SAN ANGELO, Texas — A judge overseeing the massive custody case involving the children taken from the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch won't be booted from a hearing over a restraining order.
After calling in a judge from Midland, Texas, it was ordered that Judge Barbara Walther will remain on the case. Lawyers for the mother of a 16-year-old FLDS girl filed a motion seeking to have Walther removed from the case. They cited news articles based on a Deseret News report about law enforcement dossiers being compiled on FLDS Church members deemed a "potential threat," which led to increased security surrounding the judge.
"A reasonable person could not be impartial under such circumstances," the attorneys wrote.
But Judge John Hyde denied their motion, saying it was not filed in a timely manner.
The hearing is now continuing over a restraining order against FLDS member and church spokesman Willie Jessop. The court-appointed attorney for Teresa Jeffs, 16, has sought a restraining order against Jessop, alleging that he has coerced the girl into avoiding a grand jury subpoena and interfered in her working relationship with the girl.
Natalie Malonis showed up to court here surrounded by two Texas Rangers. Security inside the courthouse has also been beefed up. Malonis confirmed to the Deseret News today that she has received death threats since filing for the restraining order.
"I've been getting death threats and I am being provided a security detail," she said this morning. "That was not even at my request. Law enforcement recognized the need for it."
Malonis said she did not know who has made the threats. She represents four FLDS members — including Pamela Jeffs, for whom she was praised by FLDS supporters when she managed to secure additional rights in court for the woman once declared by Texas authorities to be a minor.
Jeffs has asked for a new lawyer, accusing Malonis of acting against her wishes. The girl is expected to testify Wednesday before a grand jury investigating criminal allegations surrounding the FLDS Church.
Jeffs has fired off several e-mails asking Malonis to step aside. In e-mails sent to the Deseret News and posted on pro-FLDS Web sites, she accuses her court-appointed lawyer of not acting in her best interest.
"My attorney is going against my wishes. Maybe you need a restraining order that you can absolutely have nothing to do with me and you have to stay 1,000 feet away from me! What do you think of that?" she wrote in an e-mail to Malonis.
Jeffs has been subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before a grand jury investigating crimes involving FLDS members. The Texas Attorney General's Office said it could not find Jeffs to subpoena her, and Malonis went to court seeking a restraining order against FLDS member and Jessop. In court papers, she accused Jessop of coercing the girl to avoid the subpoena and interfering with her relationship with her client.
Walther signed a temporary restraining order that technically prevents Jeffs' mother from allowing her daughter to have any contact with Jessop. A hearing on a more permanent restraining order will be held this afternoon.
On Monday, Malonis said she spoke with the attorney for Jeffs' mother, but no agreement could be reached.
"I hoped we could, but no ... ," she told the Deseret News.
Malonis said she is prepared to call witnesses and present evidence to suggest that the girl is being intimidated and pressured by FLDS members. The judge is not expected to consider Jeffs' request for a new lawyer.
Rod Parker, a Salt Lake attorney acting as a spokesman for the FLDS, believes Malonis is not following her court-appointed duties. Because Malonis is Teresa Jeffs' attorney ad litem and not her guardian ad litem, her job is to be an advocate for the child, he said.
"I think that she's really out on a limb in doing what she's doing and injuring her own client in a very public way," Parker said. "This is just a very unhealthy and dysfunctional attorney-client relationship. The court ought to grant Teresa's wish and give her another lawyer. This system of justice does not work appropriately when attorneys and their clients are at odds with each other."
Although the hearing is supposed to be limited to the restraining order, Parker hoped the issue of Jeffs' attorney would be brought up, since that was what initially led to the restraining order.
When the Texas Supreme Court ordered the hundreds of children taken in the April 3 raid to be returned to their parents, Jeffs was exempted.
Malonis said in court papers it was because the girl was an identified sex-abuse victim who had been "spiritually united" to an older man at 15. A special order was put in place for Jeffs, preventing her from contacting her father — FLDS leader Warren Jeffs — and a man named Raymond Jessop, who was not further identified.
The Deseret News normally does not name sex-abuse victims, but the girl has gone public in media interviews and in an e-mail forwarded to the Deseret News. She insists she is not a victim. In her e-mail, the girl said neither Willie Jessop nor Raymond Jessop has ever threatened her.
"That have treated (sic) so very kindly," she wrote.
Jeffs wrote in the communication with Malonis that she did not want the grand jury subpoena, but acknowledged being served.
"Well, they want me to appear before a grand jury. I do not have confidence in you and how can I get you to help me in such a situation that I am in when it feels like to me all you are doing is going against me," she wrote. "So, that is the reason that I am asking you to step aside and let me do what I need to do to and get me a different attorney."