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May 25, 2008
State child welfare authorities Friday appealed a stinging court ruling that their seizure of more than 440 children from a polygamist sect's ranch was unjustified, but they also agreed to reunite 12 children with their parents while the case moves on. The agreement narrowly specifies 12 children, some of whose parents had filed a motion with a state district court in San Antonio for their release from state foster care. Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins declined to comment on the agreement.

CPS agreed to allow the parents to live with their children in the San Antonio area under state supervision, said Teresa Kelly, a spokeswoman for Rene Haas, an attorney for the parents. The families cannot return to the Yearning For Zion ranch, where they lived before the raid.

Aside from mothers staying with their infants in foster care, no other parents from the West Texas ranch have been allowed to stay with their children. CPS' case for removing all children from the ranch was thrown into doubt Thursday when the Third Court of Appeals ordered a lower-court judge to rescind her decision giving the state custody of more than 100 of the children. The ruling was broad enough to cover nearly every child swept up in the April raid on the ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

CPS said in its appeal to the Texas Supreme Court that the appeals court was wrong to say that the vast majority of children at the ranch did not face the sort of extreme danger state law requires for them to be removed without a court order. The agency cited evidence that it said showed that the church pushed teenage girls into spiritual marriages with older men.

"This case is about adult men commanding sex from underage children; about women knowingly condoning and allowing sexual abuse of underage children; about the need for the department to take action under difficult, time-sensitive and unprecedented circumstances," the state agency said in its appeal. The state asked to keep the children in foster care while the case is reviewed. The limited agreement CPS offered covers 12 children, but it was unclear how many families that includes. Kelly said three of the children belonged to one family that had asked the court for their children's release. Kelly didn't know why the other nine children were attached to the agreement.

Lori and Joseph Jessop had been scheduled to appear in Bexar County district court on their motion to release their three children -- ages 4, 2 and 1 -- but CPS offered the agreement instead, Kelly said. Similar agreements in the near future are unlikely; the Jessops filed their motion in a different court than the other families. State officials said in their Supreme Court filing that it would be impossible to return all children covered in Thursday's ruling because they had not determined which children belong to which parents, and DNA tests were incomplete. The appeals court ruling technically applies only to the 38 mothers who filed the complaint.

In justifying their removal of the children from the ranch, Child Protective Services cited as "documented" sexual abuse a statement from a girl who said she knew a 16-year-old who was married with a 5-month-old baby and the statement from another girl that "Uncle Merrill" decides who and when she will marry. The state also cited five underage pregnant girls.

Authorities also said the appeals court overstepped in its ruling because a lower court had discretion to rule in the custody case. Attorneys for the parents whose case is under high-court consideration urged the justices to reject the state's appeal, saying their children "are being subjected to continuing, irreparable harm every day that they are separated from their parents." 

A spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said the appeal was no surprise "although one would hope that at some point they would realize the futility." The parents are prepared for an extended legal battle, he said. "They're hopeful to get on with their lives, but in reality, they understand," he said. The agency accused parents of being uncooperative and not providing proper identification -- though in dozens of individual custody hearings this week, parents provided state-issued birth certificates. Other sect members mistakenly believed to be minors provided driver's licenses as proof of their ages.

The Third Court of Appeals said the state acted hastily. "Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse ... there is no evidence that this danger is 'immediate' or 'urgent,'" the court said. "Evidence that children raised in this particular environment may someday have their physical health and safety threatened is not evidence that the danger is imminent enough to warrant invoking the extreme measure of immediate removal," the court said. The children were taken into custody more than six weeks ago after someone called a hot line claiming to be a pregnant, abused teenage wife. The girl has not been found, and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

Five judges in San Angelo, about 40 miles north of Eldorado, had been holding hearings on what the parents must do to regain custody when the appeals decision was issued. Those hearings were suspended after Thursday's ruling. The custody case has been chaotic from the beginning. During the first round of hearings, held two weeks after the April 3 raid, hundreds of lawyers crammed into a courtroom and a nearby auditorium, queuing up to voice objections or ask questions on behalf of the mothers, who were dressed in trademark prairie dresses and braided hair. The state conceded this week that at least 15 of the 31 mothers being held in foster care as minors were actually adults; one is 27. The state has struggled for weeks to establish the identities of the children and sort out their tangled family relationships. The youngsters are in foster homes all over the state, with some brothers or sisters separated by as many as 600 miles.                                                                         

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Posted: May 25, 2008 1:21pm
May 25, 2008
Lawyers for Texas Child Protective Services dropped several bombshells in court today as they try to make their case for why the state should take custody of a 1-week-old baby born to a woman who was once declared a minor. During grueling questioning on the witness stand, Louisa Jessop answered, "I don't know" to many questions CPS lawyers posed to her, including where she lived before, how she came to be there, and who lived in the home with her.

Testimony revealed she lived most recently in a home with YFZ Ranch leader Merrill Jessop and his son Dan, who is her husband.

But Jessop struggled to name anyone else who lived in the home, aside from Merrill Jessop's wife Barbara and her own husband, Dan, and her children. Jessop testified she was married to her husband by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. She didn't know her husband that well before she married him. Pressing their case about the department's belief about a pervasive pattern of sex abuse on the ranch, where girls grow up to be child brides and boys predators, CPS attorney Ellen Griffiths showed photos to Jessop, claiming that the girl in the picture was 13. Asked what is age appropriate to be married, she replied "Seventeen or 18."

Asked if the prophet had ever told anyone in her family to marriage at age 14, Jessop said not that she knew of.

Later, her husband, Dan Jessop, took the witness stand. As CPS lawyers read him a long list of names, he interrupted them saying, "I beg to differ if this has anything to do with my son."

CPS lawyers pressed forward, trying to make their case of prevalent sex abuse within the FLDS culture. CPS attorney Eric Tai asked if there was anything wrong with a 14-year-old girl getting married to an older man. "I think there's everything wrong with that," Dan Jessop said.

"Why?" "It's against my religion, against my beliefs. I have no idea of anything like that happening." Tai then suggested that one of his sisters is married to Jeffs.

Dan Jessop's lawyer, Patricia Matassarin, objected to the hearing itself, making reference to Thursday's 3rd Court of Appeals ruling vacating Judge Barbara Walther's order to put the children in state custody. Matassarin wondered if there was any immediate or dire emergency for why the state should have custody of the child

As Six men are arrested by Bedfordshire Police investigating child sexual abuse images on the internet. The force said raids were made on 14 properties in the county in the spring and more than 30 computers seized. Material found at 11 addresses warrants further investigation, a police spokesman said. Following the arrests one man has received a police caution and files on five others have been sent to the CPS for advice on prosecution.

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Posted: May 25, 2008 1:06pm
May 25, 2008

A former Child Protective Services worker has been formally charged for alleged sexual abuse of minor children. David Wigton, 57, worked for several years with CPS.

"That is disturbing to discover that someone who worked with children for so many years (ha ha, what does the years of work have to do with what theses persons do? I though they are trained by specialist or experts, so where does the years come in at, after the training. Well I have never and never will!!) can be accused of such crimes," said Maricopa County Attorney. Wigton was placed on administrative leave from CPS once the allegations surfaced. Thomas said none of the victims are associated with Wigton's cases at CPS.

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Posted: May 25, 2008 12:41pm
May 13, 2008
repeated attacks by an irresponsible, bullying, obviously cowardly, and intemperate father, and abandoned by respondents who placed him in a dangerous predicament and who knew or learned what was going on, and yet did essentially nothing...." Even so, the Supreme Court, by a 6-to-3 margin, absolved Wisconsin officials of any negligence in a case that had left a young child profoundly damaged for the rest of his life. Does the Constitution protect children from violent parents? As Lynne Curry shows, that was the central question at issue when Melody DeShaney initially sued Wisconsin for failing to protect her battered son Joshua from her estranged husband, thus violating her son's constitutional right to due process. The resulting case, DeShaney v. Winnebago County (1989), was a highly emotional one pitting the family against the state and challenging our views on domestic relations, child abuse, and the responsibilities--and limits--of state action regarding the private lives of citizens. The Supreme Court's controversial decision ruled that the Constitution was intended to limit state action rather than oblige the state to interfere in private affairs. It viewed the Due Process Clause as a limitation on the state's power to act, not a guarantee of safety and security, not even for children who depend on the state for their survival. In this first book-length analysis of the case, Curry helps readers understand how considerations of "what should be" are not always reflected in legal reasoning. Curry brings to light details that have been ignored or neglected and covers both the criminal and civilproceedings to retell a story that still shocks. Drawing on legal briefs and social work case files, she reviews the legal machinations of the state and includes personal stories of key actors: family members, social workers, police officers, child advocates, and opposing attorneys. She then clearly analyzes the majority and dissenting opinions from the Court, as well as reactions from the court of public opinion. Joshua DeShaney depended on the state for protection but found no satisfaction in the courts when the state failed him. The DeShaney Case offers a much-needed perspective on the dilemmas his predicament posed for our legal system and fresh insight into our ambivalent views of the role that the state should play in our daily lives. Bibliographic Data: Hardcover, 164 Pages, University Press of Kansas, March 2007, Author: Curry, Lynne, List Price est.: $29.95, BINC: 8747631, ISBN: 0700614966, Shelf Location: Social Sciences  > Law & Contracts  > Law

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Posted: May 13, 2008 4:45pm


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