DOJ sues “enforcement arm of the FLDS Church”

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against the Town of Colorado City, the City of Hildale, and two utility agencies for discrimination against residents of the communities who are non- Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members. Colorado City and Hildale are populated primarily by members of the FLDS who are followers of the self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs.

The minority of residents of Colorado City and Hildale who are non-Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members have been treated as second class citizens. For years, non-followers of Jeffs have been discriminated against on the basis of religion.

The Cities’ public officials, the Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office, and utility entities have denied non-FLDS individuals housing, police protection, and access to public space and services.

Since 2003, Arizona has decertified six officers employed by the Marshal’s Office, and a seventh officer resigned after having been decertified by Utah officials. Three were decertified for failure to comply with state law-enforcement efforts, including refusing to testify at a grand jury proceeding.

The police unions prevented both the states of Utah and Arizona from passing bills that would have had the effect of disbanding the Marshal’s Office. Both bills failed to pass, due primarily to pressure from the police union.

The suit alleges:

The Trust

Members of the FLDS traditionally contribute a significant portion of their money, property, and time to a trust called the United Effort Plan Trust (UEP Trust). Until 2005, the Trust was controlled by the FLDS Church.

Much of the land, and many of the improvements of the land, in Colorado City and Hildale, including most of the Cities’ residences, belong to the UEP Trust. Residents who live in Trust-owned homes typically have signed occupancy agreements with the Trust.

In 2005, a Utah court determined that the UEP Trustees had violated their legal duties in administering the Trust, including duties relating to former members of the FLDS Church who are beneficiaries of the Trust. The court appointed Bruce Wisan, who is not affiliated with the FLDS Church, as Special Fiduciary of the UEP Trust (“Special Fiduciary”) to administer the Trust’s assets and operations.

In 2006, the court reformed the UEP Trust. Bruce Wisan continues to serve as the court-appointed Special Fiduciary. The stated purpose of the Trust is “providing for the just wants and needs of the beneficiaries which purpose is beneficial to the community.”

The Marshal

The DOJ alleges that the Marshal’s Office fails to protect non-FLDS individuals from victimization by FLDS members, fails to investigate crimes against non-FLDS individuals and their property, and refuses to arrest FLDS individuals who have committed crimes against non-FLDS individuals.

The Marshal’s office has allegedly ignored crimes and actions including destroying crops on a non-FLDS-operated farm, vandalizing property in the control of the UEP Trust, returning at least one underage bride to a home from which she had fled, and trespassing on property occupied by non-FLDS individuals.

The DOJ cites instances of selective enforcement include arresting non-FLDS individuals for trespass but not arresting similarly situated FLDS individuals, and citing non-FLDS individuals for traffic violations but not citing FLDS individuals for similar infractions.

Non-FLDS individuals experience the hardship and mental and physical stress resulting from the knowledge that the Marshal’s Office will not come to their aid in time of need.

A glaring example of the failure to protect occurred in January 2012, when a woman who was, in effect, excommunicated by the FLDS, fled her home in the Cities with her six young daughters after learning that FLDS leaders demanded that she sever all contact with five of her six children.

This woman believed, based on its policies and previous actions, that the Marshal’s Office would not come to her assistance to protect her parental rights if she complained about the FLDS edict separating mothers from their children. She decided, as many other non-FLDS members have done, to flee with her children under cover of darkness to safety outside of the Cities.

The failure and refusal of the Marshal’s Office to protect all citizens without regard to religion has given rise to an “underground railroad,” composed of non-FLDS members who provide safe havens and a means of egress for individuals abandoned by law enforcement.

The enforcement arm of the FLDS Church

Since at least 1990, the Marshal’s Office has assisted the FLDS Church in its surveillance and investigation of non-FLDS members because of religion. This activity includes providing training and resources to FLDS members to aid their surveillance of non-FLDS members.

The Marshal’s Office provides law-enforcement information, including but not limited to, information about emergency calls to the Marshal’s Office for assistance, directly to FLDS security personnel. In addition, the Cities obtain information from FLDS Church security-service members about vehicles traveling in the Cities, run license-plate checks to determine whether such vehicles are owned and/or operated by non-FLDS members in the Cities, and convey the results of the license-plate checks to the FLDS Church.

The Marshal’s Office has conducted traffic stops on multiple occasions in response to FLDS church members’ requests that they find out the identity of the occupants of a vehicle.

The Marshal’s Office deploys its resources to enforce FLDS religious edicts. Such conduct includes dispatching Marshal’s Deputies in official vehicles to confront persons about their alleged disobedience to FLDS rules and instructing such persons to report to FLDS leadership.

In one instance, in 2000, Jeffs issued an order for a then-FLDS member to return an underage bride, who had fled her new husband’s home, to FLDS leaders. Unaware that the then-FLDS member had already complied, three Marshal’s Deputies confronted him demanding that he return her to FLDS leaders. The Deputies drove official Marshal’s Office vehicles when they aggressively confronted the then-FLDS member.

One of the Marshal’s Deputies involved in this incident remains employed by the Marshal’s Office, and another was the Marshal who resigned in or around April 2012. In 2001, Jeffs issued an edict that all domestic dogs would be banned from the Cities. Less than one month later, in compliance with Jeffs’s edict, Marshal’s Deputies went to each household in the Cities and asked residents to turn over any dogs that they had in the home to the Officers.

The Marshal’s Deputies then shot and killed the dogs in a slaughter pit a short distance from the Cities. Two of the Marshal’s Deputies involved in this incident remain employed by the Marshal’s Office.

Failure to cooperate with other law enforcement

In October 2005, Fred J. Barlow, during the time he served as Marshal, wrote a letter to then-fugitive Jeffs, stating in relevant part, “I rejoice in the peace that comes over me when I follow the directives that you have sent to me through (FLDS member) Uncle William (Jessop). I have felt a unity between the peace officers. They have all stated to me their desire to follow the directives that are placed before us. . . . I want to fill the position that you would have me fill and do the job the way that you would like it done. We will continue with that directive unless you would like us to do something different.”

Three out of the current six Marshal’s Deputies were either employed by the Marshal’s Office or finishing the required police training for the Marshal’s Office at the time Marshal Barlow wrote this letter to Jeffs.

Marshal Barlow was later decertified as a peace officer by the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (“AZPOST”) for failing to comply with an Arizona Attorney General investigation. On August 7, 2007, an administrative law judge, in reviewing AZPOST’s decertification decision, determined that Barlow “displayed bias in favor of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS, in derogation of his oath to neutrally enforce the law.”

On at least one occasion, in July 2011, the then-Marshal and Marshal’s Deputies participated in the building of fences on UEP Trust property that the FLDS had illegally occupied without permission of the UEP Trust.

Since the UEP trust was reformed in 2006, the Marshal’s Office has consistently disregarded the validity of Trust-signed occupancy agreements and of legal rulings that guarantee the rights of non-FLDS Trust beneficiaries. For example, in December 2011, Marshal’s Deputies refused to enforce the occupancy agreement held by a non-FLDS individual for a property known as the Holm School Building, located at 1055Carling Street, Hildale, Utah.

Several FLDS members entered the building and locked out the rightful non-FLDS occupants of the building. The FLDS members occupying the building refused to allow the rightful non-FLDS occupants to retain possession of the Holm School Building. Those non-FLDS individuals contacted county law enforcement to remove the FLDS trespassers on or about December 20, 2011.

At the request of County officials, Marshal’s Deputies also arrived at the Holm School later that day. The Marshal’s Deputies refused to remove the FLDS trespassers, and the County Sheriff’s Deputies were forced to ensure the removal of the trespassers in light of the Marshal’s Officers’ failure to take any affirmative steps. One of the Marshal’s Deputies not only refused to assist the Sheriff’s deputies, but left the scene.

On another occasion, in August 2008, then-Marshal Jonathan Roundy, responded to a property dispute between an FLDS member and a non-FLDS individual. The Special Fiduciary and his agent informed Marshal Roundy that the non-FLDS member had permission, and therefore a right, to occupy the property. Nonetheless, Marshal Roundy sided with the FLDS member based on religious affiliation.

In announcing his decision, Marshal Roundy stated, “(the FLDS member) says this is his property, and we are going to honor him because he is a member of the Church, and he has asked (the non-FLDS) to leave, and that is where I am going to stand as Chief of the Police.”

On February 8, 2012, the Marshal’s Office responded to a report that FLDS members were building an illegal fence that encroached onto property validly occupied by a non-FLDS individual. A representative of the Special Fiduciary informed a Marshal’s Officer that the fence was being built without permission and should be stopped immediately. The Marshal’s Officer failed to act to stop the FLDS members from putting up the fence.

The Marshal’s Office uses its authority to aid the FLDS Church by facilitating the unlawful evictions of non-FLDS residents and refusing to permit non-FLDS individuals to move into properties for which they have occupancy agreements.

The Marshal’s Office arrests non-FLDS individuals without probable cause on the basis of religion. Specific incidents include arresting non-FLDS individuals for trespass on properties that they had the right to enter, arresting non-FLDS individuals without probable cause for theft of services, and holding an adult non-FLDS woman in jail overnight without probable cause on the alleged ground of being a minor in possession of alcohol.

The Marshal’s Office has seized the property of non-FLDS individuals without due process of law. For example, in April or May 2010, the Marshal’s Office departed from its normal procedures in handling a stud horse who escaped from its non-FLDS owner. The Marshal’s Office caused the horse to be euthanized without contacting the owner.

The suit alleges that the “members of the Marshal’s Office knew or should have known the stud horse, which had distinct markings, and they knew or should have known the identity of the horse’s owner.” Allegedly this action was taken on the basis of the owner’s religious affiliation.

The actions and omissions of the Marshal’s Office constitute an impermissible delegation of decision-making and authority to the FLDS, an entanglement of religious and civil functions, a fusion of government power and religious authority, and have the purpose and effect of the Cities impermissibly advancing religion.

Housing, water, and electric services denied

Non-FLDS members have been treated unfairly by Colorado City, Hildale, TCWA, and Twin City Power by making housing unavailable, denied or unreasonably delayed water and electric service, refused to issue them building permits, and otherwise prevented them from constructing new housing or occupying existing housing, all on the ground of religion.

The Twin City Water Authority, Inc. is responsible for the provision of water services in Colorado City and Hildale. It operates under the actual or apparent authority of Colorado City and Hildale.

When non-FLDS residents have requested water service at new properties, TCWA has denied their requests. The Cities and TCWA claim that they cannot provide water service to new properties because of a water shortage, while at the same time FLDS residents have received such services.

In fact, there is no water shortage in the Cities that would justify these denials.

The Cities and TCWA have refused to permit non-FLDS individuals or the Trust to build new housing or improve existing housing on Trust-owned land. In some circumstances, the Cities and TCWA cite a water shortage as the reason for their refusals. In other circumstances, they claim that the Trust or non-FLDS individuals have no right to occupy or control the land.

During the same period in which Defendants Colorado City, Hildale, and TCWA denied non-FLDS residents water service, they have provided water service to new properties occupied or managed by FLDS residents. In some instances they have installed such connections at night; at other times they have installed the connections in putative exchange for water rights of far lesser value.

The Cities have refused requests from the Trust to subdivide Trust property into smaller lots. The Cities’ refusal to permit subdivision has prevented the Trust from transferring the deeds of those smaller lots to non-FLDS Trust beneficiaries.

Prior to July 2009, Defendants Colorado City, Hildale, and Twin City Power delayed providing electric connections to non-FLDS individuals or refused to provide such connections at all. During the same period, they provided electric connections to similarly situated FLDS individuals and entities. Since July 2009, the Cities have delayed providing necessary information regarding non-FLDS-occupied properties to Garkane Energy, the Cities’ current electricity provider, resulting in a delay before non-FLDS residents and entities receive electricity at their properties.

Denied use of public facilities

Cottonwood Park and Cottonwood Zoo are owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of the Cities. The DOJ has received signed written complaints of discrimination against non-FLDS individuals at the Zoo and the Park by the Cities.

Beginning in approximately 2008, members of the Marshal’s Office and other officials of the Cities have told other non-FLDS individuals that they may not play at the Park.

Beginning in approximately 2008, the Marshal’s Office withdrew police protection from the Zoo when its occupancy agreement was taken over by a non-FLDS individual. When non-FLDS individuals presented the Marshal’s Office with evidence that FLDS individuals had been vandalizing the zoo, the Marshal’s Office refused to act on those allegations.

On or about May 18, 2010, a group of non-FLDS children attempted to play at the park. A Marshal’s Deputy told the children that they could not play at the park and threatened them with arrest if they continued to play. During the same time period, members of the Marshal’s Office have harassed non-FLDS individuals who were lawfully on the Zoo premises.

The DOJ suit claims that Colorado City and Hildale engaged in and continue to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution and the laws of the United States.

These actions constitute violations of 42 U.S.C. § 14141.

2 Comments

  1. Why would the DOJ place a spotlight on two small towns on the Arizona-Utah border? This appears to be on it’s face a lame attempt by the current administration to confuse the issue of Mitt Romney’s religion. We are learning the mindset and can recognize the workings of Atty General Eric Holder

    Having driven through Colorado City and the City of Hildale multiple times, I will tell you these municipalities are not “compounds” as Geraldo Rivera would have you believe.
    Followers of Warren Jeffs are practicing polygamists. They are fundamentalists. They are not members of the Salt Lake City-headquartered LDS Church. Colorado City was established by polygamists and has been raided and challenged many times.

  2. Abusing human beings based on belief in a make believe deity warrants the attention of every level of government. This is not a political move by DOJ. It is a justified law enforcement action. Discrimination because of religious belief is a crime. Sexual congress with children is a crime. Polygamy is a crime. Fraudulently saying your 2nd, 3rd and so on number of wives are single mothers to justify government support for them is a crime. Purposefully not finishing your house so the assessor classifies it as a partially completed structure to fraudulently avoid paying property taxes is a crime. There are many crimes committed by members of the FLDS in Colorado City that are long overdue for prosecution, and not just from DOJ. Local governments should have pursued prosecution more stringently long ago. Hurray for the DOJ!

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