In response to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' (DFPS) final report on the FLDS Eldorado saga, FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop (pictured at left) issued a press release denouncing the report as "false and fraudulent as the original hoax telephone call that triggered the raid on the YFZ Ranch". Utah media stories published by the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KSL Channel 5. All previous FLDS posts on this blog can be reviewed HERE, with the most recent post appearing first.
-- Read the 21-page Texas DFPS report HERE in PDF format.
-- Read Willie Jessop's 7-page response HERE in PDF format.
Clarification: Readers have seen references to both "Texas DFPS" and "Texas CPS" in various media stories. DFPS is the official name of the agency. In contrast, CPS, or Child Protective Services, is merely one of six programs operated by DFPS. Thus CPS is a subset of DFPS. Because of this fact and the fact that the report is labeled as a DFPS report, it is more precise to use the phrase "Texas DFPS', and so I now follow that convention.
Jessop criticized the report which claimed to have found a dozen girls from the group were confirmed victims of sexual abuse and neglect because they were married ages ranging from 12 to 15. In addition, the report claimed that there were 43 girls removed from the ranch from the ages of 12 to 17 — which means that more than one out of every four pubescent girls on the ranch was in an underage marriage. In addition, the report also claimed 262 cases of child neglect because their parents failed to remove them from a situation in which the child would be exposed to sexual abuse committed against another child within their families or households.
In response, Jessop wrote, "What hypocrisy in a state that leads the nation in teen pregnancies! The report then proceeds to imply that their so-called 'neglect' is also abuse by the cleverly worded statement, 'Of the 146 families investigated, 62 percent had a confirmed finding of abuse and neglect involving one or more children in the family.' Later in the report, CPS admits that 96 percent of the YFZ children have now been 'determined to be safe in their households to the point that there is not a need for court oversight.' There never was a need for court oversight in the first place!"
But the Texas DFPS stands by its report. In an e-mail to the Deseret News, DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins wrote, "The Eldorado investigation was very thorough, and the report on that investigation is clear". Of course, the fact that Texas spent $12 million on the raid and its aftermath would tend to preclude a critical finding.
Jessop's press release addresses other factors which may have exacerbated the crisis. Efforts by DFPS to conduct an impartial, religious-neutral investigation may have been undermined by inflammatory statements by elected officials which may have promoted a siege mentality within the FLDS community. Texas District 53 Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville), whose district includes Schleicher County where the Eldorado FLDS compound is located, and who introduced the anti-FLDS HB3006 in 2005, was quoted as saying, "I wanted to make it unappealing to them. I hoped they wouldn't stay." Eldorado sheriff David Doran was quoted in the Fort Worth Star Telegram of June 3, 2008, as saying, “I believe when all of the criminal charges come forward it is going to be very hard to practice their beliefs within the state of Texas.”
And Texas governor Rick Perry, while addressing a business conference in LaBaule, France on June 5th, 2008, said in reference to the FLDS, “Maybe Texas is not the place you need to consider calling home”. Anyone who knows anything about 19th century LDS history will recognize that this is precisely what a state governor should NEVER say about any LDS group, since it undoubtedly evoked memories of Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs' infamous "Extermination Order" in 1838, even though Perry clearly did NOT have the same intent as Boggs. Nevertheless, Governor Perry's ill-considered statement undoubtedly contributed to the siege mentality which took root within the Eldorado FLDS community. Is it any wonder that the FLDS were so distrustful of and reluctant to fully cooperate with Texas authorities? And why the endless trial delays and kid gloves treatment for Rosita Swinton, the head case who triggered the raid on the FLDS compound by her bogus phone calls?
Nevertheless, back in June 2008, with the crisis at its peak, the FLDS took a significant step forward by declaring their intent to stop sanctioning underage marriages within their community and to abide by the secular laws wherever they might be located. In addition, the FLDS launched the FLDSTruth website to better familiarize the general public with their beliefs.
In his press release, Jessop also describes the bitter economic circumstances faced by the FLDS in the wake of the raid and roundup:
Now that most of the children have been nonsuited, it might be assumed that the families have returned to the security of their homes and community. But what are they to return to? Their temple has been desecrated. Irreplaceable documents and artifacts of earlier Church prophets have been confiscated, when they contained nothing even implying criminal conduct. Their homes have been broken into, and even unlocked doors have been kicked in. They lost an entire growing season for their gardens and orchards, a very critical situation for a people who, contrary to the common misperception, had not a single person on Welfare. Their priceless baby pictures, wedding pictures, genealogy books, diaries, and other personal records have been seized with no prospect of their ever being returned.
A formerly self-sustaining community has been reduced to poverty. They now must pay $544,100.77 in property taxes, but their resources have been wasted and their source of livelihood cut off. Texas brags that it has spent over 12.4 million dollars to date on the YFZ raid, including more than a million dollars for bussing the children from their homes to shelters and foster-care facilities, and yet not one penny has ever been given to parents to reimburse them for the millions of dollars they have expended to pay the staggering legal expenses, to visit children scattered all across the state of Texas, or to rent houses and live in cities away from the
No serious person disputes the right of a child welfare agency to investigation allegations of child abuse. They had no way of knowing that the phone calls were bogus. The problem here is the methodology. Instead of making legitimate attempts to work through the FLDS leadership to enlist the voluntary cooperation of the community, Texas DFPS went into "Waco mode" and assumed the FLDS was the enemy. They did not need to grab the kids and transport them all to San Angelo. But because they assumed the worst, the Texas state government is now $12 million poorer and a community of Texans is permanently embittered.
Was it worth it?