Previously, I wrote a book review about Sam Brower’s Prophet’s Prey, a look into the crimes and secrecy of the FLDS leadership. As circumstances would have it, I crossed paths with Mr. Brower from time to time. Having received a personal copy of his book and written a book review, I asked him if he would like an author interview via email. He agreed to do so. Below are his answers to my questions about the book and about his work as a private investigator.
What helped you make the decision to write Prophet’s Prey?
When I first began working on cases involving the FLDS in early 2004, I considered it a novelty of sorts and, perhaps, a bit of an adventure to work on such an unusual case. However, when I really began to dig in and discover the lawlessness and atrocities taking place in Short Creek, I was taken aback, to say the least, that such things were occurring not only here in America, but in my own back yard. It seemed like I had stumbled over a lost culture that had been sheltered or exempted from the rule of law, which we all live by. I couldn’t believe the myriad of crimes that were being committed with impunity. But the most disturbing was the ritualistic abuse of children. At the time, I thought that as the court cases I was working on unfolded and received more exposure in the public domain, the world would be just as incredulous as I was at the atrocities and human suffering taking place within the FLDS. Despite the high profile nature of those cases, years later, the FLDS and its leaders continue to marry underage girls and abandon their boys, essentially thumbing their nose at the law. In April of 2008, Warren Jeffs’s Personal Priesthood Journal was found in a secure vault on his FLDS compound in Texas, exposing many of his crimes in great detail and in his own words. It was then that I decided that perhaps it wasn’t going to be enough to tell the story of Warren Jeffs’s abuses in a legal venue, and I made the decision to figure out a way to make the world aware of the depth of his crimes.
What do you expect will come about now that you have published your book?
I should probably state the answer to this question more as to my hopes, as opposed to my expectations. It is really pretty simple. I hope that everyone who picks up Prophet’s Prey will become educated about the atrocities occurring against children in a lawless, religious theocracy, and will be just as appalled and disturbed by the facts as I was when I learned about them. I hope they feel driven to do something about it.
What was the most challenging aspect in writing this book and why?
Without a doubt, it was trying to figure out what to leave out of the book.
Do you plan to write another book, and if so, will it be about the FLDS?
I want to write another book, but at one point I made the decision not to write about the FLDS. As time has gone on, however, I realize that there is still so much more important information to reveal regarding Warren Jeffs and his cohorts. I am considering writing another book about the FLDS if I can feel that it can be presented in a unique and enlightening perspective. Over the years, I have traveled all over the country taking photos of and making a record of the FLDS people and their culture. Perhaps that may be the way to present more of the story.
Kevin Jenkins of The Spectrum & Daily News [St. George, Utah] writes an article entitled “Former FLDS agent guilty” that appears on pages A1 and A3 of the 24 Nov. 2011 issue of the newspaper. In the article, Jenkins reports that William “Willie” R. Jessop made “efforts to get a restraining order against [you]” (A3). Would you like to comment on the nature of this situation?
I was asked to go to Texas to help a guardian ad litem there and prepare a restraining order against Willie Jessop for interfering with her representation of her client. Her client was one of Warren Jeffs’s minor daughters, who had been married on her fifteenth birthday to a much older man. That same man eventually received a ten-year prison term for marrying yet another underage girl. Willie was doing everything he could to influence the young girl not to cooperate with the guardian ad litem in any way. He was also obstructing justice by interfering with the due process rights of the minor child. Consequently, Willie was restrained from having any contact with the girl, and he didn’t like my involvement in the issuance of the restraining order against him. Two days after returning from Texas to Utah, I received notice that a restraining order had been filed against me by Willie Jessop and his smarmy FLDS attorney, Rod Parker. The temporary restraining order, or TRO, was filled with lies, because it placed me in locations that were impossible for me to be at, and I had many witnesses to prove it. It was simply a retaliatory action on the part of the FLDS, and in particular Willie, to exact a little revenge. When the time came for me to defend myself against Jessop’s lies, I came to court with my attorney, Willard Bishop, very prepared. We had our witnesses lined up and ready to go, and were confident that Big Willie the Thug didn’t have a chance of winning his frivolous TRO against me. As it turned out, we didn’t really have to do a quarter of what we prepared for. Willie brought out two witnesses, his father and a neighbor. Both of them would not lie for Willie, saying that I was not at the places where Willie claimed I was at. Willie got called to the stand, too. During the course of Willie’s testimony, Mr. Bishop caught him in so many lies that there was no doubt about what would happen next. Following Willie’s attempt to manipulate the court, the judge recessed for about fifteen minutes, returned to the bench, and dismissed the TRO against me. We never even got to put on our case. Sometime later, Mr. Bishop and I made the decision to go after Willie for our costs in having to defend against his bogus court action. We won a judgment against Willie in the amount of $13,000.00. It was one of those maybe-the-system-does-work moments.
Do you still have trouble with Willie Jessop and do you expect to cross paths with him more in the future?
Since being excommunicated from the FLDS, Willie has turned very anti-Warren Jeffs. However, I am very dubious that a leopard can change his spots. I believe that Willie will always be driven by his own self-serving agenda.
Surprisingly, the newspaper article states that Willie Jessop and you appeared on Dr. Phil. Would you please summarize the reason for your appearance on that show and what was the result of your participation in it?
I was approached by the producer of Dr. Phil who wanted to showcase my book, Prophet’s Prey. As Warren Jeffs’s trial began to make more and more headlines, the producers made the decision to put Willie Jessop on the show. In some respects, I considered it an opportunity for him to go on national TV and reveal his true character. Willie ended up doing just that. My goal was, and still is, to try keeping the media focused on the child abuse that was, and still is, taking place within the FLDS. Since Willie Jessop was so deeply involved in that abuse, as well as covering it up on behalf of his cohorts in the church leadership, it bothers me that he was given any airtime at all.
Will you continue to investigate crimes committed by leaders of the FLDS Church?
There are many times when I wonder why I continue to be involved with a group of people who despise me and obviously don’t want my help. Then I drive through the town and see all the children. I realize in those moments that the chance that they have to experience any type of normalcy in their lives is almost non-existent without some sort of outside intervention. The only way I know how to end the child abuse within the FLDS environment is by holding the perpetrators accountable for their crimes and bringing those atrocities into the light of day. I will continue to do so.
Have you had any problems with FLDS members stalking you or your family since the experience you relate in the book?
I occasionally have had some minor incidences, but I have grown accustomed to them. Fortunately, none of my family members have been bothered.
How do you respond to inquirers who antagonize the LDS Church or conflate the former with the FLDS faith?
It is quite common for those who are either ignorant about the doctrinal differences between the two churches, or those who have some sort of ax to grind and want to blame LDS members or the LDS church for the behavior of Warren Jeffs and his cohorts, to try and make some sort of correlation between the two religions. The LDS church is hated and despised by Warren Jeffs and the FLDS people. Those who practice polygamy and child abuse are excommunicated by the LDS church. As a matter of fact, there is absolutely no connection between the two. FLDS doctrine has devolved into a system that has very few commonalities with the mainstream Mormon Church. I compare it to Catholics and Lutherans (despite the fact that the Lutherans are doctrinally law abiding). When Martin Luther and his adherents chose to separate themselves from the Catholic Church, they formed a new church and called themselves Lutherans. The two churches now spend their time and energy taking care of their own affairs and congregations; they do not meddle in the affairs or beliefs of the other religion. I am at a loss as to why—after decades of denouncing the LDS church and the fact that FLDS members are in no way connected with the LDS Church—there is still some sort of presumption that the two religions are somehow connected. I consider it a colossal waste of my time to try and explain the differences to people who are simply biased and bigoted against the LDS Church. I also consider it a colossal waste of resources for those same people who solicit help and justice for victims of the FLDS to make disparaging remarks and alienate LDS members, because many are excellent advocates for justice as well as excellent sources of aid for FLDS victims. I know scores of LDS members, like myself, who have dedicated incredible resources and time to alleviate the problems that the FLDS members face, only to endure barbs and insults from those who are supposed to be on the same side of the issue. It can be extremely frustrating.
Do you know if Warren Jeffs is still in the “luxury jail” in Texas that allows him to call his congregation every Sunday?
When Warren Jeffs was extradited from Utah, he was literally on his death bed. He was being force fed, losing weight, and was a medical mess. Upon his arrival at the jail in Big Lake Texas, Warren discovered a phone in his cell, and it literally breathed new life into him. From that point on, Jeffs was able to figure out how to take control of his people once again. Since that time, things have continued to get worse. I could literally write volumes on the madness that Warren has been able to spread from his prison cell. It is like a cancer. Jeffs is no longer in jail, but is doing a sentence of life plus twenty years in a Texas prison, and yet, like a cockroach, Warren continues to survive. I have never seen the FLDS culture as volatile as it is now, and Warren continues to extract the most outrageous behavior imaginable from his followers. I doubt very much that Jeffs would be able to pull off such a miraculous recovery, had he not had unfettered access to a phone. And I would have to say that a great deal of what happens next in the Jeffs saga will be directly related to the presence of that phone in his cell.
Thank you, Mr. Brower. It has been a pleasure interviewing you. I wish you the best of luck and success in your work.
For readers of Mormonhermitmom’s Book Habit, you may be interested in reading Mr. Brower’s article about Kody Brown from the popular reality show, Sister Wives, on The Huffington Post. Mr. Brower informs me that he is in the process of writing another article for The Huffington Post, which will be forthcoming. Also, since publishing Prophet’s Prey, he has since written an afterword to the book. It will begin to appear in paperback editions of the book sometime around October 1st of this year (2012).