(CN) – A federal judge must “disband” a police force for two polygamist towns on the Arizona-Utah border, Arizona’s attorney general said, calling it controlled by a fundamentalist Mormon sect.
Recent testimony by former town police chief Helaman Barlow proves what he and many other critics of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Colorado City/Hildale have long suspected: that that towns’ police force is loyal to the sect and its leaders above all else, Attorney General Tom Horne said in a Monday filing.
Barlow, who was placed on paid administrative leave this past April and is no longer a member of the church, made the admission in an April 22 deposition for the federal government’s civil lawsuit against the towns.
He said that the local marshal’s office is effectively controlled by the FLDS leadership, that it actively works against nonmembers, and that it had assisted jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs by providing him with secret tape recordings of meetings with law-enforcement agencies when Jeffs was on the run.
Barlow also said that FLDS security officers had access to municipal surveillance cameras, that at least one member of the marshal’s office had married an underage girl, that Town Manager David Darger had altered police reports, and that deputies with the marshal’s office answer to Warren Jeff’s brother Lyle, an FLDS bishop.
All this is very different from Barlow’s testimony during a trial earlier this year in a related case. Testifying for the defense in Ronald and Jinjer Cooke’s fair-housing case against the towns, Barlow said that the church did not control the marshal’s office and otherwise denied the charges to which he admitted in April.
“Marshal Barlow has now confessed under oath that he lied about all of these things, and that he did it all for the FLDS Church,” Horne’s motion to reopen the evidentiary record in the case states.
The AG’s office filed that motion in Phoenix along with a proposed form of judgment seeking “the disbandment of the Colorado City, Arizona/Hildale, Utah Marshal’s Office and the appointment of a federal monitor over municipal functions and services.”
“Marshal Barlow also confessed that the FLDS Church played an active role in selecting who would attend the police academy,” the motion states.
Barlow’s admissions come after he has hired a criminal lawyer and received immunity from Horne’s office and the Department of Justice, according the motion.
“The disbandment of the Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office is necessary and appropriate because this police department has operated for decades, and continues to operate, as the de facto law enforcement arm of the FLDS Church,” Horne said in a statement Tuesday.
This is not Horne’s first attempt to take control of the towns’ police force. He has long supported legislation that would allow the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department to police the towns, but state lawmakers have rejected it three times.
“Marshal Barlow’s admissions of perjury and other sworn post-trial confessions about the FLDS-controlled, discriminatory operations of the Marshal’s Office and its officers also reveal and corroborate the decades-old, still ongoing, and all-encompassing control the FLDS Church exercises over Defendants’ critical services and employees – control so corrupt it encourages police officers to engage in criminal conduct, abuse their arrest and prosecutorial powers, and to violate the civil rights of those persons the FLDS Church considers its enemies,” the motion states. “The evidence of such deeply engrained discriminatory intent and religious control over municipal operations proves that the disbandment of the Marshal’s Office and the other injunctive relief sought by the State is necessary to ensure the protection of housing rights that have been violated by the Defendants for so long.”
Colorado City’s attorney Jeffrey Matura did not respond to a request for comment.
In a “Notice Regarding Witness Trial Testimony” filed last week, Matura informed the court that “On April 22, 2014, Helaman Barlow testified in a deposition in a separate lawsuit filed against the Defendants by the United States of America, and his testimony during that deposition was inconsistent with the testimony he provided during the trial in this case.”
A federal jury awarded the Cookes $5.2 million in March after finding that town officials had for years denied them water and power because they are not members of the FLDS. The Cookes announced last month that they had settled their remaining personal claims with the defendants. The federal government’s case against the towns is ongoing.
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