Prosecutor: Idaho worried about money before releasing FLDS boys
The agency responsible for child protection in Idaho wanted to send eight boys from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints home with their parents to save the state money, a prosecutor said last week.
Ian Service, a deputy Bannock County prosecutor, said he wanted the boys to remain in foster care.
The disagreement was so great, Service said, that the Idaho Attorney General’s Office petitioned to join the juvenile court case and represent the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Normally, Service said, the county prosecutor would represent the department. A deputy attorney general later said he would appeal any ruling keeping the boys in foster care, Service said.
"It’s the first case in my career where I had such a juxtaposition between the county and the state," Service said.
A judge returned six of the boys to parents earlier this month. Two boys remain in foster care because they did not want to return to their mother or the FLDS, a polygamous sect.
Service said money was discussed from the day a judge granted a petition to remove the boys from the home of an FLDS caretaker in Pocatello. Service said he and a social worker were with police at the home.
The social worker "was like, ‘Where am I going to place these kids? And my boss is going to throw a fit about the costs," Service said.
Health and Welfare and law enforcement removed eight boys from the Pocatello home on July 10. A sheriff’s report indicates their ages ranged from 12 to 17. A ninth boy had been living there but was not located.
At a hearing on Aug. 11, a judge dismissed the custody cases for six of the boys, ordering two teenagers to remain in state custody.
Spokesmen for Idaho Health and Welfare and the attorney general on Friday denied money motivated the state to send the boys home with their parents.
"Our social workers, they don’t even know what it costs to put a kid in foster care," said Tom Shanahan, the spokesman for Health and Welfare.
Shanahan also pointed out that the department can only make a recommendation, and then it’s up to a judge to decide where to place a child.
Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for the Idaho attorney general, said the office did not pressure Bannock County to return the boys to their parents.
"That’s not how this office operates," Dvorak said. "We did our job, our role as attorney to the client, and in this case it was Health and Welfare. We did not put any pressure on the prosecutor to do anything."
After the boys were removed from the home, they told police they and their caretaker, Nathan C. Jessop, were sent on "repentance missions" by FLDS President Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in Texas for sexually assaulting two girls he took as wives.
Jessop on Thursday pleaded guilty in Idaho’s 6th District Court to three misdemeanor counts of injury to a child. Under an agreement with prosecutors, he is to serve 10 days in jail and two years of probation. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 30.
The boys told investigators that Jessop hit them with brooms and boards and made them stand in the cold with no coats. Police could not document those instances, but were able to prove that Jessop twice failed to report that boys had run away and once required a boy to remain in a furnace room for up to two days.