Thursday, May 22, 2008

Heavy-handed attempt

There is a reason the Constitution has a 4th Amendment right to be secure in our homes against unreasonable search and seizure.

Does CPS have probable cause to believe there are more children there? If so do they have probable cause to believe they are being abused or are in danger of some sort?

Given the fact that apparently the original reason they went turned out to be a fraudulent claim you'd think they'd mind their "P's and Q's" and get a search warrant before they went back out there to search for more children.

Maybe they went to Court to get one but the Judge did not believe they had established probable cause to grant one. If that is the case then the Judge did their job.

State tries to search sect ranch once again
By Terri Langford and Lisa Sandberg: Express-News

SAN ANGELO — Texas Child Protective Services tried to access a polygamist sect's ranch Wednesday to verify new reports that other children may have escaped detection during a state raid last month.

A member of the Fundamentalist Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints closes the gate of the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado. Sect members turned away officials who wanted to enter the ranch to search for more children.

Two CPS workers arrived with a Schleicher County sheriff's deputy at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado late in the morning while most of the adults were gone. They were either in San Angelo to attend court hearings regarding their children or visiting their children in foster care facilities across the state.

“We have received new information about children who may be living at the YFZ Ranch,” CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said. “Accompanied by law enforcement, we went to the ranch to make some initial inquiries.”

Both workers were turned away. They left after admitting they had no search warrant.
About seven hours later, two sheriff's deputies and what was thought to be two CPS workers returned to the ranch's front gate, where they spoke for about 20 minutes with Willie Jessop, a ranch spokesman.

The four left and Jessop drove away from the gate without commenting.
“We did get new information that there might be children out there and because of safety concerns for these children we attempted to visit the ranch today to find out if there were children,” Crimmins said later.

“The first time we went out we were refused access. Caseworkers spoke with ... Willie Jessop and he indicated he would allow case workers access. So case workers returned to the ranch and they were met by Mr. Jessop, who refused to allow them to enter. So they left the compound,” Crimmins said.

Crimmins wouldn't say if CPS plans to try to enter the ranch again.

Sect spokesman Rod Parker said the second visit was another attempt to sway residents to let them on the ranch.

“It was another effort to get in, and they were again told not without the appropriate paperwork,” Parker said.

Between the state's two trips, reporters were allowed onto the West Texas ranch, which is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect. Jessop told reporters they might see a child there, but none was seen during the tour.

Jessop all but acknowledged that children have been staying at the ranch since the raid.
“For me to say there are no children here, I cannot,” Jessop said.

But he added other children have been brought into the ranch from other states since the raid to visit grieving adult relatives. He was vague about the number of children that might be visiting, saying only that upward of 30 individuals remained on the 1,700-acre property.

Parker, however, said he didn't believe there were children at the ranch. He added that CPS never advised anyone that children would be barred from visiting, but later conceded CPS might consider the ranch an “unsafe place.”

F. Scott McCown, a state judge who now is executive director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the agency would need to go to a court to get an order if denied entry. By late Wednesday, there had been no such request put before a judge in San Angelo.

“What's important here for people to understand is that the Constitution guarantees us protection from unreasonable search and seizure, but that's when it's us against the state,” McCown said. “When there's a third party involved — the child — the state has the right because that child has the right to protection. The state has a right to say, ‘I'm here, we've got an allegation of abuse, we'd like to see and talk to this child to make sure they're OK.'”

Meanwhile, three weeks of status hearings for the more than 460 children taken from the ranch continued Wednesday.

Since Monday, attorneys for the parents and the children have hammered away at the template CPS is using as its blanket “service plan,” the agreement that tells parents what they need to do to get their children back.

Attorneys say the plans aren't specific and don't include any proof about how the parent has harmed each individual child