July 22, 2008

Polygamy Hearing’s Witness List Released

By Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune

Jul. 22--The witness list for Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on polygamy includes U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman and law enforcement from around the West.

The hearing, requested by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will explore "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Reid, who has pushed for a federal task force, is expected to be the first witness. He will be followed by Tolman; Gregory Brower, the U.S. Attorney for Nevada; Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Abbott's office is leading a criminal investigation into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A Schleicher County grand jury is reconvening in Eldorado, Texas, today to consider issuing indictments against sect members.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was invited to testify, but he is still recovering from a leg injury after a motorcycle accident and won't be able to attend, his spokesman said.

Shurtleff favors forming a task force; Tolman has said increased communication would suffice. Top state and federal law enforcement officials from Utah, Arizona and Nevada met in June to discuss cooperating in investigations.

Also scheduled to testify Thursday: Stephen Singular, Denver author of When Men Become Gods, and Carolyn Jessop, the West Jordan author of the memoir Escape. Both books focus on the FLDS, the polygamous sect traditionally based on the Utah-Arizona border.

Dan Fischer, a former FLDS member and Sandy businessman who has funded lawsuits against the sect and assisted departing members, also has been asked to appear.

Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney and FLDS spokesman, has said the Senate committee should give equal time at the hearing to sect members.

FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop will travel to D.C., along with several other FLDS members, to 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 said. "Today it's the FLDS, but tomorrow it will be someone else's religion."

Hundreds of people have signed an online petition protesting the exclusion of an FLDS representative from participation in the hearing, which is described as a "witch hunt." The petition, which went online at www.voices

forthechildren.org on Friday, had collected more than 500 signatures as of Monday afternoon. Most signers made comments, too.

Among them: Fischer's 79-year-old mother Rachel, who said her son "has not told the truth, to the hurt of the FLDS people, including the prophet."

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