America

Affidavit Alleges Warren Jeffs Brought Child Brides From Canada

A Canadian court case focused on the constitutionality of polygamy has churned up allegations that jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs imported three child brides from British Columbia in 2004 and 2005.

The allegations are contained in an "affidavit from a Texas official" and documents purportedly seized during a 2008 raid on a polygamous settlement in Texas that is part of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

Jeffs is already awaiting trial in Texas on charges of bigamy and sexual assault involving two girls under 17 years old.

A court document (posted below) filed last week by the Attorney General of British Columbia says Canadian prosecutors recently obtained evidence that two 12-year-old girls and a 13-year-old were taken by their parents from an FLDS satellite community in British Columbia and driven across the border into the United States.

The document alleges that all three girls were "celestially married ... for time and eternity" to then 49-year-old "FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs" in the FLDS hometowns that straddle the Utah-Arizona border. Two of the child brides, the document says, were then taken to an FLDS ranch outside Eldorado, Texas.

A spokesman for the B.C. Attorney General tells NPR that prosecutors want the evidence introduced to the B.C. Supreme Court to show the harm polygamy can cause.

The document asks the court to accept the affidavit from Texas and supporting FLDS documents, as well as birth records for the three girls. A hearing on that request is scheduled Friday in Vancouver.

Allegations of marriages involving underage girls prompted charges against Jeffs and more than a dozen followers in Texas, Arizona and Utah. Charges of facilitating child sex abuse were dismissed against Jeffs in Arizona and a conviction for facilitating rape was overturned in Utah.

Jeffs' Arizona defense attorney, Michael Piccarreta, told The Salt Lake Tribune, "I don't trust anything that comes out of Texas." The phone call that prompted the raid on the FLDS ranch in Texas is now widely believed to have been a hoax.

Still, seven FLDS men were convicted or pleaded guilty to charges stemming from evidence seized in the raid. Cases are pending against Jeffs and four others.

The Canadian case was prompted by failed attempts to prosecute polygamist leaders in Bountiful, British Columbia. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman is considering the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy law and whether polygamy is a religious practice protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Here is the affidavit (click "fullscreen" to make it easier to read):

(NPR correspondent Howard Berkes is based in Salt Lake City.)

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