Attorneys general to testify before Congress on polygamous sect

Chris Rizo Jul. 22, 2008, 9:12am

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-A group of state attorneys general will testify before a U.S. Senate panel investigating a polygamous sect in Texas, Utah and Colorado, officials said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is probing allegations of fraud, bribery, extortion and crimes against children in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Testifying at Thursday's hearing, "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response," will be Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff of Utah, Greg Abbott of Texas and Terry Goddard of Arizona.

Shurtleff, a Republican, has been pursuing an investigation into the FLDS Church, his spokesman, Paul Murphy told Legal Newsline.

In an earlier interview, Murphy said Shurtleff is pleased the U.S. government is taking a bigger interest in potential federal crimes by the reclusive sect.

"These people have been ignored for the last 50 years," Murphy said. "We think the states of Utah and Arizona have done everything possible to pursue allegations of state crimes."

Among other allegations, Murphy said FLDS members have been suspected of flouting federal child labor laws and avoiding paying federal taxes.

The Senate hearing was called by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had criticized authorities in Arizona and Utah for not doing more to crackdown on crimes in polygamous communities, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The hearing will be chaired by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday that FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop will observe the proceedings. The sect also plans to present a statement to be read into the official record.

"This sends a clear message that the politicians of the nation don't want to know the facts of the matter but only the facts that fit their cause," Jessop was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "Today it's the FLDS, but tomorrow it will be someone else's religion."

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