Texas judge bars contact from FLDS spokesman
A Texas judge has temporarily barred an FLDS spokesman accused of intimidation from contacting a daughter of polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs.
Attorney Natalie Malonis, joined by guardian ad litem Connie Gauwain, filed a motion Friday asking for a restraining order against Willie Jessop.
Fifty-first District Judge Barbara Walther granted the request just before court closed. The judge also ordered Annette Jeffs, the girl's mother, to notify law enforcement if Jessop attempts to contact her. Walther set a hearing on the matter for next week.
Malonis and Gauwain allege that Jessop has intimidated and improperly influenced the 16-year-old girl, encouraging her to seek a new attorney and to avoid service of a subpoena to appear before a grand jury next week in Schleicher County.
On Thursday, the girl filed her own letter with Walther asking for a new attorney because Malonis has "made untrue statements about me and has tried to make me admit things that did not happen."
Malonis says in her motion the girl is a ''material witness with information relevant to a pending criminal investigation against certain male FLDS members.''
It also says that Malonis learned from Texas Child Protective Services and law enforcement that the girl had been spiritually sealed to an adult male just after she turned 15.
The girl was among hundreds of children removed from the YFZ Ranch in April based on allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
The children rejoined their parents earlier this month, though an investigation into the sect continues. However, Malonis received a specific order from Walther setting restrictions for her client.
The girl is prohibited from contact with Warren S. Jeffs, her father, or Raymond Jessop, 38, whose relationship to the girl has not been disclosed.
The order also requires the girl to stay away from the ranch, home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The girl is living with her mother and siblings in Bexar County.
Malonis said in her court filing that she contacted Jessop after he criticized her publicly and he tried to intimidate her into getting the restrictions lifted.
Malonis, the girl and her mother met Jessop at the ranch on June 10 to discuss the situation. The meeting lasted more than three hours and became "rather heated," Malonis alleges, as Jessop pushed her to "forcefully advocate for the FLDS church" and threatened to get the girl a new attorney.
The motion alleges that Jessop has a "history and pattern of behavior designed to intimidate and threaten potential witnesses adverse to the interests of the FLDS."
That allegation is supported by an affidavit from Sam Brower, a Cedar City investigator who has worked on FLDS cases for four years.
Jessop attempted to intimidate witness Elissa Wall during Jeffs' trial last year, Brower said, and had on "at least twelve occasions" tailed his vehicle.
Malonis said that her relationship with the girl has see-sawed, which she attributes to Jessop. The teenager refused to answer Malonis' calls this week and sent an e-mail expressing "anger and hostility" because of the grand jury subpoena.
"From the tone and the content of the e-mail communication, I believe that it was not [the girl] who was communicating with me" or she is being coerced, Malonis said in the filing.
"When she is free from influence, she is great," Malonis said Friday evening. "I imagine we'll get there again."
In her letter to Walther, the girl says Malonis has made "very untrue" comments about her and the FLDS faith in court and media interviews.
Malonis has alleged she has a child and is the victim of sexual abuse, but neither claim is true, the teenager said.
The girl said she lost confidence in Malonis after a visit in which the attorney became "very upset with me, yelling at me and talking very harshly against my family, saying that everyone was lying to her."
The girl said Malonis claimed her request for a new attorney might cause CPS to "come and take me away from my mother again."
Willie Jessop was unavailable Friday night. But Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney and spokesman for FLDS members, said Jessop was being unfairly accused of intimidation and threats without any evidence.
The girl "wants to go home and doesn't understand why everybody else can. The only obstacle is her lawyer," he said. "When a person and their lawyer cannot get along, then the appropriate solution is to appoint a new lawyer."