Patterico's Pontifications

4/18/2008

Was the FLDS Search Instigated by a Prank Call? (Updated: Apparently It Was)

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Law — DRJ @ 12:22 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This post asks the question but we don’t know the answer … yet. However, thanks to a comment from Jerri Lynn Ward, we do know the Texas Rangers were in Colorado Springs yesterday as local authorities arrested Rozita Swinton for false reporting to authorities in connection with a February 2008 Colorado incident:

“Police in Colorado Springs have arrested a woman for investigation of making a false report to authorities that may be connected to the Fundamentalist LDS Church’s raid on the YFZ Ranch in Texas.

The woman allegedly has a history of making calls while pretending to be a young girl.

Rozita Swinton, 33, was arrested on a warrant charging her with false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor, the Colorado Springs Police Department confirmed in a brief statement issued late Thursday. Swinton was arrested at her home on Wednesday in connection with an incident that occurred in Colorado Springs in February, police said.”

The warrant has been sealed so it’s unclear if there is any connection between Swinton and the Texas case, other than the similarity of the calls and the presence of the Texas Rangers.

If this call does turn out to be a prank, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that assistant devil’s advocate has said this from the start. However, I still don’t think it matters – absent evidence the call was a prank, the authorities have to investigate calls reporting family violence. (I wish we had a family law lawyer who could straighten this out but all the ones I know are in San Angelo.)

In an odd coincidence, a person named Rozita E. Swinton of Colorado Springs is listed on the El Paso County Democratic Party website as an Obama delegate. I don’t know if this is the same person but it’s an unusual name.

UPDATE: According to the Eldorado Success, the Texas Rangers have released new details about the initial phone call. It sounds like Swinton is “Sarah” because the search of Swinton’s home yielded evidence linking her to the calls.

More on Rozita Swinton and the evidence found in her home in this Houston Chronicle article.

— DRJ

41 Responses to “Was the FLDS Search Instigated by a Prank Call? (Updated: Apparently It Was)”

  1. I know a friend at law school interested in family law who would really like to find some work out in San Angelo right now. But from my point of view, the whole thing is becoming an unsolvable mess (not anyone’s fault but the rapists and abusers of that compound).

    If this was a prank, I wonder if it was seen as the only way to help these kids.

    Jem (4cdfb7)

  2. It’s been reported there are law students working on this, Jem. Tell your friend to go to your law school’s family clinic and volunteer. From a legal standpoint, it’s a rare chance to work on a big case.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  3. Here’s my question.
    If this was a bogus call, does this invalidate the warrant?

    evilned (429c11)

  4. #3, not if the police were working in good faith. If it can be shown they knew the call was false or should have know, then it’s a whole new ballgame

    Patrick (5903bd)

  5. rozita swinton an obama delegate? too funny. i thought they might be mother and daughter rozitas, but zabasearch doesn’t show any older rozitas, just the one in colorado springs and another, born the same year, in nashville, probably an older address.

    the invalidity of the warrant might affect criminal prosecution of the polygamists, but i don’t think it affects the custody case. they aren’t gonna stop in their tracks and return all those kids to the ranch, oh no.

    still laughing at one crazy bitch in colorado committing what will turn out to be 50-100 million dollars of texas resources. i couldn’t do anything like that around here even if i were a terrorist, oregon isn’t a rich state like texas is. our sheriff can’t afford armored personnel carriers. in order to get a school resource officer, the nearby city of port orford relied on a grant from an indian tribe. they have more money than we do now.

    assistant devil's advocate (d2a806)

  6. I don’t know Texas Juvenile Law, but I know Illinois and I would imagine they are similar. To take a kid away from a parent you don’t need a warrant. There is this thing called “Shelter Care” Whereby the State can take temporary physical custody of a child for what the childcare worker believes would be a situation where the child would be in immediate and irreparable harm, if the State failed to act. If the State takes this drastic step and removes the children in Illinois, they have to provide the parents with a “Shelter Care Hearing” within 72 hours where the court can issue a temporary order placing physical custody in the State. Next, after brief discovery, there would be a full blown custody hearing to determine the final disposition for these poor children. I believe the hearing they are conducting now is such a hearing. The Judge issued an order two weeks ago giving the State physical custody so the State already has won the temporary physical custody issue. What is going on now ith the hearing for the final disposition and ultimate determination if the children will be reunited with the family.
    The Probable Cause question will arise in the criminal prosecution of any male who impregnated a girl under the legal age of consent. There very well could be problems with the evidence recovered if they exceeded the scope of what was necessary to do to protect the children pursuant to the juvenile order granting custody to the State. If they used the Juvenile Court Order as a pretext to get around the probable cause requirement of a search warrant, they could have problems. I’m sure with 416 lawyers — just for the kids mind you — someone will be arguing just about everything and the kitchen sink!

    I wrote about this case here:

    http://rrconservative.blogspot.com/

    IMHO the kids should have come first and they just plain blew it in texas.

    J. Raymond Wright (d83ab3)

  7. If this call was a prank, then the person should be punished because this could open up Pandora’s box. The next thing we know, the authorities will be sifting through thousands of false accusations. Or this could have been someone’s attempt to get real attention to an issue as an anonymous tipster?

    But no one can argue that there is something very unsettling about this issue. And there is irrefutable proof that under age girls are having sex. Now it’s time to figure out with who.

    This is a frightening “bond” these people have. And the abuse of young girls will continue. This sect wants to breed their twisted, grotesque interpretations of the bible. The mastermind of this all is that man, Warren Jeffs.

    Is there a book on particular sect of this religion explaining exactly what their beliefs are? Has anyone asked these women when they consummated their marriages? And what does their sect define as womanhood or ready for marriage? It’s sick that they expect girls to go from the playground, to getting their period, and then moving into a sexualized relationship in a matter of moments.

    Eva (5442a2)

  8. I have been reading hundreds of comments from outraged citizens at:
    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/free-the-innocent-flds

    I have also viewed the video exposing the Texas Foster Care system’s horrible treatment of children at:
    http://dayofpraise.blogspot.com/

    This whole situation seems to be a Constitutional mess.

    Christian Prophet (722a97)

  9. I can’t help thinking everyone involved in this case, including the young women, would have ultimately been better off without intervention by the state.

    Not that I expect anyone will agree with me.

    Eric (09e4ab)

  10. #9, no Eric, those children were not better off. The TxCPS supervisor says they currently have 20 girls in custody that are underage and are either pregnant or already have children. How is offering up a young girl, 13-16, to some man for sexual fodder being better off than anywhere where they will not be raped?

    The religious “expert” testified today that the children are taught never to say who their parents are due to previous cases where the men have been prosecuted as pedophiles. So until the parents can be paired with the children, there will be no criminal charges brought. But there is going to be hell to pay once the children who are pregnant or already have babies parents are determined. I hope each and every one of these slugs go to jail for a very long time.

    Your right to practice your religion doesn’t trump a child’s right to live in security without fear of harm. But you see, they are taught that having children is their (as women) only calling.

    Tell me, how sick is that?

    retire05 (e76b4f)

  11. I’ve updated the post with new information from the Eldorado Success newspaper.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  12. Assuming the Illinois standard of “immediate and irreparable” harm, where is the harm in allowing the pre-pubescent minors to remain with their mothers in the police/CPS camps? There is zero evidence of actual criminal abuse of these kids.

    I’ll leave the finer points for the adolescent kids’ ultimate distribution.

    Also, the authorities had better damn well be notifying everyone that their every action and utterance is being recorded when they are in these camps and/or in contact with agents of the State of Texas and/or the USG.

    If this is really about the chiiiiiiillllldren, I expect a whole bunch of immunity grants for the moms. If this is about getting at TRUTH, who cares if a few scared witless moms avoid criminal sanctions. They’re gonna lose their kids for gosh sakes.

    So, if someone could outline the circumstances that meet the statutory harm hurdle in allowing the separation the moms and the young kids, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

    Ed (f28e9a)

  13. I wondered about this. Now there’s going to be hell to pay.

    As mentioned above, I don’t see how this leads to the women and children being returned to the compound. On the other hand, depending on how broadly the exclusionary rule is applied, this may mean that no criminal prosecution is possible in this situation — except of Swinton, who should have the book thrown at her.

    Fathers can be determined through genetic testing, except that I think the men can refuse to provide samples, in which case there’s nothing.

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  14. Fathers can be determined through genetic testing, except that I think the men can refuse to provide samples, in which case there’s nothing.

    Supposing that they want their children back, can’t they be compelled in order to establish paternity?

    Pablo (99243e)

  15. I wish people would stop calling this pedophilia. It’s not. Even though sex between an adult man and a 13-year-old, sexually mature girl is illegal, it’s not the same thing as sex with a five-year-old.

    retire05, you’re making a whole raft of assumptions that may, or may not, be true. Why do you assume the girls in question are living in fear? Based on their upbringing, this is normal behavior. It’s not like there’s no precedent for girls marrying at that age – even in mainstream America it’s been considered normal in various times and places.

    After living their entire lives shut off from the rest of the world, and believing the lifestyle they lead has been ordained by God, do you think they’ll react well to removal from everyone and everything they’ve ever known, and humiliating inspections from police, lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, and press? Do you think, looking back on this incident in a decade or two, they’ll thank the state for what’s happening now? I have my doubts.

    Of course I may be wrong, but I don’t think it’s all as clearcut as you make it.

    Eric (884ea6)

  16. Steven Den Beste was the first here to mention this might be a hoax. I should listen better.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  17. Eric, I don’t care whether it’s pedophilia. What I care about is that it’s statutory rape.

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  18. Pablo, in that regard those men are between a rock and a hard place. I don’t see how they get their children back no matter what they do. If they consent to genetic testing, they get tossed in jail for the rest of their lives for statutory rape. If they don’t consent, they can’t prove paternity.

    Even if they did prove paternity, the odds are high that all parental rights are going to end up terminated in this case.

    So yeah, I’m sure they do want their kids back, but that’s not going to happen. The only real question for them is jail or freedom, and I assume they’ll prefer freedom. That means no genetic samples, and vigorous attempts to apply the exclusionary rule to damned near every piece of evidence the state tries to apply.

    (IANAL)

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  19. One more comment: Good job by the Texas Rangers to figure out that the calls were hoaxes, and to find the hoaxer and arrest her. That may help later, since it will show that the authorities were acting in good faith, and may convince a court not to apply the exclusionary rule as broadly as it might.

    But it was the right thing for the Texas Rangers to do even if it ends up damaging the case. Swinton certainly seems to have broken the law, and she should be prosecuted for it.

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  20. A question about the DNA testing:
    There is apparently a lot of inbreeding and clan type relationship among the FLDS. This may turn out ot be a case of deciding whether two cousins or two brothers are the fathers. Won’t that make establishing paternity more difficult than usual?

    kishnevi (34c745)

  21. I thought about that Kishnevi but I don’t think so. It’s my understanding that the only time DNA testing isn’t helpful is with identical twins.

    There’s a very brief discussion at this government website.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  22. This whole thing has sounded to me like a CSP mediated and fabricated set up from the outset.

    The farther it evolves, the worse and crazier it sounds as to the process which led to the raid, at least to me. Not to mention the evolving outcomes.

    J. Peden (046153)

  23. CPS

    J. Peden (046153)

  24. As mentioned above, I don’t see how this leads to the women and children being returned to the compound. On the other hand, depending on how broadly the exclusionary rule is applied, this may mean that no criminal prosecution is possible in this situation — except of Swinton, who should have the book thrown at her.

    That would strike me as an odd application of the exclusionary rule, unless the authorities knew (or perhaps should have known) the hoax was a hoax.

    Xrlq (62cad4)

  25. XRLQ: Remembering that IANAL, I’m not saying that it’s going to work. But attorneys for the men are going to try to claim that the search was illegal, and thus every piece of evidence directly or indirectly developed as a result of that search is invalid.

    And as you say, part of the basis of their argument will indeed be that the authorities should have known that the call was a hoax.

    That’s what they’ll say. Whether it’s true, and the extent to which they can convince the judge, remains to be seen. But I’m sure that’s going to part of what the defense attorneys will try to do.

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  26. Steven, while it is looking like the adult men have some hope of avoiding convictions for their crimes, I think the kids are going to be safe, and there’s more awareness of this problem, so I think communities surrounding these compounds are going to be more demanding (at least I hope they are).

    Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if the police were acting in good faith or not. And it also remains to be seen if it would have been inevitable that they would have discovered hundreds of child-rape victims at that compound. I think the evidence is safe, but the legal costs are going to be astronomical (which means lots of plea bargains).

    Jem (4cdfb7)

  27. o Eric, those children were not better off. The “TxCPS supervisor says they currently have 20 girls in custody that are underage and are either pregnant or already have children.””

    NO, that is not what CPS says, and it certainly is not what they have proven. They have provided medical records of ten girls who are 16-19, and are married, only five of whom have children. CPS insists that there is an unidentified number of other women who are lying about their age based on no other evidence than that they look younger than they say they are- as do most of the members of the community.

    And CPS own ‘exerpt witness (who admitted on the stand that he gets most of his information about FLDS from the media) says that the children are in a lose-lose situation- indicating the state’s actions were not an improvement.

    “The religious “expert” testified today that the children are taught never to say who their parents are due to previous cases where the men have been prosecuted as pedophiles”

    NO, HE DID NOT. He said they have been prosecuted as *bigamists* in the past. Check your facts.

    Is this really the standard of proof y’all want to see used when some anonymous stranger calls a hotline to make false accusations against you and CPS takes your kids? It’s okay with you for CPS to take your kids with no better evidence than guesses, false assumptions, and possibilities- as so judged by CPS?

    DeputyHeadmistress (adea36)

  28. SDB,

    I don’t see how they get their children back no matter what they do. If they consent to genetic testing, they get tossed in jail for the rest of their lives for statutory rape. If they don’t consent, they can’t prove paternity.

    I’m assuming that some of the children were born to adult mothers. The fathers of those that were not will not likely submit, true. So, will children for whom paternity is not established be returned to their mothers? A quagmire in the making.

    Pablo (99243e)

  29. People here are looking at the small picture, fixated on this cult. But look at the ramifications. If this proceeds, you are taking children who were not neglected or abused, being taken away from thier parents, under the assumption something may happen to them years later. Also, since this about the girls, then why were the boys taken away? Were the infants, 1,2,3 year olds in any immediate danger?
    If this is the precedent, then what will stop doing this to someelse they do not like? What if the state says they don’t like the Amish and they maybe abused later in life? We’ll just take them, after all, it’s for the children.
    The people defending Texas CPS, what if it happened to you? What if someone who doesn’t like you, files a false complaint, the CPS says they have to take the kids from you and they won’t give them back to you, even if nothing ever happened to the kids. CPS says, well, maybe something will happen later in their life. Would you stand for it? Those who are defending CPS says this is ok. How pathetic.

    Dan (d4e64e)

  30. Dan, your comment does not make any sense. Not because CPS’ do not make mistakes, they do. Not because CPS’ do not abuse their powers, they do.

    Because your comments have little to do with this case. You say that there is no neglect or abuse, but you are not addressing what the local CPS people are stating that they think is happening at all. You are just ignoring it. The allegations, which have yet to be proven, are that there are cases of the family relations themselves being the result of criminal conduct.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  31. Dan,

    I think I understand what you are saying. As lawyers, we are aware of concerns about how results in one case will impact the system vs the need to decide a particular case. Most lawyers realize early on that our job is to handle a specific case and not try to act like mini-legislatures making policy.

    However, I think it’s normal to put yourself in the place of these parents and wonder if it could happen to you. In doing that, you are focusing on the similarities. I urge you to also consider the differences before you worry that it could happen in society at large.

    First, clearly anyone could be the victim of a hoax call to child protective services. The only way to prevent that is to take away people’s phones and that’s not going to happen. The next best solution is to investigate and vigorously prosecute fraudulent calls to discourage people from making hoax calls. That is happening in this case.

    Second, once you are a target of a CPS investigation, you need an attorney to help you deal with the system. That happened in this case so the long-term interests of the parents and children are being protected the best way we know how.

    Third, the system is designed to err on the side of protecting children so (as the judge said) the system is “looser” in the early hearings because we don’t know all the facts yet. The system is designed to remove the children if there are clear problem signs so more facts can be ascertained.

    Obviously people can disagree with this system, in which case they should lobby their state legislatures to change the applicable rules. It is not a good solution to expect the people who enforce the system to ignore the rules in some cases.

    Fourth, the problem here is that the community is an isolated, polygamous group of people known to be followers of leaders who endorse forced marriage and underage sex. Finding what appears to be underage mothers in the community will lead to closer scrutiny. It’s very unlikely that underage mothers would lead to closer scrutiny in other neighborhoods. The authorities have responded to the unusual details of this situation.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  32. OK, so DRJ said it more politely …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  33. It’s very unlikely that underage mothers would lead to closer scrutiny in other neighborhoods. The authorities have responded to the unusual details of this situation.

    Not, of course, if the pro-abortion left has its way. Not only do they wish to prevent investigation into the impregnation of underage girls, they want to prevent the parents from knowing about it.

    Pablo (99243e)

  34. So, how is this different than the inner city of any large city? When a young girl becomes pregnant, do they go after the father for statutory rape? Most of the time, no. Do they take the kids away from the family. Very rarely. Unless there is child support required, DNA testing is never required.
    If the cops want to go after them for polygamy laws, go for it. If there is actual evidence that a particular child is removed and there is evidence, go for it. But when there is no evidence that abuse or neglect has occured to a particular, then no way. This nothing short of religious persecution. I am not defending this cult because I don’t agree with their teachings, but as I stated before, if it can happen to them, it can happen to you.
    Finally, “The allegations, which have yet to be proven, are that there are cases of the family relations themselves being the result of criminal conduct.” So, screw the kids because of some unproven allegations. Boy, do you give the government a lot of power. I just hope this never happens to you.

    Dan (d4e64e)

  35. Swinton is NOT an Obama delegate. Colorado hasn’t even selected their delegates, and won’t until May 17. See http://coloradostateconvention.com/

    THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR – Exodus 20:16

    Danometer (845d84)

  36. Danometer,

    As I said above, I don’t know if this person is or isn’t an Obama delegate. Someone by that name is listed as an Obama delegate at the El Paso County Democratic Party website. You should take your concerns there.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  37. Come on DRJ. You know that we can’t hold Dems responsible for anything, they’re just above that.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  38. I don’t think the police were acting in good faith. The cops knew the name of the accused rapist. They knew he did time last year. They must have had some address for him, and it wasn’t in Texas. They should easily have been able to find him before the raid if they were acting in good faith.

    John T. Kennedy (069110)

  39. This Deseret News article discusses calls Rozita Swinton apparently made to numerous shelters and law enforcement agencies over the past months. It’s beyond belief.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  40. If child abuse is suspect, then of course some action must be taken. The state in this case has however overstepped its bounds, and it is very evident from the proceedings that the allegations of child abuse are just a smoke screen for the ulterior motives of disrupting the FLDS organization. If the state is really concerned with protecting the children from underage marriage of girls to older men, why can’t the mothers stay with the children? This case is very upsetting and honestly makes me question the legitimacy of our government and law enforcement. This is eerie parallel to what happened in Iraq. Acting on presumptions without actual evidence to back you up sure leads to a huge mess. We should probably think thrice before electing anyone from Texas again and should reconsider letting them secede from the union.

    I bike, you pollute my air (f6b031)

  41. You are overlooking the Furnarase Defiency children, children who are born deformed and severly retarded, not able to even sit up, much less walk. This comes from years of inbreeding, these children require constant attention. The doctors told the FLDS members the only way to prevent such children, is not to marry people who are related to you. But the members will not accept that and continue to inbreed. the government agencys paid for the care of these children.

    Ann (160fa7)


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