Trial of Fundamentalist Towns Wrapping Up

PHOENIX (CN) – Attorneys for twin towns in Arizona and Utah accused of denying basic services to residents who do not belong to a fundamentalist Mormon sect wrapped up their defense Tuesday with testimony from their chief marshal.
     The Department of Justice sued Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah in 2012, accusing them of denying police protection, housing and water to residents who do not belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sect’s leader, Warren Jeffs, is serving life plus 20 years in a Texas prison for sexually abusing two girls he called his “spiritual wives.”
     At trial Tuesday, Hildale’s attorney Blake Hamilton asked Colorado City Chief Marshal Jerry Darger about the Justice Department’s that his office selectively enforces laws against non-FLDS members. The Colorado City Marshal’s Office serves both Colorado City and Hildale.
     “The Marshal’s Office strives to protect everyone’s constitutional rights,” Darger told the jury. “I have no knowledge of any instances where the Marshal’s Office violated anybody’s constitutional rights.”
     Darger said he joined the Marshal’s Office as a deputy in March 2009 after seeing an ad in the Post Office. He filled out an application, but was not interviewed before the City Council hired him, he said.
     Department of Justice attorney Matthew Donnelly asked Darger if he had been hired because his father and brother, David, were city employees and may have asked church leaders to have his job application approved.
     David Darger, Colorado City manager, claimed in his testimony in February that he was a victim of religious discrimination by the Justice Department.
     “You’re misleading the jury,” Jerry Darger told Donnelly. “I filled out an application and was approved by the City Council.”
     Donnelly asked Darger about a number of alleged deficiencies in the Marshal’s Office’s training of deputies.
     “The field training at the Marshal’s Office was not standardized,” Darger acknowledged. But he said he has collected training information from other law enforcement agencies and has begun a field training program.
     “There was a sign-off sheet and some ride-alongs,” Darger told the jury. “There was not enough.”
     Darger testified that he left the FLDS church in February 2012, the same time another Marshal’s Office employee – Sgt. Sam Johnson – said he left the church, and around the time the Justice Department filed its religious discrimination lawsuit.
     “It is just a pure coincidence that both of you stopped being a member at the same time?” Donnelly asked.
     “I claim the privilege of worshiping my God,” Darger said. “My beliefs are my beliefs.”
     Helaman Barlow, the former chief marshal, testified in February that the Marshal’s Office hired deputies from the FLDS church’s security force. Church security, sometimes referred to as the “God Squad,” is said to monitor current and former members of the church and keep an eye out for outside law enforcement.
     Darger on Tuesday denied having any knowledge of church security.
     “Obviously, they have people who watch their doors,” Darger said. “I think [the term ‘God Squad’] is repulsive to the dignity of our God.”
     The jury was expected to begin deliberations Wednesday after closing arguments.

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