Chris Rizo Apr. 17, 2008, 6:00pm
AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is prepared to devote whatever resources necessary to aid in the prosecution of members of a polygamist sect in West Texas, a spokesman told Legal Newsline on Thursday.
There are "some very serious allegations of a widespread pattern of abuse" at the YFZ Ranch, said spokesman Jerry Strickland.
The remote Texas ranch is home to members of the reclusive Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who hold polygamy as a religious tenet.
For the attorney general, addressing the allegations of widespread child sexual abuse "is not a financial concern but rather a child safety concern," Strickland said.
Should some of the attorney general's resources be devoted to the case, Abbott's office would not likely be placed in a financial bind next year as a result since budget analysts expect the state to run a budget surplus.
Already, Abbott has offered to county prosecutors the assistance of state investigators and attorneys to help in what he has called a "major legal undertaking" in deciding what to do with hundreds of children taken from the group's sprawling ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
Texas Child Protective Services has removed 416 children from the fundamentalist Mormon compound, said child welfare officials.
Authorities took temporary legal custody of the children after officials said a 16-year-old girl made phone calls to authorities in March, claiming she was being abused sexually.
Since local prosecutors in Texas have original criminal jurisdiction, Strickland said "in almost every scenario," the attorney general's office can only assist criminal prosecutions when formally invited to do so by county authorities.
Strickland added that local authorities have not yet asked for the attorney general's office to join in their investigation.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.