FLDS Leader Warren Jeffs (see here and here) was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, apparently in a routine traffic stop. Despite NO connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, CNN anchor Daryn Kagan continues to point out that obvious fact to the CNN audience: namely there is no connection to Mr. Jeffs and the “Mormon” Church. Why she and the CNN reporters feel that is necessary is ridiculous.
CNN’s live satellite cast continues with heavy Jeffs’ coverage. Different versions on the how of this arrest have been reported. One is that Jeffs supposedly rolled through a stop sign or light. Another is that he was stopped for a registration infraction. I’m just curious . . .but if I’m on the FBI’s top ten wanted list, and I choose to drive, aren’t I going to make certain the registration tags are current, and that I’m obeying all applicable traffic laws? Wow!
Most major news outlets are now publishing the AP story, which is in most of the links below. Very cute line by Daryn Kagan now . . .what happens in Vegas this time will not stay in Vegas . . . very nice ;-)
Interesting commentary just now from CNN’s Anderson Cooper that previous FLDS doctrine stated that one did not need a “temple” for polygamous marriage or to get to heaven; however, there was an apparent change in that doctrine with the construction of the new FLDS temple in Texas. Expect heavy coverage from Anderson Cooper on this story tonight on his show as he has covered the FLDS story and polygamy extensively in the past. I’m curious on this aspect. If anyone has references to FLDS doctrine on polygamy, temple worship and the nexus between the two I’d be very interested.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage is by far the best and most indepth–which I think is to be expected. Good job Tribune! It goes well beyond the AP story and reflects their own writing, input, research and analyis. The Tribune reports the traffic stop for temporary registration tags. This still boggles the mind. I guess when you get a bit too comfortable on the run, you begin to make some mistakes.
The New York Times is now reporting their own version of this story (not just running the initial AP story). Their headline is the best reporting I’ve seen so far at least as far as the headline goes–” Man Near Top of Most-Wanted List Is Captured” There’s no polygamy or LDS or FLDS fluff in their headline. After all Mr. Jeffs is wanted not because he’s a polygamist or his association with the FLDS church or non-association with the LDS Church. Congratulations to The New York Times for good objective reporting on this story!
Let me add, that the words “Mormon” or “LDS” don’t even appear in this article–so it is possible to report on a story about Warren Jeffs without association to the Mormon Church. Good for the New York Times.
Update: 11:00 a.m. The Deseret News’ updated article (link below) reports on the some of the contents of the vehicle included:
LAS VEGAS — When fugitive Warren Jeffs was stopped north of here late Monday, officers impounded his red SUV and seized a number of items that will most likely bolster authorities’ suspicions he employed a number of tricks to stay in hiding.
A KXNT news radio reporter present at the seizure of Jeffs’s vehicle relayed to other media that a curious assortment of items were discovered in the police stop.
• 27 stacks of money each containing $2,500
• Two female wigs — blond and brunette
• 14 cell phones
• Two GPS navigation units
• A Book of Mormon
• A picture of Warren Jeffs and his father, Rulon.
It’s so good to know he kept a copy of the Book of Mormon handy as he was a fugitive from federal and state justice. Then there are the two female whigs–I’m not sure I’m even going to go there. There are three news conferences ongoing at this moment, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and somewhere in Arizona.
The Deseret News also reports on the potential impact of Jeffs’ arrest on FLDS faithful:
If Jeffs fights extradition, Utah and Arizona authorities would have to get a governor’s warrant to bring him back. If he waives extradition, Smith said he would appear in court in St. George, Utah and Kingman, Ariz. Coincidentally, one of Jeffs’ followers is going on trial in Kingman today, accused of marrying a 16-year-old girl as his second wife. It was a union that was arranged by Warren Jeffs, the man considered “prophet” by the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
Law enforcement called the arrest of Jeffs “good news” but remained leery of potential fall-out and turmoil within the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz.
“Hopefully, we can get some resolution to the process so that Mr. Jeffs and his followers are going to get on with their lives,” said Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith.
In Hildale today, Smith ordered increased patrols from his deputies to keep an eye out for any problems. At the FLDS Church’s enclave in Eldorado, Texas, Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said he broke the news of Jeffs’ arrest to faithful followers there.
“It was very somber,” he told the Deseret Morning News. “It was hard news for them to swallow.”
Doran said he planned to fly over the FLDS Church’s sprawling ranch sometime today to make sure there was no trouble. On the YFZ Ranch, the FLDS Church has an enormous temple that is believed to have been recently completed. YFZ stands for “Yearning for Zion,” after a song Jeffs wrote.
In addition to its headquarters in Hildale and Colorado City, the FLDS Church is believed to have enclaves in Texas, South Dakota, Colorado, British Columbia (Canada) and Nevada. Recently, many FLDS-linked businesses have begun relocating to Nevada. Several construction businesses were setting up in the Mesquite area. A major manufacturer from Hildale had relocated to Las Vegas.
Though the circumstances are far different, at least from the perspective of the faithful FLDS, I’m certain they have similar feelings and thoughts as some of the early saints when many of the brethren were either arrested or forced underground. It is, I confess, not a perspective I have really considered.
OFFICIAL LDS CHURCH RESPONSE
Update 11:10 a.m. Hat tip to Justin from the Wasp. The Church has an official response on their website here, where the Church once again for the umpteenth time points out some of the more obvious but overlooked issues when these types of discussions about polygamy, Warren Jeffs and the FLDS church arise:
Warren Jeffs Is Not a Mormon
Warren Jeffs is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and never has been.
There Is No Such Thing as a “Mormon Fundamentalist” or “Mormon Sect”
The term “Mormon” is a nickname commonly applied to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no such thing as a “Mormon fundamentalist,” nor are there “Mormon sects.” A correct term to describe these polygamist groups is “polygamist sects.” The inclusion of the word “Mormon” is misleading and inaccurate.
The Associated Press Stylebook states, “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other Latter Day Saints churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”
The Church also noted that it was pleased CNN and Fox News pointed out the distinction between Jeffs’ organization and the Mormon Church; however, as I commented below at one point on CNN that became the focus of the story, rather than Jeffs’ arrest itself.
With Jeffs’ arrest, the question naturally arises, what are HBO’s writers going to do with the Roman Grant character in Big Love? This could have a big time impact on polygamy’s fantasy world–or not. ;-)
Update 3:00 p.m. Reuters is now reporting an updated version of the story, including a bit more detail on the actual capture of Jeffs:
Jeffs was stopped about 6 miles north of Las Vegas by a Highway Patrol officer on Monday night for improperly displayed license plates on the sport utility vehicle he was riding in, and the patrolman recognized Jeffs.
The officer called for backup from the Highway Patrol’s homeland security team, and FBI agents also were summoned, George Togliatti, Nevada’s director of public safety, told reporters in Las Vegas.
When initially questioned at the scene, Jeffs gave officers an alias but acknowledged his true identity when confronted further, according to Togliatti and officials at two other news conferences in Arizona and Utah.
“Mr. Jeffs was cordial, although he was uncooperative,” FBI special agent John Lewis said at a news conference in Phoenix, adding that Jeffs complained that he was the victim “of what he termed religious persecution.”
No weapons were found in their SUV. But authorities seized at least $54,000 in cash, 15 cell phones, four portable radios, four laptop computers, three wigs, a collection of sunglasses, a police scanner, a GPS device and a duffel bag believed to contain additional cash, Lewis said. They also found numerous merchandise gift cards worth about $10,000.
I guess another question for me that arises, is if you are the leader of a polygamist sect, why do you need 15 cell phones? Do you get one for each wife? ;-) The details of this story as they unfold are likely to become even more bizzare. Another concern I have is about the potential witnesses in his criminal trial. In other sexual crimes trials involving polygamists the authorities have sometimes had difficulty in their prosecutions. It will be interesting to see how this angle plays out.
This is supposedly the Cadillac Escalade in which Jeff’s was riding/driving at the time of his arrest. I’m assuming riding rather than driving. Clearly there are no tags on the front. There is no photo so far of the rear. Regardess, I still can’t get my mind around how careless this mistake was. Given the price of new Cadillac Escalade’s it’s clear Jeffs was using his followers money to the hilt.
Update 6:00 p.m. This story from Court TV News is exactly the type of problem I mentioned about prosecution witnesses in these trials getting cold feet:
KINGMAN, Ariz. — Hours after the announcement of Warren Jeffs’ capture, a young woman who has said the fundamentalist Mormon leader forced her into a polygamous marriage when she was a teenager stunned a courtroom here Tuesday morning by refusing to testify about the union.
Candi Shapley, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would not explain her decision not to answer questions at the statutory rape trial of a Jeffs associate, but authorities suggested the timing of the church leader’s arrest and the influence of her parents, who remain members of the FDLS, were to blame.
“I believe she is being put under a lot of pressure by Warren Jeffs’ supporters, including those within her own family, not to testify,” said Mohave County attorney Matt Smith.
The trial judge found Shapley, 20, in contempt of court and ordered her held in a shelter for domestic violence victims until she was prepared to answer questions about Randolph Barlow, the man she has said took her as a second wife when she was 16 and he 28. Superior Court Judge Steven Conn capped her confinement at 30 days.
In this particular case it appeared that the young girl’s mother was the intimidating personality giving Shapley second thoughts about testifying in court:
For four minutes, Shapley answered the prosecutor’s questions about her age, her twin daughters and her education. During that time, her mother abruptly rose from her seat behind the defense table and crossed the courtroom to sit in the gallery directly facing the witness stand. Smith then began asking questions about March 2002, the month Shapley married Barlow, and the witness suddenly refused to answer.
Tucking her long, red curls behind her ears and staring at the prosecutor, she said, “I have nothing else to say.”
Smith appeared confused and continued with the questioning, asking, “Do you remember your father talking to you about the fact you were going to be getting married the next day?”
“I have nothing else to say,” Shapley replied, glaring at him.
When the prosecutor asked her to clarify her position, she said, “I am not willing to answer any more questions.”
Her mouth quivered as she gave variations of that answer to Smith and, later, the judge.
Shapley’s refusal to testify was a blow to the prosecution of both Barlow and Jeffs. Without her testimony, there is little evidence against Barlow, and two of the four counts of statutory rape and conspiracy that Jeffs faces in Arizona are based on her grand jury account.
A lawyer for Barlow, Bruce Griffen, objected to the delay in the trial and said he would ask for a dismissal of the charges at the next hearing in the case, now scheduled for Sept. 26.
Shapley was for a time an outspoken witness for the prosecution, even appearing on “Good Morning, America” to describe her case.
Barlow is the second of eight FLDS men prosecuted this year in an attempt by Arizona authorities to rein in polygamous marriage to minors in the border community of Hildale.
This is simply amazing–the power of persuasion this religious sect has even over its former members. It reminds me of the scene in Godfather II where the witness mobster’s brother from Sicily shows up at the Senate hearing on the Mafia. Upon seeing his brother from home, the imunized mob witness then abruptly changes his story. So, how easy will a Warren Jeffs prosecution be?
A copy of Shapley’s grand jury testimony is here.
CNN’s Larry King devoted half his program to the story. One of the more interesting exchanges was between Larry and his guest Pennie Petersen a former FLDS member until 14 years of age:
KING: Did you have services every Sunday?
PETERSEN: Yes. Every Sunday and on Wednesdays there’s home evening. So you have services quite often.
KING: Did you feel you were a Mormon?
PETERSEN: Pardon me?
KING: Did you feel you were a Mormon?
PETERSEN: Did I feel I was a Mormon? No. I felt that I was — no. Because the Mormons, the polygamists don’t like the Mormons. They think that the Mormons gave in to the state. So we actually were taught to hate the Mormons because they didn’t hold up to the agreement of God.
KING: Are you now a Mormon?
PETERSEN: No, I am not.
It doesn’t sound like the FLDS followers care to be associated with the Church or Mormonism.
Update 9:00 p.m. Well it looks like I sang Praise to The Times, just a bit too soon. Their Wednesday morning Internet edition has a story rife with the errors so obviously missing from the first New York Times story (both are now linked below). The second story’s headline is much worse, using Mormon as an adjective describing the Jeffs as the leader of a polygamist Mormon sect. How disappointing after such a good start this morning at the Times when the story broke. What kind of editing process is going on over there at the Times?
Regardless they have a nice money quote on the polygamy association issue in the second article:
Legal scholars say the crackdown came in part because mainstream Mormons have grown increasingly tired of the lingering association with polygamy.
“Many contemporary Mormons complain that everybody associates them with polygamy, and in fact they’re the most antipolygamy people you could meet,” said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who teaches religious history and the law of church and state.
Ironically it was the Times first article this morning that actually helped distance the Church from Polygamy.
(Note the KSL News site has some very interesting photos taken of the Jeffs’ vehicle, particularly of the contents).