Ex-FLDS spokesman wins $30 million judgment against church leaders

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jun 07, 2012

ST. GEORGE -- The former spokesman for Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist LDS Church has won a $30 million default judgment against two top leaders of the polygamous church.

Willie Jessop sued Jeffs and other FLDS leaders after he was excommunicated, claiming he was blackmailed and pressured to lie for Jeffs, who faced charges related to underage marriages and child sex assault. Jessop's lawsuit claimed FLDS leaders retaliated against him standing up to them by burglarizing his Hildale construction business and forcing his employees to quit.

A judge ruled in Jessop's favor after Lyle Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' brother, and John Wayman did not respond to the lawsuit. In an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday, Jessop said it was no consolation for the "tragedy" unfolding in the fundamentalist communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

"There (are) people that are trying to survive the act of a religion that has been basically turned over to a cartel," he said. "Religious leaders are excommunicating people to cover up the sexual assault of little children."

Jessop was a loyal defender of Jeffs, until he learned of the sexual assault of children in the aftermath of the raid on the FLDS Church's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas. Jeffs is serving a life, plus 20-year sentence for child sex assault stemming from his "spiritual marriages" to a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl.

Since he's been incarcerated, Jeffs has excommunicated nearly 2,000 people for unnamed "sins." Jessop called it a "social tragedy."

"We've got a long ways to go out of this mess and it's a heartache on an hourly basis," he said.

Jessop said he wanted to see FLDS leaders besides Jeffs held accountable for their involvement. Law enforcement authorities in southern Utah have told FOX 13 their criminal investigations into members of the FLDS Church are not over.

Jessop's lawsuit is also not over. He has served a number of people -- including Warren Jeffs himself.

"There's ongoing concerns of protecting people that are trying to survive life after Jeffs," he said.