Photo seems to show polygamist sect leader kissing minor

A photo of sect leader Warren Jeffs apparently kissing a minor is part of evidence in the Texas custody case.
A photo of sect leader Warren Jeffs apparently kissing a minor is part of evidence in the Texas custody case.

(CNN) -- Pictures showing the leader of a polygamist sect kissing a girl who appears to be a minor have been introduced into evidence in the legal battle over the seizure of more than 400 children from the sect's Texas ranch.

The pictures show Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with two females who appear to be under 18. In both sets of pictures, Jeffs and the females are kissing.

One set of pictures is labeled "first anniversary -- January 26, 2005."

The photos have been entered into evidence in Tom Green County District Court as part of a custody case involving a family whose children were among those removed last month from the FLDS' Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. About 460 individuals were removed, although up to 20 were found to be adults.

State officials have maintained that they found a "pervasive pattern" on the ranch of girls being forced into underage marriage to older men. The photos appear to be part of an effort to show that the FLDS not only allows such underage marriages, it encourages them.

One of the girls shown in the photos is an aunt to the children involved in the custody hearing and lived on the YFZ Ranch, according to information given in court. Her birth date was given as July 1994, meaning she is 13.

The girl was taken into state custody by child welfare officials during the raids that began April 3. She was set to testify in her brother's custody case, but the parties reached an agreement before her testimony was required. Under terms of that agreement, the children's mother will be allowed to remain with them in state custody and keep them together for now.

Texas' Child Protective Services has refused further comment on the photos.

But Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City, Utah, attorney who has been a spokesman for FLDS families, said Tuesday that the photos were "just an effort by CPS to try to get publicity for their larger attempt to paint everybody with the same brush."

"What I'm saying is, that isn't fair, and each parent of each family is entitled to stand on its own," Parker said. "And these photos have no ties to this particular family in a way that's relevant to these proceedings."

Jeffs, 52, is in a Utah prison, serving two consecutive terms of five years to life after a conviction on two charges of being an accomplice to rape in connection with a marriage he performed in 2001. He also faces trial in Arizona on eight charges, including sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy.

Jeffs' trial thrust the FLDS into the national spotlight, and last month's raid on the YFZ Ranch intensified scrutiny of the sect.

The seizure of the children is the focus of a court battle in Texas. The Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals said last week that the state had no right to remove children in a case involving 38 FLDS mothers and 124 kids.

Attorneys in the case have said a similar reasoning could be applied to all the children taken into foster care. The state has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

CNN's Ismael Estrada and Melanie Whitley contributed to this report.