Contempt case involving FLDS children picking pecans moves forward

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An image by CNN of the 2012 pecan harvest in southern Utah where hundreds of FLDS children were put to work in what federal authorities claim was a violation of child labor laws.

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge is moving ahead with a contempt case involving a company linked to the Fundamentalist LDS Church, where hundreds of children were put to work picking pecans at a southern Utah farm.

At a hearing on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell said she was interested in determining whether Paragon Contractors should be found in contempt of a 2007 order involving child labor. She set a January hearing date where witnesses would testify in the case.

The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking a contempt of court citation against Paragon Contractors, accusing it of using as many as 1,400 people for unpaid labor during a 2012 harvest where hundreds of children were seen working in the fields. The Labor Department claims it is in violation of the judge’s 2007 order in a different matter.

Rick Sutherland, the attorney for Paragon Contractors, questioned why they were even in court for this — claiming there’s no evidence the order was violated.

U.S. Department of Labor attorney Karen Bobela said there were several cases pending involving the FLDS Church and child labor, including a recent lawsuit against FLDS Bishop Lyle Jeffs (the brother of imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs) seeking back pay and wages. The Labor Department is also seeking to collect $2 million in fines.

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