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FLDS

Former polygamous sect leaders appear in Texas court
("The Salt Lake Tribune," June 27, 2011)

San Angelo, USA - A West Texas judge on Monday ordered a former polygamous sect bishop to stay in the state until his October trial, the San Angelo Standard-Times is reporting.

F. Merril Jessop, 75, is charged with performing an illegal ceremony connected to an alleged underage spiritual marriage.

During a Monday pretrial hearing at the Schleicher County Courthouse, Jessop also was ordered to provide a physical address to the prosecution, the newspaper reported. Saying there have been problems with ensuring court appearances in the past, state District Judge Barbara Walther decided Jessop would need to get permission to leave the state for doctor’s appointments.

Jessop’s final pretrial date was set for Sept. 1, and his trial date was set for Oct. 31.

He was the bishop at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado when authorities executed a massive raid there in April 2008. Jessop was reportedly excommunicated from the sect early this year.

Jessop is the former husband of Carolyn Jessop, who wrote the best-selling 2007 book Escape about leaving the sect. The two had eight children together, and Merril Jessop has also been in court in Texas for not paying child support.

Another FLDS man, Leroy J. Steed, also had a hearing Monday. His final pretrial date was set for Sept. 8, according to the Standard-Times. His trial date was scheduled for Nov. 29. He is charged with bigamy, sexual assault and evidence tampering connected to allegedly hiding an electronic storage device in a trash bag during the raid.

Former FLDS Church President Wendell Nielsen was also set for a pretrial hearing Monday, but he did not appear due to health problems, his attorney said in court papers. He was also reportedly excommunicated this year.