Polygamist raid due to a hoax?

The young girl, named Sarah Barlow, who called authorities from that Texas polygamist compound claiming that she being abused, leading to a raid and the taking of 400 children away from their mothers? Evidence has come in that indicates she was a 33-year-old African-American woman from Colorado with a history of phoning in false accusations of sex abuse. But Texas authorities still vow to “press on.” FromTexas 911 Calls Linked To 33-Year-Old in Colo. – washingtonpost.com:

SAN ANGELO, Tex., April 23 — The phone calls that triggered a massive raid on a polygamist compound in west Texas — in which a quavering girl’s voice described being forcibly married at 15 — have been linked to a Colorado woman with a history of making false claims of sexual abuse, according to an affidavit filed in Colorado Springs.

The affidavit says calls that allegedly came from “Sarah Barlow” — a teenage girl at the Yearning for Zion Ranch outside Eldorado, Tex. — actually came from numbers connected to Rozita Swinton, 33, of Colorado Springs. The affidavit also notes Swinton’s possible involvement in a series of separate but similar reports in which the young caller described being abused by a pastor, an uncle or her father.

Texas authorities yesterday said they have not determined whether the calls about the Yearning for Zion Ranch were a hoax and that they plan to press on with their investigation of possible sexual abuse there. More than 400 children are now in state custody, as authorities try to sort out what happened at the ranch run by a polygamist group called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    I’ll be interested to see how this affects the case. I’m not sufficiently versed in the legalities, but I know there are situations where any evidence that comes to light as the result of a tainted source will be considered inadmissible in court.

    I don’t know if having the reason for the original warrant being a hoax is considered ‘tainted’ or not.

  • WebMonk

    I’ll be interested to see how this affects the case. I’m not sufficiently versed in the legalities, but I know there are situations where any evidence that comes to light as the result of a tainted source will be considered inadmissible in court.

    I don’t know if having the reason for the original warrant being a hoax is considered ‘tainted’ or not.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Even still, the police DID find a polygamous compound, didn’t they? Isn’t that against the law? Poor kids. :-(

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Even still, the police DID find a polygamous compound, didn’t they? Isn’t that against the law? Poor kids. :-(

  • Joe

    Sarah – polygamy is illegal but these people are not polygamists in a legal sense because they were only legally married to one woman. The other women were “spirit wives.” This would be no different than any married couple deciding to take a third person into their home and family. Consenting adults and all that jazz.

    Webmonk – the legal doctrine you are referring to is the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. If something was obtained via an illegal search then it is inadmissible. Further, any additional evidence that was uncovered based on the original illegally obtained evidence/warrant is also inadmissible. The illegality flows downstream.

    Here the original warrant was based solely on the phone call. Once the gov’t was on site they found other evidence that got them a second warrant to go back in with a broader scope. Everything could be tossed out if this call was a hoax.

    The question of whether this phone call provided probably cause will be litigated. The US Supreme Court has upheld findings of probable cause based on anonymous tips in the past but they are never sufficient without some type of corroboration of the tip. It seems to me that it would be fairly easy to determine that the tip was not corroborated. 1. A simple check of the cell phone number reveals that it is owned by an 33 year old African American women who lives in Colorado and has a history of making false claims. 2. Dale Barlow does not live at the ranch and has been on parole in another state for several years. 3. The last names, Barlow and Jessop are the Fundy Mormon version of Smith, thus, the use of a specific name adds nothing to the veracity of the call. 4. The affidavit supplied by the state to get the first warrant contains no independent corroboration and relies solely on the tip.

    Like all good legal doctrines this one has a counter part: The inevitable discovery doctrine. The state can attempt to convince the judge that they would have uncovered all of this evidence without a reliance on the bad tip. Given the sheriff’s statement that he had been trying to get into the ranch for a couple of years but could never find a lawful reason until the tip, I think this is a bad argument. Also, there was no investigation until the tip came in so it is hard to argue that you would have discovered something if you weren’t looking for it.

    The other way around a warrant, exigent circumstances, is not available here either. Exigent circumstances require are reasonable belief that there is a threat of physical harm AND that there is not sufficient time to get a warrant. Here, they used the tip to get a warrant so there obviously was sufficient time and this avenue is foreclosed.

    The only way for these warrants to stand up, is if the judges and the appellate courts decide to make some really bad law to achieve the “right” result.

  • Joe

    Sarah – polygamy is illegal but these people are not polygamists in a legal sense because they were only legally married to one woman. The other women were “spirit wives.” This would be no different than any married couple deciding to take a third person into their home and family. Consenting adults and all that jazz.

    Webmonk – the legal doctrine you are referring to is the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. If something was obtained via an illegal search then it is inadmissible. Further, any additional evidence that was uncovered based on the original illegally obtained evidence/warrant is also inadmissible. The illegality flows downstream.

    Here the original warrant was based solely on the phone call. Once the gov’t was on site they found other evidence that got them a second warrant to go back in with a broader scope. Everything could be tossed out if this call was a hoax.

    The question of whether this phone call provided probably cause will be litigated. The US Supreme Court has upheld findings of probable cause based on anonymous tips in the past but they are never sufficient without some type of corroboration of the tip. It seems to me that it would be fairly easy to determine that the tip was not corroborated. 1. A simple check of the cell phone number reveals that it is owned by an 33 year old African American women who lives in Colorado and has a history of making false claims. 2. Dale Barlow does not live at the ranch and has been on parole in another state for several years. 3. The last names, Barlow and Jessop are the Fundy Mormon version of Smith, thus, the use of a specific name adds nothing to the veracity of the call. 4. The affidavit supplied by the state to get the first warrant contains no independent corroboration and relies solely on the tip.

    Like all good legal doctrines this one has a counter part: The inevitable discovery doctrine. The state can attempt to convince the judge that they would have uncovered all of this evidence without a reliance on the bad tip. Given the sheriff’s statement that he had been trying to get into the ranch for a couple of years but could never find a lawful reason until the tip, I think this is a bad argument. Also, there was no investigation until the tip came in so it is hard to argue that you would have discovered something if you weren’t looking for it.

    The other way around a warrant, exigent circumstances, is not available here either. Exigent circumstances require are reasonable belief that there is a threat of physical harm AND that there is not sufficient time to get a warrant. Here, they used the tip to get a warrant so there obviously was sufficient time and this avenue is foreclosed.

    The only way for these warrants to stand up, is if the judges and the appellate courts decide to make some really bad law to achieve the “right” result.

  • Anon

    Serial polygamy isn’t illegal in this country. You can even be a bigamist and in ministry in most conservative churches.

    Parallel polygamy is quite legal and accepted, as long as you don’t make a -commitment- to the multiple sex partners.

    The Lawrence decision used just such a case, men engaged in abomination caught in the act during a police raid.

    Could this be a stalking horse for furthering the Lawrence trend?

    Or is it another example of the State trying to declare belief systems abusive – as the court has said in this particular case?

    And what about Martin Luther and Philip of Hesse? ;-)

  • Anon

    Serial polygamy isn’t illegal in this country. You can even be a bigamist and in ministry in most conservative churches.

    Parallel polygamy is quite legal and accepted, as long as you don’t make a -commitment- to the multiple sex partners.

    The Lawrence decision used just such a case, men engaged in abomination caught in the act during a police raid.

    Could this be a stalking horse for furthering the Lawrence trend?

    Or is it another example of the State trying to declare belief systems abusive – as the court has said in this particular case?

    And what about Martin Luther and Philip of Hesse? ;-)

  • http://poststop.wordpress.com Ethan

    Cato’s daily podcast (Apr. 23) on some of the legal concerns around this is a *MUST LISTEN*.

    http://www.cato.org/dailypodcast/podcast-archive.php

    They raise some very good questions.

  • http://poststop.wordpress.com Ethan

    Cato’s daily podcast (Apr. 23) on some of the legal concerns around this is a *MUST LISTEN*.

    http://www.cato.org/dailypodcast/podcast-archive.php

    They raise some very good questions.

  • Ruthie

    I don’t understand why they didn’t track the cell phone call to realize it wasn’t coming from a ranch.

    Also, I think cps can use warrants differently than regular criminal searches. They just have to prove they acted in good faith on their tip. At least that’s what the lawyers say on tv.

  • Ruthie

    I don’t understand why they didn’t track the cell phone call to realize it wasn’t coming from a ranch.

    Also, I think cps can use warrants differently than regular criminal searches. They just have to prove they acted in good faith on their tip. At least that’s what the lawyers say on tv.

  • Philip

    25 mothers who are under age have been taken from virtual bondage!! The underage mothers are being placed with their babies into foster families!!
    The FLDS has ruined lives for years while people argue the legality of the state in intervening into family life!!
    Can you say that we like Nero are playing the fiddle while people burn!!
    The FDLS has been selling young women into slavery for years, why shouldn’t the state of Texas, (or Arizona if it had any courage) bust up a slavery ring?
    Please someone answer me!!

  • Philip

    25 mothers who are under age have been taken from virtual bondage!! The underage mothers are being placed with their babies into foster families!!
    The FLDS has ruined lives for years while people argue the legality of the state in intervening into family life!!
    Can you say that we like Nero are playing the fiddle while people burn!!
    The FDLS has been selling young women into slavery for years, why shouldn’t the state of Texas, (or Arizona if it had any courage) bust up a slavery ring?
    Please someone answer me!!

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Questions of due process often bother people because they only look at the one situation under discussion and don’t take precedent into account. But people worry about the legality, not because they are worried about the FLDS rights as such, but because they wonder what is to prevent the state from breaking into their houses and taking their kids. If there is no due process, innocence won’t be enough to ensure this doesn’t happen.

    In my high school civics class years ago, the teacher would argue for these principles in the worst of cases: warrentless searches turning up snuff films, etc. It took some time before we saw where he was going, as our first inclination was to fry the guilty sleazebag whatever the law said. But one case is not disconnected from all the others.

    During the witch trials, Increase Mather said “It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned,” and he didn’t say that out of a love for witches. Even back then they learned to their horror that being lax in a point of due process leads to tragedy, with the government guilty of innocent blood.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Questions of due process often bother people because they only look at the one situation under discussion and don’t take precedent into account. But people worry about the legality, not because they are worried about the FLDS rights as such, but because they wonder what is to prevent the state from breaking into their houses and taking their kids. If there is no due process, innocence won’t be enough to ensure this doesn’t happen.

    In my high school civics class years ago, the teacher would argue for these principles in the worst of cases: warrentless searches turning up snuff films, etc. It took some time before we saw where he was going, as our first inclination was to fry the guilty sleazebag whatever the law said. But one case is not disconnected from all the others.

    During the witch trials, Increase Mather said “It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned,” and he didn’t say that out of a love for witches. Even back then they learned to their horror that being lax in a point of due process leads to tragedy, with the government guilty of innocent blood.

  • Magick

    The fact that CPS is well known for going “beyond the law” & “wrongfully taking kids” without proof of danger, we can rest assure that they will do as they please. The religious bigotry is disgusting. I’ve known of girls “outside” that were 14 & having their 2nd kid, on welfare, some on drugs & abusive due to no support. If this case is about teen mothers, they need to get a gripe on reality!
    These girls at least had support, care and homes. They had families. (you know, people that care about you, love you, support you.) They had a wholesome, healthy enviroment. Everyone goes nuts because it isn’t the “society” lifestyle they know.
    These folks are in cultural shock, not versed in the laws, the ways “outside”, so they want to do what they’re told to get their kids back. They don’t know what they did wrong! It’s a different society, religious culture.
    What Texas did was sheer TERROR, they are Terrorists! Tearing mothers from their children, traumatizing children by taking them away from the only world they knew? That’s abuse!
    They could have gone in non-violently, diplomatic and with understanding to educate and inform that some of their practices were not lawful. To help them bridge the gap from their world of the past to today.
    But no! They have to use military against civilians & terrorize women & children that have no clue that something is wrong.
    They say the mothers/women should have prevented what the “outside” considers abuse; when the women themselves are from the same culture – how would they know the laws from “outside”.

    If some fake tip came in about an Amish community, would they then decend like avenging black angels to wisk away their children. Destroying more families & lives? The fact that Texas pulled this Constitutional violating act only shows that if they get away with it – who’s going to be next?

    Our freedoms are being stolen, our rights violated & this country is in a melt down. States can not treat their citizens like this, there were no charges, they kidnapped & have held hostage these children. If there was the worst way to handle this – Texas did it!

    Agree or disagree about their beliefs, fine. But violate their Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States of America, that can NOT be allowed!
    Texas must return those children home to their mothers where they belong. How dare they take babies from their adult mothers that are nursing them!
    This whole thing is wrong on so many levels it’s downright insane!
    Where’s some divine intervention when you need it!! These people need a miracle – lawyers working pro bono is a start. The rest of us need to start taking a stand before it’s US in their place!

  • Magick

    The fact that CPS is well known for going “beyond the law” & “wrongfully taking kids” without proof of danger, we can rest assure that they will do as they please. The religious bigotry is disgusting. I’ve known of girls “outside” that were 14 & having their 2nd kid, on welfare, some on drugs & abusive due to no support. If this case is about teen mothers, they need to get a gripe on reality!
    These girls at least had support, care and homes. They had families. (you know, people that care about you, love you, support you.) They had a wholesome, healthy enviroment. Everyone goes nuts because it isn’t the “society” lifestyle they know.
    These folks are in cultural shock, not versed in the laws, the ways “outside”, so they want to do what they’re told to get their kids back. They don’t know what they did wrong! It’s a different society, religious culture.
    What Texas did was sheer TERROR, they are Terrorists! Tearing mothers from their children, traumatizing children by taking them away from the only world they knew? That’s abuse!
    They could have gone in non-violently, diplomatic and with understanding to educate and inform that some of their practices were not lawful. To help them bridge the gap from their world of the past to today.
    But no! They have to use military against civilians & terrorize women & children that have no clue that something is wrong.
    They say the mothers/women should have prevented what the “outside” considers abuse; when the women themselves are from the same culture – how would they know the laws from “outside”.

    If some fake tip came in about an Amish community, would they then decend like avenging black angels to wisk away their children. Destroying more families & lives? The fact that Texas pulled this Constitutional violating act only shows that if they get away with it – who’s going to be next?

    Our freedoms are being stolen, our rights violated & this country is in a melt down. States can not treat their citizens like this, there were no charges, they kidnapped & have held hostage these children. If there was the worst way to handle this – Texas did it!

    Agree or disagree about their beliefs, fine. But violate their Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States of America, that can NOT be allowed!
    Texas must return those children home to their mothers where they belong. How dare they take babies from their adult mothers that are nursing them!
    This whole thing is wrong on so many levels it’s downright insane!
    Where’s some divine intervention when you need it!! These people need a miracle – lawyers working pro bono is a start. The rest of us need to start taking a stand before it’s US in their place!

  • Joe

    Ruthie – any lawyer who is telling you that CPS has a lower standard than the police with regard to getting a warrant or entering a private home is wrong. They may use differing terminology (e.g. reasonable belief instead of probably cause etc.) but the standard is the same. The 4th Amendment does not have a “best interest of the child” exception.

  • Joe

    Ruthie – any lawyer who is telling you that CPS has a lower standard than the police with regard to getting a warrant or entering a private home is wrong. They may use differing terminology (e.g. reasonable belief instead of probably cause etc.) but the standard is the same. The 4th Amendment does not have a “best interest of the child” exception.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Joe, has the actual warrant and the documentation used to get it been released? Certainly this case stinks if the evidence is just an anonymous call–especially as the evidence falls apart.

    However, it’s hard for me to believe that a group that engages in welfare fraud as a matter of course–not to mention the practices needed for sustaining polygamy–would fail to leave a trail of evidence.

    One thing from the link provided by Ethan; where are the boys, and why are over 300 of 460 children age 4 or under? There is something statistically very interesting here.

    Can police take a look at the patterns of welfare applications? One would think that you’d be able to figure something out there–how many cases of statutory rape could you prove with evidence of a 17 year old filing for TANF and child care support?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Joe, has the actual warrant and the documentation used to get it been released? Certainly this case stinks if the evidence is just an anonymous call–especially as the evidence falls apart.

    However, it’s hard for me to believe that a group that engages in welfare fraud as a matter of course–not to mention the practices needed for sustaining polygamy–would fail to leave a trail of evidence.

    One thing from the link provided by Ethan; where are the boys, and why are over 300 of 460 children age 4 or under? There is something statistically very interesting here.

    Can police take a look at the patterns of welfare applications? One would think that you’d be able to figure something out there–how many cases of statutory rape could you prove with evidence of a 17 year old filing for TANF and child care support?

  • Joe

    The affidavit for the second warrant is on The Smoking Gun, it outlines the evidence that was used to get the first and it is just the anonymous tip. The second warrant uses the tip plus what they saw at that ranch.

    As for welfare fraud, that is something that is not in the affidavits and it has not been alleged as far as I am aware. But the sheriffs department is on record has having said that they never had probable cause to enter the ranch before the call (of course that call is not enough for probable cause either).

    The sheriff has wanted to get into that ranch for two years and couldn’t come up with a reason.

    I also just saw an article that said the legal marriage age from 14 to 16 specifically because of what they believed the FLDS was doing. This may have the potential to make the 16 marriage requirement unconstitutional as applied to this group of people – it appears to have been targeted to a specific group of people to disrupt a religious practice.

    From the Houston Chronicle:
    In 2005, the sect’s relocation to his district prompted Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, to push for changes in the marriage law, including increasing the minimum age at which teenagers can marry to 16, if they get parental consent or a court order. Previous law allowed someone as young as 14 to get married with parental consent.
    “Had this bill not passed, there would have been quite a few of them that were married and were pregnant for instance or married with kids that were under 16 that they could not have done much about,” Hilderbran said. “I’ve got some pride in it. It’s one of those things I knew it was the right thing to do.”
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/religion/5682336.html

  • Joe

    The affidavit for the second warrant is on The Smoking Gun, it outlines the evidence that was used to get the first and it is just the anonymous tip. The second warrant uses the tip plus what they saw at that ranch.

    As for welfare fraud, that is something that is not in the affidavits and it has not been alleged as far as I am aware. But the sheriffs department is on record has having said that they never had probable cause to enter the ranch before the call (of course that call is not enough for probable cause either).

    The sheriff has wanted to get into that ranch for two years and couldn’t come up with a reason.

    I also just saw an article that said the legal marriage age from 14 to 16 specifically because of what they believed the FLDS was doing. This may have the potential to make the 16 marriage requirement unconstitutional as applied to this group of people – it appears to have been targeted to a specific group of people to disrupt a religious practice.

    From the Houston Chronicle:
    In 2005, the sect’s relocation to his district prompted Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, to push for changes in the marriage law, including increasing the minimum age at which teenagers can marry to 16, if they get parental consent or a court order. Previous law allowed someone as young as 14 to get married with parental consent.
    “Had this bill not passed, there would have been quite a few of them that were married and were pregnant for instance or married with kids that were under 16 that they could not have done much about,” Hilderbran said. “I’ve got some pride in it. It’s one of those things I knew it was the right thing to do.”
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/religion/5682336.html

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Got it–what I’ve read is that the welfare cases skyrocketed in this county when this group went to town, although the group has ample means already, and also preached a “bleed the beast” theology that encouraged wives #2-11 to apply for welfare, despite the presence of a husband.

    So exactly why no one bothered to look at welfare records, or how someone didn’t find anything, is puzzling to me. For that matter, why a lot of people don’t see what those records tell us about statutory rape in all cases puzzles me–not just with FLSD people. Are the police incompetent, prohibited from looking, or do they just not care?

    When the overall welfare bill is half a trillion dollars annually (plus hundreds of billions for incarcerating too many kids when they grow up), I would think that we’d start to take this kind of thing seriously.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Got it–what I’ve read is that the welfare cases skyrocketed in this county when this group went to town, although the group has ample means already, and also preached a “bleed the beast” theology that encouraged wives #2-11 to apply for welfare, despite the presence of a husband.

    So exactly why no one bothered to look at welfare records, or how someone didn’t find anything, is puzzling to me. For that matter, why a lot of people don’t see what those records tell us about statutory rape in all cases puzzles me–not just with FLSD people. Are the police incompetent, prohibited from looking, or do they just not care?

    When the overall welfare bill is half a trillion dollars annually (plus hundreds of billions for incarcerating too many kids when they grow up), I would think that we’d start to take this kind of thing seriously.


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