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Constitutional Law

Sect Protests Ranch Raid; Texas Wonders What to Do With 416 Kids

Posted Apr 9, 2008 5:25 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As additional details were revealed about the child abuse concerns that led to an unprecedented raid by Texas authorities of a ranch run by followers of a fringe Mormon leader who advocates polygamy, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints contended that its constitutional rights had been violated by the search. The state has reportedly taken 416 children living there into its own custody, and officials say a number of teens are pregnant and may have been sexually abused.

Counsel for the sect complained in state court today that the search was at least in part unconstitutional, and sought to have evidence obtained there thrown out, reports the Associated Press.

Evidence from the multi-day search is being sealed, and a special master has been appointed to determine whether it was properly seized, according to the Houston Chronicle. The newspaper says District Judge Barbara Walther, who granted an initial search warrant, urged both sides to try to reach an agreement on how search issues will be handled by the special master.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post provides a detailed account of the whispered cell phone call from the not-yet-located complainant that led to the raid. Just 16 years old and already pregnant for the second time by her husband, the unnamed teen "spoke of teenage girls, some as young as 13, being forced to have sex with older men for the purpose of bearing their children. She said she was the seventh 'spiritual' wife of a 49-year-old man. She described beatings by him as so vicious that one time several of her ribs had been broken," the newspaper recounts.

Further details are discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

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