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Sect challenges legality of search warrant, raid

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: 25 girls believed to be minors with children are in foster care, official says
  • Motion requests judge determine whether "good ground" existed for search
  • Sect attorneys argue search warrants were wrongly issued in the case
  • More than 400 children were taken during the raid earlier this month
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(CNN) -- Authorities knew that reports of alleged abuse at a polygamist sect's Texas ranch were questionable before they raided the compound, attorneys for the ranch's families said in court documents Thursday.

The attorneys are arguing that search warrants were wrongly issued in the case.

A state official responded that the initial reports don't matter at this point, because "we found children being abused."

More than 400 children were taken during the raid at the YFZ (Yearning for Zion) Ranch on April 3.

At a custody hearing last week, Judge Barbara Walther ruled that the children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will remain in state custody for now.

Also Thursday, Texas child protection officials said more children were moved from a temporary shelter at a San Angelo, Texas, coliseum into foster care. Among them were 25 girls believed to be minors -- all of them with children -- who had previously claimed to be older than 18.

The District Court motion filed Wednesday requests that Walther conduct a hearing to determine whether "good ground" existed to issue the two search warrants in connection with the raid.

It also asks her to issue an order restricting the publication of documents and records seized from the ranch.

Authorities said a series of phone calls in late March from 16-year-old "Sarah" triggered the raid. The caller, who said she was living on the ranch, reported that she had been beaten and forced to become an adult man's "spiritual" wife.

Authorities have yet to locate the caller, who FLDS members say does not exist.

Texas officials have also said they found evidence that girls as young as 13 are forced into marriages with older men at the ranch.

The FLDS has denied that abuse takes place.

Meanwhile, Texas Rangers are pursuing a Colorado woman as a "person of interest" in connection with the phone calls that touched off the raid.

Authorities have not clearly said they think Rozita Swinton, 33, of Colorado Springs made the March phone calls that prompted the raid. But an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant says she is "known to make false reports of sexual abuse to the police and other agencies."

The FLDS is not associated with the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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