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Top FLDS member, spokesman subpoenaed

  • Story Highlights
  • FLDS elder Merrill Jessop and spokesman Willie Jessop will be deposed
  • Case involves FLDS leader Warren Jeffs' daughter, local media report
  • Documents claim girl was 15 when she married one of Merrill Jessop's sons
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(CNN) -- A top member of a Texas polygamist sect and the group's spokesman have been subpoenaed and are scheduled for court depositions Friday and Monday, according to court officials.

Merrill Jessop, an elder in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and leader of the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, will be deposed at 9 a.m. Friday (10 a.m. ET), according to Vicki Vines of the Schleicher County District Court clerk's office. Willie Jessop, a sect member who has served as its spokesman, is set for deposition at 9 a.m. Monday, Vines told CNN.

The San Angelo, Texas, Standard-Times newspaper reported the subpoenas were issued in a case involving a now-17-year-old daughter of imprisoned FLDS leader and "prophet" Warren Jeffs.

Court documents allege that the girl was 15 when Jeffs allowed her to marry one of Merrill Jessop's sons, who was 34 at the time, the Standard-Times said.

The girl's attorney, Natalie Malonis, had requested a restraining order against Willie Jessop, saying he harassed and intimidated both of them and might be trying to prevent the girl's testimony before a grand jury.

The girl was among more than 400 children seized by state child welfare workers from the YFZ Ranch in April. The children were returned after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state had no right to remove them and lacked evidence to show that they were in imminent danger of abuse.

The girl's return to her mother, however, was delayed after her attorney said she was an identified victim of sexual abuse. She was allowed to return to her mother under conditions that included being kept away from Jeffs and the YFZ Ranch.

But Malonis said in June that since Willie Jessop became involved in the case, her relationship with the girl had deteriorated, and she was no longer allowed to speak with the girl without his being present. The Standard-Times reported Thursday that Malonis' allegations led to a restraining order issued against the girl's mother, ordering her to keep the girl away from Willie Jessop.

Merrill Jessop and his son -- the girl's alleged husband, Raymond Jessop -- are under indictment, charged with one count of sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 17. They were among five FLDS members indicted by a Texas grand jury along with Jeffs.

The FLDS, a 10,000-member offshoot of the mainstream Mormon church, openly practices polygamy on the ranch, as well as in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Critics of the sect say young girls are forced into "spiritual" marriages with older men and are sexually abused. Sect members have denied that any sexual abuse takes place.

Jeffs is already facing a sentence of up to life in prison in Utah and is awaiting trial in Arizona.

All About YFZ RanchWarren JeffsFundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

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