Cover-Up (Arizona Attorney General internal memo)

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

"Among his recent edicts are the trafficking in girls and young women with more favored males in the city, the preparation of the townsfolk for a mass lifting up' in the community garden in the center of town and the removal of some 830 children from the public school, an order given in the summer of 2000," the special investigation's memo states.

The memo also alludes to a massive arsenal that is being built up in the community to defend the town from a long-anticipated battle with law enforcement.

"Reports from escaped women and other so-called apostates' reveal the FLDS men of the community to be armed with light battlefield weaponry, including grenade launchers," the memo states. "They are said to welcome an apocalypse.'"

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the center of life in the community.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the center of life in the community.
After three years of solitary confinement, Flora Jessop fled Colorado City when she was 16 years old. She was punished for alleging that her father had raped her repeatedly. Now 32, Jessop assists others seeking to leave the community.
Emily Piraino
After three years of solitary confinement, Flora Jessop fled Colorado City when she was 16 years old. She was punished for alleging that her father had raped her repeatedly. Now 32, Jessop assists others seeking to leave the community.

The Attorney General's Office has received 13 complaints over the last two years, the memo states. The most recent is from Stephanie Lynn Olsen.

On April 16, 2002, Olsen sent a letter begging Napolitano to take action.

"Please help the women and children trapped in Colorado City," her letter begins.

Olsen's letter states she is in hiding in Mesa and "in fear for my life."

Her letter describes a terrifying ordeal that began after she complained to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office in October 2000 concerning the rape of her 15-year-old cousin by a member of the powerful Jessop family in Colorado City.

Upon her return to Colorado City, Olsen states in her letter to Napolitano that she, too, was severely beaten and raped.

"I don't have my front teeth anymore," she states.

The letter states that Olsen left her two children in Colorado City and that she fears they are being punished.

"Their father is my uncle," her letter states.

Olsen states in her letter and affidavit filed with the Attorney General's Office that she has not been contacted by the Mohave County law enforcement officials since she left Kingman on October 17, 2000.

The internal investigations memo briefly mentions Olsen's complaint and simply notes she is remaining quiet.

"It is our understanding that Stephanie Lynn Olsen is avoiding the press," it states.

The Attorney General's Office has also received 20 administrative investigations from Child Protective Services and the office of Children, Youth and Families. The office has also received notice of criminal actions from Mohave County on three occasions.

Despite the mounting evidence of serious ongoing child abuse, the Attorney General's Office has taken a hands-off approach.

"We have declined to prosecute on the grounds that the case must first be prosecuted at the county level," the memo states.

The memo warns, however, that the attorney general "acts in a supervisory capacity in terms of county attorneys," implying that the office can take action if Mohave County fails to enforce the law.

Records show Mohave County has been lax in prosecuting child abuse allegations coming out of Colorado City. And when the county does take action, the penalties are lenient.

Last spring, Dan Barlow Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse after being charged with molesting his five daughters. He received a suspended 120-day sentence and was released after serving only 13 days in jail. He was ordered to register as a sex offender and must serve 500 hours of community service.

The case began last December when Barlow's wife and 17-year-old daughter described to Colorado City police a pattern of sexual abuse that began when the daughter was 15 or 16 years old, according to press accounts of the trial.

Additional interviews revealed that Barlow had allegedly molested four other daughters over a long period, including a 13-year-old daughter. But prior to trial, four of the five daughters declined to testify against their father, who is the son of longtime Colorado City mayor Dan Barlow Sr.

While the Attorney General's Office can avoid prosecuting street crime cases that are typically handled at the county level, the memo states that criminal allegations involving the Department of Economic Security are far harder to ignore.

"AG jurisdiction involving DES function appears to be unavoidable," the memo states.

There are plenty of indications that there are grounds to take action.

"Welfare fraud in Colorado City is widespread," the memo states. "Polygamous wives and mothers, many underage, are assisted as single individuals."

Mohave County officials estimate that Colorado City gets about $8 in services of every tax dollar paid. The average elsewhere in the county is $1.25.

"Inescapably taxpayers have ended up in support of this cult's lifestyle," the memo states before concluding that the attorney general has the responsibility to enforce welfare laws.

"Our jurisdiction in the disposition of state and federal funds through state offices is obvious," the memo states.

The Attorney General's Office is also responsible for enforcing the state Constitution -- which outlaws polygamy.

Outlawed or not, there is tacit support for plural marriages from even mainstream members of the Mormon Church, the AG memo asserts. The Mormon Church banned polygamy in the 1890s as a condition of Utah's statehood. But the ban wasn't accepted by more conservative members of the church, who continued the patterns in remote enclaves, mostly in Utah and Arizona.

"Mainline Mormon ambivalence stems from the fact that multiple wifery is one of the eternal principles' of Mormonism," the memo states. "Having multiple wives prepares men for celestial status."

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