Saturday, April 19, 2008

Texas, CPS, FLDS and Carolyn Jessop

NOTE to reader: this discussion today is not about the religious practices of FLDS. I’ll discussFLDS in a later blog, so be patient and stay on topic with me today.

“I was standing in a copy store this afternoon when my cell phone rang. It was Carolyn Jessop. ‘They raided the compound. It’s sealed off. They went in there with an armored personnel carrier, Texas Rangers, everything.’” Quoting Laura Palmer, 360° Writer.

After watching the news about the CPS shelter hearings following the raid on the FLDS Ranch in Texas on Friday, I feel like I've been Jerry Springered through the looking glass into a fascist horrorland. This is probably because I was observing the players and analyzing the process while I waited for the evidence to surface which would support the horrifying allegations.
Instead of seeing impartial facts and credible evidence, I saw aboulic accusations flying, emotionally charged rhetoric, and fatally flawed analysis by so-called experts who postured in front of camera after camera. 

Yes, I know, sensationalism sells, but this is supposed to be journalism. It appeared that the media–and others–had assumed a mob mentality modeled by CPS, completely flipping out, going verbally postal, sacrificing the children and families at stake in their intolerant desire to wreak holy vengeance on a church, a religion, a culture, an entire community. It was Reality TV at it worst. 

And the serenely smug, rabble-rousing star of this multi-network reality TV lark is none other than the bitter ex-wife of the local church leader, Merrill Jessop. I am, of course, referring to best selling author, Carolyn Jessop. This makes for an interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

Ms. Jessop was the featured expert on every cable news network for days, because of her recently published book, Escape, which purportedly details her life in the FLDS church in lurid Technicolor. Did I say recently published? Let’s not be shy, it was published 6 months ago, in October, 2007.She had made the book promotion rounds, Good Morning, American, Oprah, et al, and by now, the publicity whirlwind associated with a new release had dissipated.

Did I say bitter ex-wife? She says herself in her book that she hated Merrill Jessop for the entire seventeen years she was with him. That kind of carefully nurtured hate doesn’t just evaporate when you flee the relationship. She had eight children with him, whom she took with her when she left. She tried to get a restraining order against and fought against his right to visitation and lost, something that Carolyn later had got changed with the help of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. She reportedly used her son’s illness to accomplish that.

What I see going on here is the same dynamic that is played out in thousands of courtrooms every day–the battle for the kiddies when parents separate. Some of these battles get downright ugly. I’m speaking of the ones where there is a vengeful or vindictive ex who wants to control the other. The standard tactics employed by the vindictive ex include allegations of child abuse, attempts to get restraining orders based on allegations of domestic violence, keeping the other parent from seeing the kiddies by any means necessary and extracting the maximum amount of child support from the non-custodial ex and making their lives hell when the money isn’t forthcoming. Commonly practiced divorce/custody dirty tactics.

Ms. Jessop has proven to be a masterful spin doctor of facts and manipulator of public perception. I’m seeing her employ the exact same controlling manipulation she alleges is practiced in the FLDS communities.

Based on her own descriptions, it’s not just that the men are abusive, the entire culture appears to be dysfunctional. Sister wives hating each other, devious machinations and abusive manipulations being served upon each other all the time? Wives hating husbands and using sex as a power tool? Control freak emotional abuse being practiced by everyone equally to establish a pecking order? Without realizing it, she describes her full participation in these dysfunctional machinations. Her account describes the pervasive disrespectful manipulation of others as part of the culture she lived in and in which she effectively participated.

It looks to me like you can take the girl out of the FLDS manipulation dynamic, but you can’t take the FLDS manipulation dynamic out of the girl.
I don’t doubt she’s the victim she portrays herself to be. And she has exploited this image very effectively. But as CPS is so fond of saying, victims will go on to victimize unless you can break the cycle of abuse. As long as she is immersed in her own victimhood, and remains in denial about her own culpability in her exercising similarly dysfunctional conduct inside and outside of that culture, Ms. Jessop can only perform as she was conditioned to perform. She uses machinations and manipulation to garner public sympathy and achieve her own agenda.

I see a very hurt and angry woman who has not let go of her hate of the church or of her family or of her husband. She has not healed and she has not moved on. It looks like she still needs vengeance for what was done to her. Why do I say that? Let’s look at the facts:

FACT: The investigation into the FLDS ranch in Texas and the ensuing raid was precipitated by a hotline phone call. This is a quote from the affidavit seeking a court order to pick up the children:

On March 29, 2008, the Department received an intake report at 11:32 p.m. According to the intake, a teenaged mother (age 16) and her infant child (age approximately 8 months) were requesting assistance to enable them to leave the YFZ Ranch located near Eldorado, Schleicher County, Texas,

The affidavit goes on to the detail the content of those conversations.

RESULT: This alleged child mother has never been found in the FLDS community. FLDS members say she doesn’t exist. Yet this phone call formed the sole basis of the caseworker’s testimony that adult men were having sex with underage girls.

FACT: An arrest warrant and affidavit also issued for a Dale Barlow (who was alleged to be the spiritual husband who impregnated the unknown 16 year old caller).

RESULT: Barlow was reportedly in Arizona the entire time. This tends to indicate that the person(s) making this call knew he was at the ranch in the past, but did not know where he was currently. It could also indicate that the person making the call did not understand the instructions given and relayed the information incorrectly.

FACT: Carolyn Jessop, received many phone calls from this same unknown sixteen year old caller for about three weeks before the hotline call was made. The caller would spend over an hour at a time speaking with her about what she was suffering. CNN filmed Ms. Jessop receiving these phone calls on the speaker phone and aired some of the conversations on the Larry King show.

QUESTION: These calls were received by Ms. Jessop on her cell phone. It has not been explained how someone might get her cell phone number so one can reasonably assume Ms. Jessop gave it to the caller.

FACT: According to Ms. Jessop, she was married to Merrill Jessop at eighteen, because her father told her she had to if she wanted to go to college. She was Jessop's 4th wife. She had 8 children by her "spiritual husband." Merrill Jessop oversees the ranch and is a presiding elder in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the sect in charge of the compound in Eldorado, Texas.

COMMENT: She loses credibility points with me here, she was an adult when she married. This wasn't a child marriage. And, she stayed in the polygamous marriage for 17 years. If she saw children being abused, she must be held as accountable as the mothers whose children were just taken.

FACT: Carolyn Jessop is the bestselling author of Escape (Publisher: Broadway (October 16, 2007). In the book publishing industry, authors are expected to promote their own books, especially authors who are not big names. Yes, Carolyn Jessop has a best seller, but she has most likely just barely, if at all, received her first royalty payments. Royalties will be calculated deducting the advance she was given when the book was purchased by the Broadway imprint of Random House. She must promote her own book to keep the sales up. What better way to promote your book than to get as much face time in the media as possible– this is especially effective in conjunction with a nationally sensational current event–making sure that each time you appear, the talking head mentions that you are the author of. . .fill in the blank. Hey, before you start sputtering, let me remind you that I’m a published author, I’ve appeared on television, we all know how it works. Obviously it is safe to conclude that with this media blitz of free publicity, Ms. Jessop’s book sales are wa-a-ay up.

FACT: Jessop is an outspoken critic of FLDS, and of CPS's refusal to intervene and take the children of the FLDS communities, "[i]n Eldorado, the crimes went to a whole new level. They thought they could get away with more" but "Texas is not going to be a state that's as tolerant of these crimes as Arizona and Utah have been." Let’s be honest, and without judging the right or wrong of it, the fact is she clearly has a mission to destroy the FLDS church. Her quotes on the numerous television shows and in newspapers recently have been quite revealing to the astute observer, including statements
that the mothers must be held accountable for allowing their children to be subjected to sexual and physical abuse,
the mothers need help but they cannot break free from the control of FLDS unless they are held accountable,
that it doesn't matter that the hotline call may have been bogus, now that CPS got their foot in the door, the intervention is legitimate,
she kept insisting that there were many underage marriages and effectively focused on men having sex with children

Quote: “Jessop doesn't think authorities overreacted in preparing for the worst when they called in an armored personnel carrier, K9 dog units and ambulances during tense negotiations to enter the temple. ‘This group absolutely could turn violent,’ she said, adding that Warren Jeffs had reintroduced the use of guns into the community, which had for a time limited hunting to the use of bow and arrows.”
Quote: Carolyn Jessop also said that the sect practices “a form of pedophilia hiding behind a religion as a protection. There’s just a desire to control and manipulate and torture people, and religion is just used as the cover.”
Quote: "So Warren [Jeffs] would arrange for the crime, and then perform the crime," said Jessop, who left the sect and her husband in 2003. "I can't imagine the trauma that some of these younger girls must have gone through."

FACT: Arizona, Texas and Utah are where the three main FLDS communities are.

FACT: Arizona received the exact same hotline call here and here, alleging the same facts but alleging they occurred at the Arizona community. Arizona declined to investigate an anonymous hotline call stating it did not constitute probable cause.

FACT: A Colorado Springs woman has been arrested for allegedly making a false report of child abuse which precipitated the Texas FLDS raid. This was allegedly the woman who had been calling Jessop posing as a 16 year old with a baby prior to making the hotline calls, discovered through a phone trace.

FACT: A review of the testimony given during the two day Preliminary Placement hearing reveals almost no credible evidence of abuse or neglect - certainly not objectively or legally sufficient to justify holding all 416 children in state custody. The mothers who testified stated they were married when they were over 18 and they would advise their daughters to wait to marry until they were older, which testimony was not refuted by any other first hand witness. Day 1 and Day 2 and overview.

FACT: Online and television video interviews from numerous sources reveal that some of the "children" in custody are adults over 18, or married (not all plural marriages) and emancipated–neither of which fall under the jurisdiction of CPS. One lawyer tried to tell the judge his "child" client was 20 years old, which the judge was not interested in.

Observation: Ms. Jessop presents very well. Many abusers do, too. I have been steadfastly critical of so-called professionals who lack the basic discernment skills to accurately assess a person’s character. Abusers are often charming, charismatic and convincing. They fool caseworkers, Judges, Guardians at litem and other professionals all the time. 

In contrast, the abuser’s victims are often portrayed as and present as a total mess, often as a direct result of the abuse. I’m not saying Ms. Jessop is an abuser. I am saying that Ms. Jessop presents the same calculated poise and demeanor that I’ve seen before which is used as an artificial facade intended to hide the truth.

Her practiced poise cannot hide her smug demeanor and carefully crafted language on the television interviews and in the myriad newspaper articles suggesting extreme satisfaction at a successful revenge. No matter how she tries to appear calm and rational, she can't hide her hatred of the FLDS people, not in her book, and not in her interviews. This hate has consumed her.

The phone calls filmed by CNN reveal even more. She got another call after the hotline hoax was exposed–and incidentally, shortly after the suspected hoaxter bailed out–and she was unconvincing when she stated the caller was lying. . .it looked like she distancing herself from the caller because this person was now a potential liability. Think about it, all any wacko had to do was read Jessop's book for the details to make her sound convincing. Even without a (gasp, I’ll use the “C” word) conspiracy, all Jessop had to do was feed into the wacko’s delusion to maintain innocence and still manipulate the wacko. Trust me, the issue of child abuse is overly represented by the wackos on both sides of the issue. I really wish those phone conversations had been all been taped, it would provide valuable insight into the dynamic.

Both Merrill and Carolyn Jessop appear to be strong-willed individuals, and have achieved positions of stature in their respective communities. This plays like the Clash of the Titans. And while Merrill Jessop hasn't been reported to be proselytizing his beliefs outside of FLDS, Carolyn Jessop seems to have adopted a winner take all philosophy, effectively imposing her beliefs upon an entire church by force of law.

Finally, fantastic coincidences abound in this saga, all of them profoundly beneficial to Ms. Jessop' and her agenda. One coincidence is plausible, but I'm not buying all of them as being serendipitous.

I believe that Carolyn Jessop (why did she keep the name of the man she hates?) has pulled off the biggest, baddest, most vengeful ex-spouse custody coup of all time. She not only kept the bad daddy from seeing her own kiddies, she got all his other kiddies taken away from him and all the mean sister-wives and all the kiddies of all the mommies and daddies who are friends with her ex-husband taken away, too. And she manipulated an incompetent and gullible bureaucracy to do it, complete with an angry mob egging the system on.

Once could reasonably conclude this extremely controversial and emotional issue was exploited, is being exploited, and used to justify a personally vengeful religious witch hunt and the wholesale violations of civil rights of an entire village. It's very disturbing to me. And I think Ms. Jessop has manipulated these events from the lofty pedestal of a best selling author, while maintaining plausible deniability. It is a superbly elegant manipulation.
I may be wrong, but I don’t think so.


  1. What a bunch of baloney. I'll bet you get paid very well for your legal advocacy work. So what are your monetary incentives and motivations for siding with the FLDS? Carolyn Jessop's story rings true as a bell, unfortunately. Maybe you're not seeing it very clearly because of your own conflicts of interest. I have no personal, financial, or any other stake in this issue other than curiosity and concern for fellow humans. It is fascinating. Truth is stranger than fiction and no one could write a stranger and more compelling drama than the one we are seeing in real life within the FLDS community. Cults are truly a thought-provoking phenomenon. People like you who defend these secretive, isolated, and outside-the-confines-of-society groups play an essential role in the drama. And I'm not talking about the good guy.

    P.S. Notice your blog isn't too popular. Just as well.

  2. NOTE to previous comment: as I said in the first sentence, "this discussion today is not about the religious practices of FLDS."

    An astute reader would have discerned that I did not dispute her account. I commented on the inconsistencies, hypocrisies, demeanor and motives of the author. This is called critical thinking.


Leave the emotions, propaganda and rhetoric at the door. This blogger is only interested in intelligent, logical, well-thought out, factually based comments which are on-topic, indicating the writer has an open mind and a mature ability to reason.