Jacqueline LeBaron, the daughter of a polygamist sect leader, has reached a plea deal on the criminal charges facing her for involvement in the murders of an eight-year-old girl and three other former members of the group.
She pled guilty to...."Obstruction of Religious Beliefs." Which we guess is somewhat related to killing people who are leaving your religion, but not quite the heaviest charge we can imagine.
Lebaron, 46, entered her plea this morning and will be sentenced in September, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
We admit we've never heard of "Obstruction of Religious Beliefs," which sounds almost unconstitutional on its face. Local legal eagle Joel Androphy, a past Best of Houston® winner, tells us he hadn't heard of it either, but he's not surprised it exists.
"The statutes are two inches thick," he says. "You won't believe what's in there."
He said it sounds like what's known as a "throwdown charge," where prosecutors don't have enough of a case to make on the big things, so they settle for what they can get.
"'Failure to report a crime' is the government's favorite," he says. "If they can't make a case on someone participating in a crime, they'll charge him with knowing about it and not reporting it."
Here's what the actual law says: It's a crime when someone:
1) intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property, because of the religious character of that property, or attempts to do so; or
(2) intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person's free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so
LeBaron faces five years.
In 1988, LeBaron's relatives killed the four people. LeBaron helped plan the deaths, prosecutors had said when she was facing murder charges.
She went on the run for 22 years after the killing but was finally found in Honduras.