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Nate Carlisle
Reporter Nate Carlisle and photographer Trent Nelson cover polygamy for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow the Polygamy Blog on Twitter at @tribunepolygamy. Follow Nate Carlisle on Twitter at @natecarlisle. Follow Trent Nelson on Twitter at @trenthead.

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(File photo of FLDS 'prophet' and convicted child-bride rapist Warren Jeffs, whose sentence was to be determined by a Texas jury hearing testimony Saturday. (The Salt Lake Tribune) )
Frail, caged Warren Jeffs refuses to answer questions about FLDS past

Warren Jeffs looked frail and pathetic last week. And he was in a cage.

Jeffs — the imprisoned leader of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — was the subject of a deposition last Thursday in a child custody case. For the deposition, Salt Lake City-based attorney Roger Hoole traveled to Texas and interviewed the imprisoned leader. Hoole said prison officials kept Jeffs in a caged area during the interview, which was video taped.

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Jeffs refused to cooperate. According to Hoole, questions focused on Jeffs’ background, evidence gathered at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas and other things. The point, Hoole said, was to show that Jeffs is running a "criminal organization" from his prison cell.

However, Jeffs refused to answer the questions and repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

"We gave him an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings about his life story, and he didn’t correct anything," Hoole said. "He looked at the floor and looked ashamed."

According Hoole, Jeffs looked "pathetic" and "frail" during the deposition and "didn’t seem to have the courage necessary to confront the reality of the situation."

Despite Jeffs’ refusal to answer any of Hoole’s questions, the deposition may still be useful. Hoole said that he can still use Jeffs’ responses in court because it is a civil case, rather than a criminal one. That means a judge will get to see Jeffs’ responses in late March, when the case goes to trial.

The case stems from a child custody lawsuit filed by Lorin Holm in 2011. Holm was a member of the FLDS Church, but in 2011 Warren Jeffs kicked him out of the church and the polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border. Holm left voluntarily, but he later learned that Jeffs admitted to being a fraud several years earlier. Holm eventually came "to understand that he was commanded to leave his family so that Warren Jeffs and Lyle Jeffs could take full control over his minor children," court documents state. Holm believes his children are in danger of being sexually victimized by FLDS leaders.

Holm consequently is trying to win custody over his children. The documents add that the children’s mothers "are not aware that they are caught up in the FLDS fraud" and are being cut off from outside information by church leaders.

Hoole said Holm currently has temporary physical custody of his children. Holm wants permanent custody.

The case goes to trial March 25.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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