Possible criminal charges have taken center stage in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) polygamy saga in Texas. This morning, a grand jury began probing allegations of child sexual abuse at the Yearning for Zion (YFZ)ranch.
Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be kept secret. Even the fact the jury is meeting is theoretically secret. But that sure isn't the way it turned out today in Eldorado, Texas. The tiny town is crawling with reporters, cops, FLDS women and attorneys. Police cordoned off the county courthouse and kept news cameras at a distance.
Presumably, prosecutors are using evidence gathered during the raid on the ranch two months ago to show a pattern of underage marriages and pregnancies.
FLDS spokesman Rod Parker says he hopes the children won't be victimized in the process. "I have always believed that we would move into this second phase, and I guess what I'm hoping is that Texas authorities don't have their egos so wrapped up in what they're doing that they let their egos get ahead of their common sense," he said.
There have been some media reports that many FLDS men have vanished because they're worried about criminal charges. But Parker disputed those reports, saying he's been in touch with them.
"I hear the claims about people having disappeared from the ranch. I don't know where those claims are coming from. I don't know how anyone would know that because they're coming from people who don't have access to the ranch. So how would they know?" Parker said.
The lid came off the grand jury secrecy a few days ago because of Teresa Jeffs, the 16-year-old daughter of Warren Jeffs. A few days ago, she revealed in e-mails forwarded to the media that she was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.
Teresa may turn out to be a poor witness for the prosecution. She strongly denies claims that she's a victim sex abuse.
Whether the state has other teenage witnesses to rely on, we just don't know. So it's hard to predict whether the grand jury will hand down any indictments.