Attorney for Polygamist Leader Suggests Tip may have been Hoax

Staff Report

The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) - An attorney for polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs says Texas authorities may have been duped by a fake phone tip into raiding a West Texas ranch occupied by Jeffs followers.

Attorney Michael Piccarreta tells The Arizona Republic in Phoenix that he "smelled a rat from the beginning."

He was referring to the call from a 16-year-old girl at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints commune in Eldorado (ehl-duh-RAY'-doh) that prompted the raid. In his ords, "I think the Texas authorities need to make a careful analysis of whether they have been part of a ruse."

A spokeswoman for Texas Child Protective Services tells The Associated Press that the agency believes the call was genuine.

Spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales says the agency has no "reason to believe that it was a prank or a ruse in any way."

Authorities have said their April 3 raid on the Eldorado ranch came after a girl's whispered telephone call for help to a family violence shelter. Texas has since taken legal custody of 416 children on suspicion that they were being sexually and physically abused.