By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Longtime anti-polygamy activist Pennie Peterson is very concerned that Jeffs is moving women and children to the Texas compound where he will be able to practice plural marriage with even less state oversight than now exists in Arizona.
"There's many girls at risk of being married off, and nobody seems to care," Peterson says.
The justice center is also needed now to allow women and children to leave Colorado City without having to rely on the overzealous and frequently misleading efforts of more radical anti-polygamy activists led by Flora Jessop.
An escapee from Colorado City in the 1980s, Flora Jessop has been a powerful force in raising awareness about the abuses in the FLDS stronghold. But her tactics, which center on manipulating the press and government officials with half-truths, have become increasingly reckless.
Jessop generated huge publicity earlier this year when she helped two teenage girls leave the community. Jessop brought the 16-year-olds to Phoenix and insisted that the Attorney General's Office put the girls in a foster home she personally selected.
But rather than focusing on getting the girls transitioned into school and society, Jessop used them as props in a media campaign that included prominent photographs of the teens and Jessop in newspapers, magazines and television.
The father of one of the girls asked a juvenile court judge to forbid Jessop from any contact with his daughter during ongoing dependency hearings. The court agreed, and issued a no-contact order on February 12.
Then, the girls, with the help of Jessop, fled from their foster home and have been in hiding since. Jessop says the girls left because they feared they were going to be returned to their families -- a fear that appears to be unjustified, according to court records and interviews.
Attorney General Terry Goddard tells me that was absolutely not the case at the time the girls took off.
Jessop, Goddard says, has destroyed her credibility and is risking contempt of court charges.
"She's really undermined the state," Goddard says.
The girls regularly contact Jessop, who occasionally arranges media interviews. Jessop claims she doesn't know the location of the girls. I don't believe her for a minute.
I asked her whether she is providing funds to the girls for their living expenses. "I would just as soon not answer that question," Jessop says. "But I will tell you, I will support any of these kids in getting free if that is what they want to do."
While Jessop's goal is noble, her demands to have control over someone else's children are becoming eerily similar to the dictatorial attitude of her sworn nemesis, Warren Jeffs. Perhaps it takes a fanatic like Flora Jessop to counter the unrestrained power of Jeffs.
But pursuing this course only leads to further manipulation of the young women and children of Colorado City, who already have been subjected to untold horrors and abuse.
Misguided and devious activists like Jessop thrive when the state fails to do its job.
It's time for Governor Janet Napolitano to finally step in, enforce the state Constitution and stop the "sanctified" rape of teenagers by FLDS polygamist creeps.
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