Coverage of polygamy throughout the West, including many groups and individuals, but with a focus on the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). The editing of my polygamy work is very loose, as it is meant to be a historical archive rather than a portfolio.

Saint George , Utah

Warren Jeffs Hearing, part one

Warren Jeffs appeared Tuesday for a hearing on the charges the FLDS leader is facing as an alleged accomplice to rape.

Going into the hearing I was looking forward to another chance to photograph the elusive Warren Jeffs, though it would prove to be less thrilling than photographing his first three-minute court appearance in Las Vegas three months ago.

This time, Jeffs seemed very aware of my camera, especially when I pointed it toward him. He appeared calm and collected the entire time I was in the courtroom, nearly expressionless.

Backing up a bit, a lot of planning went into the photo coverage of this hearing. Leading the planning effort … no … the guy who set it all up was Doug Pizac, the Associated Press photographer based in Salt Lake City.

Doug is all about the details. A week before the hearing he sent me an e-mail with a map of the courtroom detailing how things would work, where Jeffs would be sitting, and where I would be shooting from. His work on the logistics was invaluable and resulted in great, timely coverage of the hearing.

Four news outlets would split up the still photography pool. As I’ve written about before, news outlets will form a pool to share the coverage of situations where there isn’t room or the ability to accommodate everyone.

For example, say the governor is going to fly on a helicopter to tour flood damage in St. George. There are four photographers but only one seat on the chopper. One photographer from the news outlets covering the event will take the seat and share their photographs with the other outlets in the pool. In Utah courtrooms, pool photo coverage is the norm.

Since this was such a big trial and everyone wanted a chance to photograph Jeffs, Doug’s plan would entail a rotating pool. Doug would shoot the first two hours, followed by me. Next shift would go to the Daily Spectrum (St. George) and the last shift to the Deseret Morning News.

Doug had positioned the pool photographer in the best position to photograph the defendant (Jeffs), the attorneys, the judge, the gallery and even the witness stand. Photographing the witness stand would be mostly off-limits, however. This being a case alleging rape, there is an alleged victim. And for reasons of privacy, professional news outlets don’t generally name rape victims. So shooting the victim would be out of bounds, especially once the judge, James Shumate, issued an order forbidding photos of her and her family. Shumate rejected our (Doug’s) petition to photograph the victim in an unidentifiable way (her hands or something).

At the same time, Shumate had approved a remote camera that Doug set up with a tight shot at the witness stand and was triggered wirelessly from outside the courtroom. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to use it Tuesday, as the day’s witnesses were the victim and two of her sisters.

Things would work like this: Doug would shoot the first two hours, then I would jump in and take the pool spot. Immediately, Doug would begin transmitting his images to all pool outlets and worldwide through the AP feed. Doug had a computer set up with wireless Internet in the cry room adjoining the courtroom. From there, he could send photos and watch the proceedings (and trigger the remote witness camera) through a large glass window. When my shift was over (at the lunch break), Doug would make copies of my photographs and send them out. Through the day, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., he sat at that computer moving photographs. No lunch. Maybe a bathroom break, but I’m not sure. I didn’t ask him about that.

More in part two…

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Saint George , Utah

Quick thoughts from the Warren Jeffs hearing

Question: Why was defense attorney Walter Bugden wearing two different colored socks?

There were about 10 FLDS men, supporters of Warren Jeffs, in the courtroom showing their support for their prophet. Once Jeffs was seated at the defense table, he looked back and acknowledged each of them with a smile and nod. At the same time, a bunch of former FLDS members craned their necks from the back to get a look at the man who booted them out.

The first witness was a woman who, at the age of 19, married the then 83-year-old prophet Rulon Jeffs. She’s now around 30 and I never would have pictured her coming out of a fundamentalist background. She was a very confident witness, smiling at Warren Jeffs while testifying, “I had many talks with Warren.”

I’ll write more when I get a moment about photographing the hearing, the logistics of it all and how we did it. It was a great setup.

This post also appeard on my work blog, on the Tribune’s website.

Saint George , Utah

Warren Jeffs Trial

St. George – Preliminary hearing, Warren Jeffs trial, 5th District Court. 11.21.2006

St. George – Preliminary hearing, Warren Jeffs trial, 5th District Court. 11.21.2006

media outside, Warren Jeffs preliminary hearing before judge Schumate

Hildale , Utah

Around Short Creek

Home behind wall in Hildale, Utah

Home; 11.20.2006
memorial headstone for Louis Edward Barlow, Colorado City cemetery; 11.20.2006

polygamist house under construction in Hildale.

Hildale , Utah

UEP Meeting in Hildale

Bruce Wisan presiding at a UEP meeting in Hildale. Also, Keith Johnson, Don Timpson, Spencer Johnson, Mark Folkerson.

Centennial Park , Arizona

Fundamentalist Bread

A couple weeks ago I photographed Candice White with her three children. White was a plural wife, the second spouse of polygamist Gary D. White, who passed away earlier this year. White lives in Centennial Park, Ariz., a fundamentalist community just over Utah’s southern border.

As they waited for me to set up the lights in the Tribune’s photo studio, I told them of my last trip to Centennial Park, in July. We had been invited into the home of a polygamist family, but only on background. We would just be observing, not taking notes, and certainly not photographs.

We were welcomed into the home and watched one of the sister wives baking loaves of bread. The scene was so beautiful and warm we just had to bring out the camera. The agreement was made to photograph only the bread, and the hands baking it. And yes, it was very tasty.

Salt Lake City , Utah

Candice White

Salt Lake City – Candice White, a resident of Centennial Park, Arizona, with her children Charlie Ann White (left, 11), Gary Ryan White (center, 7), and Kelly Elaine White (right, 13). ; 9.30.2006

Las Vegas , Nevada

Warren Jeffs

Wow. That’s all I can say. After more than a year of intense work on the polygamy beat, I never imagined myself in a Las Vegas courtroom just ten feet away from FLDS president Warren Jeffs. This is one of those moments you never forget.

My first hint that Tuesday would go nuts came from the 8:15 a.m. breaking news headline on the Tribune’s Web site that reported Jeff’s capture in a routine traffic stop after months on the FBI’s most wanted list. Immediately I started packing, then stared at the phone, willing it to ring. While plans were forming in the newsroom, I was sent to the Grand Hotel to photograph Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While waiting for our allotted 10-minute interview, I kept in touch with Tribune photo editor Lori Post via text messages on my cell phone (I was getting really awful cellular reception at a hotel – imagine that!).

So many questions early on:

Would he go to Kingman, Arizona? Phoenix? St. George?

Where should we fly to?

What will the access be?

The text messages flew back and forth. I got one from Griff — “Having fun yet?” Yeah, right.

I photographed Condi and drove home, where I edited out the photos where her eyes looked mean.

While I wait for the plans to form, I unpack all my bags and then pack again — this time with enough clothes to last the trip. Finally I’m on a plane to Vegas. I think about Warren Jeffs as we fly over the Bingham Copper Mine. I doubt he’s every been photographed by an outsider. Despite having never seen the man, I’ve been in and around his life for a while now.

I’ve seen teenage girls, his followers, walking home from their private high school in British Columbia. They’re wearing colorful hand-sewn dresses with their hair pulled back in braids and they carry themselves like royalty down a gravel road. Their world impenetrable to an outsider like me, they ignore my presence.

I’ve photographed his large compound in Hildale, Utah, and struggled to find an angle from public property to get a good shot of the chimney that says, in brickwork, “Pray and Obey.” Still haven’t gotten that shot.

Through windows I’ve seen his photograph hanging in private elementary schools, this man, considered by his followers to be their prophet, smiling down on the children urging a march to Zion. (I find it fascinating to see pictures of fourth graders surrounding a portrait of a federal fugitive.)

And I’ve listened to his voice, in sermons where he extols obedience to the priesthood and living for an increase in the spirit of God. His words come out in a monotone and without emotion.

The details of Warren Jeffs’ reign have been widely published. Yet we have heard nothing from the man himself. For every accusation made against Jeffs and the FLDS, there has been no response, no defense. The idea of seeing this man who has hidden himself so well fascinates me.

Once in Vegas, we immediately head to the Nevada Highway Patrol where the officer who caught Jeffs is finally giving a press conference. All of the TV reporters ask questions like, “How did it feel to catch someone on the FBI’s top 10 list?” It’s like they want to trooper to jump for joy with his arms outstretched in celebration. But he’s a professional and pushes the spotlight away from himself and onto his fellow officers, the department, and their training.

After it’s over we corner the officer and ask about the clothes Warren Jeffs and his wife, Naomi, were wearing when arrested. The trooper confirms that Warren was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt and Naomi was in pants and a “normal” shirt. This is significant, considering that FLDS followers always wear long sleeves and long pants or ankle-length dresses. For Jeffs to be caught “out of uniform” is a newsworthy detail.

But the significance of Jeff’s casual dress when captured was apparently lost on the Highway Patrol, FBI, and whoever allowed Jeffs to put on a white button-up shirt for his jailhouse mugshot. We were told he asked for and was given permission to change before the mugshot was taken. Since no photos have surfaced of Jeffs wearing shorts and a T-shirt when arrested, the stories about what he was wearing are easily discounted by his followers as lies made up by law enforcement.

Now it’s Thursday morning, the day of Jeffs’ extradition hearing. I show up extra early in the courtroom. There’s already one other still photographer and soon another arrives, making three of us.

If this were in a Utah courtroom it would likely be covered in a pool situation. In a pool, only one photographer would be allowed into the courtroom and would then share their photographs with the various media outlets covering the trial. Thankfully we were in Nevada, where court officials haven’t forgotten that a courtroom is a public place. A few minutes later another photographer came in and now the four of us were crouching low and out of the way, waiting.

The judge came in and started hearing a couple of quick motions on unrelated cases. At this point I saw a fifth photographer walk into the courtroom. In the middle of the judge conducting one of these hearings, photographer 5 walked right through the courtroom and up to the front where we were. The whole time I was waiting for the judge to go ballistic on this photographer for not respecting the decorum of the court. Never happened. Soon after, photographer 6 did the same thing.

And it was so refreshing. Our country, the land of the free, is so full of rules, regulations and restrictions. What has happened to the free spirit of the West?

Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

I’ve got three cameras ready to go (I’ve checked my settings, memory cards, and battery power on each at least a dozen times by now).

Then the secure door leading to the prisoner holding area opens and two SWAT officers in bullet-proof vests bring Warren Steed Jeffs in to face the judge.

My first reaction was: He is so skinny!

After that I didn’t really think. I knew this would be quick and I felt it was such a historical moment so I just took picture after picture. One camera for the wide scene, one for a closer view and one for the very close shot – just his face.

It was over in three quick minutes. In that time, I shot 141 photos. Back at the hotel I sent in a wide range of photos, something like seventeen, trying to show the hearing as I saw it.

Looking at the photos you may see a prophet of God or you may see a power-mad cult leader. You may just see a skinny guy. Whatever you think, it’s in the history books now.

Still can’t believe I was there.

Las Vegas , Nevada

Warren Jeffs Hearing

Handcuffed and flanked by Las Vegas Metro PD Swat officers, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs appeared before Judge James M. Bixler in the Clark County Regional Justice Center this morning and waived an extradition hearing, agreeing to be returned to Utah to face charges related to allegedly arranging an underage marriage. ; 8.31.2006

Saint George , Utah

Charges Against Warren Jeffs Press Conference

Washington County attorney Brock Belnap, warren jeffs press conference ; 8.31.2006

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