Cover-Up (Arizona Attorney General internal memo)

Arizona faces a "Waco-level" threat from Mormon fundamentalists.

Johnson says he has been told of repeated instances of underage girls being forced into marriage, child abuse, child labor law violations, welfare fraud, rapes, assaults and mental cruelty. Young boys are also abused, he says. Boys who are deemed to be unruly and who will not follow church doctrine are dumped onto the streets of Salt Lake City to fend for themselves, he says.

"It's going to take the attorney general or the federal government to go do an investigation so they [church leaders] don't hide behind jurisdictional issues," he says.

Napolitano did not return New Times calls on Monday seeking an interview. Pati Urias, the Attorney General's Office spokeswoman, says the office is "well aware of accusations of criminal activity in this closed community."

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson has been pressing for Attorney General Janet Napolitano to conduct a thorough criminal investigation of numerous allegations of child abuse, forced marriages and welfare fraud.
Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson has been pressing for Attorney General Janet Napolitano to conduct a thorough criminal investigation of numerous allegations of child abuse, forced marriages and welfare fraud.
Colorado City houses are unusually large to make room for families that frequently have a half-dozen or so wives and scores of children. Women fleeing the community say many of the homes are subsidized through massive welfare payments.
Colorado City houses are unusually large to make room for families that frequently have a half-dozen or so wives and scores of children. Women fleeing the community say many of the homes are subsidized through massive welfare payments.

Urias says that Napolitano has met with the Utah attorney general "to discuss joint prosecution of multi-state crimes along the Arizona-Utah border."

Prosecuting crimes in isolated communities such as Colorado City is problematic, Urias says.

"Successful investigations result from being able to get firsthand witnesses to substantiate allegations, which . . . is difficult to get in closed communities or among fringe groups," Urias says.

At least one credible witness, however, has presented detailed information to the attorney general investigators during the last year.

Flora Jessop was born and raised in Colorado City. Her father, Joseph Jessop, has two wives who produced 28 children. Her uncle, Fred Jessop, is one of the top FLDS officials.

Inspired by her grandmother, Flora says she stood up against the sexual abuse at her father's hands.

When she was 13 years old, she says she pressed sexual assault charges against her father in St. George, Utah.

The case was dismissed, she says, after she saw her father give the judge $4,000 in cash.

Upon her return to Colorado City, Flora says she was confined into one room of a house where she lived by herself for the next three years. During this period, she was beaten on several occasions.

"They were trying to break my spirit. What they did was kill all my emotions," she says.

She finally managed to escape the community when she was 16. She says church members tried to forcibly bring her back to the community for the next five years.

"When I left there, I didn't care about anything. I didn't care whether I lived or I died. It didn't make any difference to me," she says.

Finally, she broke free. Now 32, Flora is married and lives in Phoenix with her husband and 11-year-old daughter.

She credits her freedom to her grandmother, who was her best friend growing up. She says her grandmother, who married into the FLDS, told her to remember she had self-worth.

"Having self-worth is something unknown to the women and children up there," Flora says.

Sexual abuse, she says, remains widespread throughout the community, just as it was when she was growing up.

"I don't know of one household where sexual abuse was not taking place," she says.

Flora maintains close contact with the community and assists young women trying to flee. She's pressed the Attorney General's Office and federal officials, including U.S. Representatives John Shadegg and J.D. Hayworth, and Senator John McCain, to help her get her 13-year-old sister out of the community after the sister had been raped.

No one has helped, she says.

Flora says she's particularly frustrated with the Attorney General's Office.

"I'm so disgusted with that stupid office. I can't even deal with them anymore," she says.

Jessop tells New Times she has never been asked to testify before a grand jury by the Attorney General's Office -- an opportunity she says she would quickly accept.

During several interviews with attorney general investigators, Jessop says she provided them a list of underage girls who have been forced into marriages. Some of the girls have been transferred across the Canadian border, where the FLDS has another colony in Bountiful, British Columbia.

"They routinely trade across the Canadian border with the commune up there," Flora Jessop says. "They take girls from down here and ship them up there to marry men and bring girls from up there down here."

The Attorney General's Office official depiction of limited information also stands in sharp contrast to its own special investigations memo, which warns that there is very high potential for a blood bath in Colorado City.

"Arizona has a Waco-level problem in Colorado City," the memo states.

"The community of 8,000 residents is in the control of a fundamentalist Mormon cult . . . that practices polygamy, engages in violence and subjugation of women and children, and is ruled by a prophet' whose sexual behavior (at least in the past) and predictions of apocalypse are similar to those of David Koresh of the Branch Davidians."

The prophet, 92-year-old Rulon Jeffs, died on September 8. A power struggle to assume control of tens of millions of dollars' worth of assets in addition to dictatorial power as the leader of the cult is now under way in Colorado City and the adjoining polygamous town of Hildale, Utah.

The heir apparent is Warren Jeffs, who has been ruling the religious communities the last several years after his father became incapacitated. Jeffs has steadily increased the fundamentalist doctrine imposed on the community members.

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