Photo Trent Nelson Salt Lake Tribune

(Photo Trent Nelso, Salt Lake Tribune)

Well, Texas authorities have finally released the “affidavit” that serves as the basis to destroy the families of over four hundred chidren and hundreds of mothers and fathers.  You can read the entire affidavit here:  FLDS Affidavit A few observations and questions follow:

1.  The affidavit, as I suspect most are in this type of situation, is based entirely on hearsay facts.  This means that the facts alleged are not really facts the person who makes the affidavit has personally observed.  In this case, Lynn McFadden, a woman over 18 years of age, and who is an Investigative Supervisor for the Department of Family and Protective Services (The Department) provided the sworn testimony which served as the basis for this affidavit.

2.  Ms. McFadden claimed that she has personally reviewed the Department’s Original Petition For Protection of a Child in an Emergency and for Conservatorship in suit Affecting  the Parent-Child Relationship (The Petition).   This means, that the affidavit Texas Authorities relied upon to forcibly remove over 400 Children from the FLDS compound, is based on information that someone else apparently told Ms. McFadden.  She is not the person to whom the original complaint was apparently made.  Had she been, she could and should have so testified in her own sworn affidavit.  It is also important to note that the allegations are not the actual allegations of the 16 year old minor child/mother.  According to media reports, authorities can’t seem to find that person, as of yet.  In fact, it is actually unclear from the affidavit whether Ms. McFadden was even present during any of this investigation.  My sense is that she was not, or she would and should have so testified in the affidavit.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the McFadden affidavit would not be sufficient to remove perhaps the one pregnant minor child,  who complained of sexual and child abuse, particularly if they actually found such a woman when they went in and initially searched the compound; however, I find it unbelievable that it would and could serve as the basis for a small armed invasion of an entire community, resulting in the the wholesale kidnapping under color of law hundreds of innocent children, with their mothers in tow.

3.  Ms. McFadden’s allegations of the sexual and child abuse of the minor child, who herself is supposed to have an eight month old baby, and is currently several weeks pregnant with another child, chronicle a literal horror story of physical and sexual abuse. These allegations should absolutely be investigated, and if there is actual evidence to support such allegations, the abuser should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and never let out of  prison, in my humble opinion.  The abused minor child should certainly be removed from the compound, along with her own child, and placed in state custody.  Further, the minor’s own parents should be investiaged for child abuse as well.  If McFadden’s allegations are true, then the minor’s own parents’ actions are implicated and possibly merit criminal prosecution.

4.  The remainder of the affidavit gets a little soft on why over 400 other children were removed from the compound.  McFadden relates about how Department investigators while searching for the subject 16 year old minor victim:

observed a number of teenaged girls who appeared to be minors and who appeared to be pregnant, as well as several teenaged girls who already had given and had their own infants.  Investigators determined that there is a wide-spread pattern and practice among the residents of the YFZ Ranch in which young minor female residents are conditioned to to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men . . .

OK, well, how many teeaged girls did they observe, one, two, five, ten, a hundred, four hundred?  They appeared to be minors?  How old, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19?   How did they determine their ages in this whirlwind investigation?  The age of consent in Texas is 17.  So, the upper limits of the teen aged years, would appear to be outside the jurisdiction of The Department.   How many are “several” teen aged girls?  Did it number in excess of 400?

Appeared to be pregnant?  You mean we don’t know?   Texas didn’t find out whether there in fact were other pregnant teen aged children before removing over 400 other children from the compound?  Certainly a good number of those children could not possibly have been pregnant, either from age limitations or gender.

How did the investigators determine there was a wide spread pattern and practice of anything at the compound?  What investigation and what facts had they determined prior to their raid?  How many of these observations are actually conclusions of the investigators and law enforcement at the scene?  Why not take the other potential cases on a case basis, investigating each?  Certainly none of these people were going to go anywhere.

5.  Ms. McFadden concludes that based on their investigation The Department concluded that every single minor child at the compound, whether they had actually made any complaints at all, was in fact in immediate danger.  Every, single minor child’s health and safety were in immediate danger.  Every single minor child was the victim of neglect and/or sexual abuse.  These are startling conclusions, but, not exactly based on any facts, at least as far as the facts are alleged in the “affidavit.”

CNN is reporting on the affidavit story.

Authorities raided the ranch Thursday. Since then, 416 children have been removed and placed in the custody of the state’s Child Protective Services, spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said.

Social workers have completed their work at the ranch, and said they believed all the children at risk had been removed, Meisner said.

It remains unclear whether the teen who reported being abused was among the children removed from the ranch or was taken from the compound under a different name before authorities arrived.

Well, I suppose if you have removed essentially all the children from the compound, that in fact any children who might have been at risk have certainly been removed.  More troublesome is the report that authorities still can’t locate the original teen who made the complaint.  It sounded like she would most certainly come forward at this point out of self preservation for no other reason.

USA Today also reports on the affidavit, and quotes former David Koresh attorney as criticizing the pervasiveness of the raid:

Some lawyers questioned the propriety of a raid based on an anonymous accusation.

“To rip up hundreds of parents and children and put them in a makeshift prison while you investigate to see if they did anything wrong is un-American,” said Dick DeGuerin, a lawyer who negotiated with federal authorities on behalf of David Koresh during the 51-day standoff at the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas. “It’s against every tenet of due process and violates both the U.S. and Texas constitutions.”

One problem with USA Today’s story is that it links the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the FLDS Church in their story’s side bar–another example of sloppy reporting and/or editing.  I have sent an email to the USA Today accuracy editor, but have not received anything but an automated response, and the error still appears in their story.

So, as best I can tell, the state of Texas has forcibly removed over 400 children from their parents based on a double and possibly triple hearsay affidavit of a person who does not even appear to have been present at the compound at the time authorities performed their search.  Based on the affidavit’s credible allegations, the raid appears to have been over broad and somewhat drastic.

Now that Texas has at least temporary legal custody of over 400 children, what now?  The Deseret News reports that Texas may have bitten off just a bit more than it can chew:

The scale of the decision by Texas child welfare workers to take 416 children into state custody dwarfs any endangerment response in Utah — or anywhere else for that matter.

Removing 416 children from their homes would be an overwhelming task for any state, local public and private child welfare workers said Tuesday.

Texas is literally warehousing the kids taken from the compound, although many had been placed with relatives in nearby towns . . .

This particular group of FLDS “operates in a sense as one, huge extended family,” Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, told the Deseret Morning News Tuesday evening. “A case can be made that taking away all the children is like taking away all of the siblings in a family where several children allegedly were raped and beaten.

“On the other hand, the facts don’t always turn out to be as CPS alleges,” he noted.

Wexler, who keeps close tabs on child welfare agencies nationwide — including Texas and Utah — said Texas is particularly unprepared to take so many children at once.

“For several years, (Texas) has been going through a foster-care panic, with huge surge in removals in the wake of deaths of children “known to the system,”‘ he said.

Whether or not these children needed to be removed, their suffering has been increased because Texas has taken so many other children there is little room for these children in the system,” he said. “And that is a lesson every state should remember.”

An option like that or an all-out call for help is really the only option at that scale, local child safety advocates believe. They said while the welfare of the children in the case is clearly the top priority, they privately said they wonder if the move might be a kind of pre-emptive “better safe than sorry” strategy.

“I certainly agree that the way children — particularly young women and girls — are treated is de facto abuse or worse,” one state Division of Child and Family Services caseworker said. “But from what I’ve seen these kids are in no way neglected; not nearly to the degree of some of kids we meet here and around Salt Lake.”

Update 4/9/08 8:41 a.m. As Justin points out from comment #1 below, the Salt Lake Tribune is now reporting Texas authorities may have named the wrong man in the search and arrest warrants . . . oops~

Update 4/9/08 9:30 a.m. If you haven’t seen Brooke Adams’ Plural Life Blog you should read her entries.  Brooke is a Salt Lake Tribune reporter, and is now on sight in West Texas.  She makes some good points and has some fascinating entries . . . stuff not showing up in her regular reporting columns.  Brooke is doing an excellent job from West Texas.

I just don’t see a good ending to this story.  Hopefully the actual court hearings that are scheduled will be able to sift out the facts from the fiction and set in motion the best possible resolution to this sad and unfortunate story.

Prior FLDS Raid Posts

Steve Evans has also opened up a Thread over at BCC, with some very good comments as well.

NPR

Ken Driggs, FLDS Historian (Hat Tip Justin)

From an interview with Arizona Attorney Mike Piccarreta, an attorney for Warren Jeffs

As Tucson attorney Mike Piccarreta follows the news this week about the raid in Texas, he doesn’t like what he’s seeing.

“You shouldn’t be allowed to search a whole village on the basis of a phone call and not only search the area where there might be evidence but search every residence in the village? That’s never happened in American jurisprudence,” he says.

Piccarreta says what most people know about FLDS is from people who’ve left the religion because the fundamentalists rarely talk to outsiders.

And that’s partly why Piccarreta says their reputation is often misunderstood.  “The mainstream media has focused on the sexual aspect or the titillation aspect of it, without even recognizing that that’s a basic tenet of their belief.”

Piccarreta says the raid in Texas is reminiscent of one in Arizona in 1953.

It’s called the Short Creek Raid: more than 400 Mormon fundamentalists were taken into custody.

But public reaction viewed the raid with sympathy, saying it was as un-American.

“This religion has a long history of being persecuted by the government,” Piccarreta says.

“This is a real religion, it’s being persecuted and it’s not right what’s going on,” he says.

Grits for Breakfast Blog–questions the validity of the search warrant

Grits for Breakfast—recalls the Short Creek Raid

Photo Blog–Features incredible photos of the raid taken by Trent Nelson, Photo Journalist–a must see