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Hannity

Could the Hunt for Polygamist Warren Jeffs Turn Into a Government Standoff?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 16, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Admitted polygamist Warren Jeffs has landed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list as a rape suspect and a fugitive. Jeffs leads a polygamist sect of as many as 10,000 followers and has allegedly arranged hundreds of marriages between underage girls and older men.

He's not been seen in public for more than two years, and authorities think he may be hiding in one of his church's remote compounds. Is this case the next Waco?

Joining us now, criminal defense attorney Steven Greenburg and former FBI assistant director, Danny Coulson.

Danny, let me go to you first. Given that he's on the 10 most-wanted list what does it take to get on that list?

DANNY COULSON, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: It's someone they can't find, basically, an individual that the leads have dried up. They can't locate him, and they're starting to look for public support. And it takes a lot to get on the top 10 list. And obviously...

COLMES: Does it have to do with the severity, the heinousness of the crime?

COULSON: Yes, it does. We're talking about crimes against minors here, and that's a very significant thing. It's a significant thing in the state of Texas, certainly with regard to the federal system. And they want to find this guy before he does any more of this to any more children to be abused. It's really a child abuse case when you get right down to it, Alan.

COLMES: Steven Greenberg, this is someone who's accused of performing marriages between underage girls and older men. His nephew claims that he sodomized him and led others to participate in the '80s. His nephew's two brothers said it happened to them. One of whom, after admitting that, shot and killed himself.

This guy is a bad guy.

STEVEN GREENBERG, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, he may be a gad guy. Then again, these may just be disgruntled ex-followers who are disenchanted and want to bring down his movement.

COLMES: You don't buy any of these charges?

GREENBERG: I don't buy the charges because of who they're coming from. And I haven't seen any evidence, physical evidence of it or any corroborating evidence of it. We just heard all that discussion of cooperating evidence during the last segment.

And I don't think if he wasn't the leader of a movement that some people disagreed with he would be on the list with people like Usama bin Laden. Certainly, what he's done hasn't risen to that level except that he's offended some people...

COLMES: You say offended, but we have possible law breaking. You have former members of his church saying that they were forced to marry people like their 16-year-old cousin.

You have former members saying that they were forced out of one family into another family. Men having their wives and children removed, given to other men. This is some serious stuff here. Family members taken away from some people and awarded to others.

GREENBERG: Well, except that that's all consistent with the beliefs that they all bought into. I don't know that that's criminal activity.

COLMES: Isn't pedophilia consistent with that?

GREENBERG: Well, I think pedophilia would be criminal activity. But how many pedophiliacs are on the top 10 list of the FBI's most wanted people.

COLMES: Danny, what about that? I mean, there are some very serious charges here. It seems to me that Steve is minimizing them.

COULSON: Well, I think they are being minimized. This is very serious. Anytime you have a crime against a child, that's a very serious thing. We have an obligation to our children to protect them. And if the charges aren't true, what he needs to do is come forth and face the charges, face those accusers and let's get it handled in the court. That's exactly what he should do. Obviously, he's on the run, and he's not doing that.

HANNITY: There are multiple people that are out there saying that this stuff with young kids was going on. He was supposed to come in. Why would he be hiding if he's not guilty? Why is he hiding?

GREENBERG: I don't know that he's necessarily hiding. And I don't know that there's multiple people saying these charges are all true. There are some disgruntled people and some old charges and those people saying that these charges are true. Certainly not the alleged victims of the charges in large part. And certainly there hasn't been a lot of corroboration of it.

And why isn't he coming forward? Has anyone gone really looking for him? I haven't seen any evidence that they've looked for him.

They say he's in these compounds. What is a compound? Is this like the fortress they kept in "King Kong" with the stakes sticking up in the air? I mean, this is a community that happens to be either in the plains of Texas or in the hills of Arizona. TV stations have been there and filmed it. Reporters have gotten in and talked to people. Why can't law enforcement go in? I haven't seen any evidence that they can't go in and find this person or have a conversation with him.

HANNITY: Danny, one of the problems is when you get into a cult mentality, which is what the allegation is here...

COULSON: Clearly that's what that is.

HANNITY: If you get into a cult mentality, the fear is of law enforcement, that if he is being hidden in one of these compounds that people may be involved in some violence in the protecting of them. We also have to worry about a Waco situation on the one hand and a Jonestown on the other hand, don't we?

COULSON: That's exactly right, Sean. The problem here is law enforcement treats all of those followers as hostages. We think they're essentially against their will. But then when you go in and try to deal with them, the hostages turn on law enforcement. We saw what happened in Waco. We saw what happened at Jonestown. Law enforcement has to be careful here and not precipitate loss of life. That's the problem.

HANNITY: Hang on second. Wait a minute. Danny, do you think there's a potential here, based on what we're reading about, the philosophy and the allegations in this particular case. Do you believe there's a potential for a showdown? A Waco-style showdown in a case like this? Are you concerned about a Jonestown?

COULSON: Not if the FBI can handle it. I talked to them today about this very case. We talked about it at length. They are very, very concerned about Waco. We learned lessons at Waco. Since Waco, both the Texas rangers and the FBI have handled standoffs like this very, very successfully. So they're not going to play into these guys' hands. They'll do it very careful.

HANNITY: Could he hide out in that compound forever? Could he hide out there forever is they don't do anything?

COULSON: You know, that's the problem, Sean, is that basically he's raised an army and put it in the plains of Texas.

GREENBERG: They don't even know if he's there.

COLMES: Danny, Steve, thank you both very much. Thank you both very much for being with us tonight.

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