Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Were 401 children seized on a fake phone call?

There is an intriguing feature of the raid on the FLDS in Texas that I have not yet seen discussed. The local sheriff, by his account, had left the group alone on the reasonable enough grounds that, whatever might be believed about their marital practices, there had been no actual evidence they were doing anything illegal. As he put it: "But there again, this is the United States," he said. "We are going to respect them. We're not going to violate their civil rights until we get an outcry."

There was then a phone call to a "family violence center" by a caller who said she was a sixteen year old who had been forced into marriage at fifteen to a fifty year old man who had raped and abused her. She gave her name and the name of the man. Law enforcement authorities moved in, searched the property, and seized 401 children and turned them over to Child Protective Services.

So far, however, they seem to have been unable to identify the girl who made the phone call. They did identify the man she accused--who turned out to be in Arizona, said he hadn't been in Texas since 1977, and has not been arrested, which I assume means that the evidence supports his claim.

Which suggests an obvious conjecture—that the phone call was a fake, possibly by someone in law enforcement who wanted an excuse to raid the ranch, possibly by someone else in the area who disapproved of the FLDS and wanted to set off such a raid. I find it surprising that none of the news stories, at least that I have seen, have even mentioned that possibility.

It is also interesting that of the two people who have actually been arrested so far, one was arrested for "
tampering with physical evidence" and the other for "interfering with duties of a public servant." Pretty clearly, both arrests had to do with what happened during the raid, not with any evidence that anyone had been doing anything illegal before the raid.


Anonymous said...

I was listening to an NPR segment on this and a caller specifically asked that question. The guest was a journalist who was covering the story, and he was asked if the press tried to verify the account that was given by the police regarding the call. The journalist answered that no, they hadn't, and that this was something that would be difficult to do. He added that in many cases, they are forced to exercise their judgment on whether what they are being told is credible and what is not, and that they had reason to believe, presumably based on more than the information that is publicly available, that the police were acting in good faith. I didn't find this answer very satisfying, but then, without any specific leads, I don't think it would be very responsible for a journalist to play this angle either.

Anonymous said...

From the accounts I've read, it sounds like there was a series of calls to the family violence center over the course of a couple days. They also reported that on the last call, the girl sounded as if she were crying and said something along the lines of (paraphrasing here) "Nevermind; forget what I've told you, I'm OK here." That statement doesn't really sound like something a fake caller would likely come up with (the remorse for going against indocrination angle). Of course I'm probably reading too much into it.

Donald Pretari said...

I'm trying to understand something. Doesn't this group practice Polygamy? Isn't that a crime? Is there some problem proving Polygamy I don't know about? What am I missing?

Jonathan said...

I suppose there could easily be a problem in proving polygamy, unless the people involved are foolish enough to go hold public marriage ceremonies.

Promiscuity isn't a crime, as far as I know. People have children with different partners and no-one thinks anything of it, unless they happen to be formally married to multiple people at the same time.

Mike Huben said...

The interesting thing about David's post is that he focuses on the possibility that big, bad government is wrong, rather than the much more interesting question of whether such cults infringe the liberties of the members or their families.

The very fact that this cult has needed to isolate itself in remote desert areas because they violate laws also means that (as in black market situations such as prostitution) the members cannot effectively resort to legal means of protection against abuses.

The fact that women are reared to be dependent on that cult environment, and thus not free to enter more general society, doesn't seem to matter to libertarians: libertarians seem to have a consistent blind spot for the problem of what rights and capabilities children should have.

Whether or not the triggering calls were bogus, it is in the interests of liberal ideas of liberty to open up that pustule before another Jonestown or Heaven's Gate occurs.

And however much libertarians might hate our governments, our governments are not as authoritarian nor as socialist as the FLDS.

Carol L said...

Hi. I found your blog via CNN. I have had a few burning questions regarding the calls that instigated the raid which the media has failed to provide answers to.

One of the comments left here anonymously addressed 2 of my questions. Even so, I still would like to put the questions out there.

1. If the call was placed via a cell phone, was a GPS locator used to verify the location of the caller before the raid was initiated?

It did occur to me that an older model cell phone might not a GPS locator and that even a model that did have it available might not have the option turned on.

2. If the call was place from a landline was the number verified as belonging to the ranch before the raid was initiated?

And this is the most burning question of all:

3. How would a 16-year-old girl whom we might assume has been raised in a secluded society gain access to the number to the family violence hotline? It is my understanding they do not have Internet or television access and are mostly cut off from the outside world. I take it, though, that they do have phones. Are they given access to phone books as well? If not, would she have seen the number posted on a billboard? Would she know about 411?

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe they allowed these woman and younger children go back to a polygamist environment. Polygamy is against the law and in my opinion a sick perverted environment. How can this environment possibly be pure if one man is ‘spiritually’ married to so many woman, it is a sexist oppressed environment. How sad that all of these so called camps are not all raided. Obviously they cannot prosecute these men for polygamy because they are only legally married to their first wife. These camps are breeding woman for their own pleasure and these women are too ignorant to know better. Someone needs to educate these people.

Jonathan said...

Mike Huben: "The interesting thing about David's post is that he focuses on the possibility that big, bad government is wrong" -- I don't think so. Seems to me he focuses merely on whether there was any legal basis for the raid.

"... this cult has needed to isolate itself in remote desert areas because they violate laws ..." But do they violate laws? Or merely offend against social norms?

I agree that the practices of these people may be unattractive in practice, but the question of how to respond to them is not a simple one. As Mike says, passing laws against them may make the problem worse in some ways.

Furthermore, you can pass laws against polygamy (multiple marriages), but can you really pass laws against people living together without getting married? I think rather a lot of people would be found breaking such a law.

Darklady said...

I have no problem with the government following a genuine lead concerning rape and abuse.

Although I realize that polygamy is currently illegal in the US, I think it's inappropriate for the government to be in the marriage business at all; therefore, I can't support or endorse actions taken by the government to restrict the rights of mutually consenting adults to marry as they see fit.

I would like to see pansexual plural marriage made legal (meaning men could have multiple wives or husbands, and women could have multiple husbands and wives). I do not support forcing anyone into sex or relationships, however.

Wouldn't it be nice if the government actually protected our rights instead of just trying to enforce a specific way of living on its citizens?

Jonathan said...

Well said, Theresa! Nice post.

I've now read The Economist's article on this affair, from which I gather that (a) being religious nuts, those people were indeed silly enough to conduct illegal polygamous marriage ceremonies; and (b) they were also into underage sex. So it would seem that a raid on them was legally justified -- at least in the light of evidence turned up after the raid.

The fact remains that, as far as I know, relationships with multiple people of the opposite sex are legal as long you have the sense not to go through any marriage ceremonies, and not to get involved with juveniles.

David Friedman said...

Jonathan writes:

"they were also into underage sex."

I haven't read the economist's article on this. But it is worth being careful, in this context, about what "underage" means. As I understand it, the minimum age for marriage in Texas is sixteen. So sex with a sixteen or seventeen year old is legal if you are married to her, not if you are not.

A further complication, in this case, is that the U.S. doesn't recognize polygamous marriages. So presumably if the 16 year old was a man's first wife, sex with her was legal; if she was his second, then legally speaking they weren't married so it was illegal.

A statement by someone from law enforcement referred to "pregnant children" but gave no ages, and it's ambiguous given that, in this context, a sixteen or seventeen year old, a minor, might be pregnant entirely legally.

On the face of it, the most clearly indefensible part of the whole business was seizing all of the children. The accusation, true or false, is pretty specific--sex with women past puberty but of an age where such sex is illegal. It's hard to see how that gives the state any grounds at all for separating a four year old boy from his mother.

Stephen Smith said...

The media are loathe to question any government source, even non-American ones. This is evidenced by their coverage of Alexander Litvinenko's assassination, where I didn't once hear the mainstream media repeat a single one of Litvinenko's allegations against the Russian government that likely got him killed. Instead, just lots of footage of Putin talking about how unimportant the guy was. Especially bizarre given that he alleged that he FSB was in bed with al-Qaeda – which would seem incredibly relevant to the US, given the whole War on Terror thing. None of this stuff is difficult to find out about – there are well-cited Wikipedia pages galore.

Just one example:


Sorry to go off on a rant like that, but if the media don't care about a blatant, non-conspiratorial (I mean in the chem trails/CIA-did-9/11 type of conspiracy) serious allegation about the FSB's involvement with al-Qaeda, it seems unlikely that they're going to question whether or not the phone call was real when there wasn't even an irradiated spy telling them so.

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

The Economist's article is actually too vague to be of much use.

Wikipedia says that the children were taken in because authorities believed that they "had been abused or were at immediate risk of future abuse". If they took in children of all ages, it seems unlikely that all of them were really at immediate risk of abuse. I've seen nothing so far to suggest that the sect went in for sex with young children.

Anonymous said...

If some old man molested a young girl arrest HIM. Don't take 400 children from their mothers.

What is this going to do to their minds. This is a free country!

You people make me sick. I don't agree with LDS but I sure don't think authorities handled this one right either. I hope there is a special place in hell for all these moralist that want to tell us how to raise our children.

If I was LDS I would be up in arms, literally. And I would start with the people at CPS.

David Friedman said...

Texan writes:

"If I was LDS I would be up in arms"

It's worth distinguishing between the LDS, the Mormon church, which has millions of adherents and officially disavowed polygamy more than a century ago, and the FLDS, a small offshoot that continues polygamy. From the standpoint of the LDS, the FLDS people are heretics. I wouldn't be surprised if the LDS pressured law enforcement people to act against the FLDS, although I have no evidence that they have done so.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my bad. It doesn't change my attitude.

Artfldgr said...

well, we have one poster who thinks that if people move away from people that harrass them for different beleifs, that they must be nefarious.

they then show that as a leftist, the end justifies the means. how nice. bet this person would just love people calling CPS on him and having to prove himselve innocent.

on another point... the people talking about GPS, etc..

the call came into a SHELTER, not a police office. if it was the police, we would have had tape recordings, and caller id.

as it was from a shelter, and all of them are feminist based, it most likely was a plan by them to destroy the commune, and the marraiges of these people.

bet you the amish come next.

the major point here is that there needent be ANY call at all!!

the point that its all HEARSAY...

what happened to the constitutional right to know your accuser (note that feminists trashed that one years ago with sheild laws, and delegation of powers to cps to act ignoring constitutional REAL RIGHTS)

the right to know your accuser went out the window

the right to be secure in ones person and home against searches

the right of innocence till proven guilty has been replaced with guilty until they get the kids to prove mom and pop are not guilty... which they wont do. remember the mcmurdoe case? they all went to prison for a hoax...

you can be sure that the same kind of people are now traumatizing the kids till they make up something against the parents thinking that when they make the adults happy, they get to go back home.

the whole thing stinks of communist planned society... but maybe because the people who are changing our laws are that way.

"Feminism, Socialism, and Communism are one in the same, and Socialist/Communist government is the goal of feminism." - Catharine A. MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (First Harvard University Press, 1989), p.10

thats a constitutional lawyer speaking there.

so taking the kids and destroying families is pretty muich the same program from 1918... as was free love, and the idea tha the end justifies the means and that subversion and MAKING or orchestrating history is a good thing.

remember the nooses that turned out to be the victims work? remember the school that taught seeger, king, parks, and then bought a house, moved in blacks, then blew it up...

then there is ny quinn and democrats for years creating front charities to park our tax money in.. (if we didnt have socialism, they couldt do that).

the whole thing on the left stinks so bad one wonders were are the gulags. there here! http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r210_35.pdf

the list goes on and on, and the seizure of 400 children and subsequent donating them to foster people who will get paid by the state... is soviet in its horror.

anyone care to read the history of similar actions in the soviet union, as well as hungary and romania?

we the people have no more rights.

Chad Van Schoelandt said...


I really appreciate this post and your continued discussion of the issue. The sorts of questions and criticism you present are very important, and I have been raising these and related issues with many people I know, as well as writing media agencies about their poor coverage. I have also shared links to your posts with friends interested in the issue. As a regular reading of your blog, I hope that you continue to follow this issue and present further updates and thoughts as the case continues.

Anonymous said...

> On the face of it, the most
> clearly indefensible part of the
> whole business was seizing all
> of the children. The accusation,
> true or false, is pretty
> specific--sex with women past
> puberty but of an age where such
> sex is illegal. It's hard to see
> how that gives the state any
> grounds at all for separating a
> four year old boy from his
> mother.

Children have always been an eternal excuse for authorities to exercise power and violate rights. We should all be very, very thankful this didn't turn into Waco II. However, if Waco I was any indication, the innocent victims are going to be made scapegoats in justification of the raid.