranch, according to the filing.

The later discovery that the reported abuse may have been the invention of a woman in Colorado Springs with a history of making similar false reports further weakens the integrity of the raid, according to the legal filing.

Goldstein, 64, is an Aspen resident whose law practice is based in San Antonio. He has represented many high-profile clients, including Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and outlaw journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Meanwhile, in Texas, dozens of mothers from the compound were bused away from their children. Two buses took the women from the San Angelo Coliseum, where they had been temporarily housed with their children.

Texas officials were preparing to move the last of more than 400 children to group homes, shelters and residences, some hundreds of miles away, over the next few days.

In Austin, the state's Third Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected the mothers' pleas to immediately stop authorities from busing the children taken from the ranch to foster homes.

Last week, state officials separated mothers from their children unless the kids were 5 or younger. On Thursday, however, the women were gathered and told that children older than 1 year would go with Child Protective Services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.