Warren Jeffs a witness in FLDS custody trial

Posted at 3:50 PM, Mar 26, 2014

ST. GEORGE -- Imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been called as a witness in a custody trial pitting an exiled member of the Fundamentalist LDS Church against his ex-wives.

Lorin Holm named Jeffs as a defendant in his lawsuit against his ex-wives for permanent custody of their children. In the lawsuit, filed in 2008, Holm accused the FLDS leader of being "a fraud" and putting his daughters in danger of becoming child brides and his sons in danger of being cast out on the streets.

Holm himself was exiled from the FLDS Church in 2011.

"As a father, I love my family and my focus is to protect my family, just like any other father would," Holm said in an interview with FOX 13 News outside court.

On Tuesday, one of Holm's ex-wives, Lynda Peine, testified about her faith.

"We can believe the way we want to believe," she said.

Holm's lawyer, Roger Hoole, tried to press her about following Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for child sex assault related to underage marriages.

"If there is a conflict between the laws of God-given by Warren Jeffs and the laws of the land, which would you follow?" Hoole asked.

"The laws of God," Peine replied.

As the questioning went on, Hoole asked Peine if she still believed Jeffs' convictions were lies.

"Why can't a person believe the way they want to believe?" she asked.

At another point in the trial, when a woman tearfully testified about being molested by Jeffs as a child, Peine sat in the courtroom with her fingers in her ears -- refusing to listen.

"It's a difficult situation because of the firm beliefs of this pedophile, who's admitted he's a fraud, who rapes little girls, is still their leader," Hoole said outside court.

Jeffs himself has been on the witness list. Texas authorities would not allow him to be brought back to Utah to testify, so Hoole went to the prison where he is incarcerated and obtained a deposition. Hoole said Jeffs did not say much and did not look well.

"Gaunt, thin, ashamed," he said of Jeffs. "He looks at the ground when you ask him questions about his conduct."

This is the second deposition Jeffs has given since being imprisoned. He was also recently deposed as part of former child bride Elissa Wall's multi-million dollar lawsuit against him.

Fifth District Court Judge James Shumate has yet to decide if Jeffs' testimony will be allowed in when the custody trial resumes Thursday. He has rejected many of Hoole's attempts to introduce evidence of alleged misconduct by Jeffs.

Peine's lawyer, Rod Parker, has objected saying that Holm and his attorney are seeking to stereotype the FLDS people as being in lockstep with leadership.

"He's putting the religion on trial," Parker told the judge.

Holm's case could set precedent for other FLDS men who have been kicked out of the FLDS Church in recent years, losing their wives and their families. Holm said he knows of 10 other men who have sought to get joint custody of their children since being exiled.

"There's thousands of families, thousands of children that this will affect," he told FOX 13 News. "I want every father and every mother to have their children."