updated 6/17/2008 10:24:16 PM ET 2008-06-18T02:24:16

An attorney for a polygamous sect is accusing Utah police and prosecutors of abusing their authority and slandering sect members by passing on bad information about them to Texas authorities.

Authorities in Utah sent Texas officials dossiers that described 16 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as threatening religious fanatics who may be willing to die for their cause.

An FLDS ranch in Texas was raided in April in response to a child abuse allegation. More than 400 children were removed from the ranch but all were returned to their parents this month.

The home of the judge overseeing the case was placed under guard after Texas officials received the dossiers, but there was never any violence from church members.

“These are not abstract claims. Your actions harm real people,” church attorney Rod Parker wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith and Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap.

“We believe it is incumbent upon you to immediately correct these abuses,” Parker wrote.

The information in the dossiers was collected by Washington County during the 2007 criminal trial of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

Last year, a Washington County jury convicted the 52-year-old Jeffs of rape as an accomplice for his role in the 2001 union between a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin. Jeffs is in jail in Arizona awaiting trial on similar charges there.

Church dissidents have played an active role in helping prosecutors, but Parker wrote that authorities have been manipulated by unreliable groups that want to destroy the church.

“Time after time, the information those groups have provided you has turned out to be false,” Parker wrote. “It is time that you step back from the sources and objectively evaluate the information they are providing you.”

The letter was written on behalf of church elder Willie Jessop and other profiled church members, Parker said.

“I think what you’re seeing here is the FLDS finally saying enough is enough,” Parker said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “They feel this campaign against them has been vindictive and unfair.”

Smith and Belnap declined to comment. Shurtleff spokesman Paul Murphy said the letter unfairly paints the attorney general's office with a broad brush.

“I would like (Parker) to correct the record and tell us where we have got it wrong,” Murphy said. “We have tried to gather the best information we can from the most reliable people.”

In the past, FLDS leaders have not responded to invitations for dialogue, nor has the sect worked with a state committee designed to bridge the gap between authorities and Utah's polygamous communities.

“Whenever there’s a vacuum, it gets filled either with good information or bad information,” Murphy said. “I think the FLDS people need to start telling their story.”

Insular and private, FLDS church members historically have lived in twin communities on the Utah-Arizona border. About 6,000 strong, the faith practices polygamy in arranged marriages that have sometimes involved underage girls and triggered criminal charges.

Parker said Jessop met with staff from the attorney general’s office last week, but that the meeting was a disappointment because Shurtleff himself was absent. Murphy said the attorney general’s office is encouraged by the meeting and looks forward to continued dialogue with the FLDS.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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