Eyes Wide Shut

From Governor Janet Napolitano down, Arizona authorities have protected polygamous sexual predators with their indifference

What this says is that the incest in the Johnson family spread across at least two generations and involved at least nine family members.

At the time of his sentencing, Jeremiah Johnson couldn't explain his actions.

"I don't know what made it all happen," he wrote in a letter to the court. Referring to his sisters, he added, "I know now that I have indeed hurt them for life."

Napolitano's ignorance of the law regarding polygamy suggests to activists that she will do nothing to stop polygamists from sexually abusing young girls.
Fred Harper
Napolitano's ignorance of the law regarding polygamy suggests to activists that she will do nothing to stop polygamists from sexually abusing young girls.
Colorado City polygamists have 
thrived in their remote enclave beneath Canaan Mountain about 240 miles by 
highway from Mohave County’s administrative center in Kingman. Prominent polygamists live in huge homes, lower left, that house plural “wives” and children.
John Dougherty
Colorado City polygamists have thrived in their remote enclave beneath Canaan Mountain about 240 miles by highway from Mohave County’s administrative center in Kingman. Prominent polygamists live in huge homes, lower left, that house plural “wives” and children.

In the Pocket of Polygs

Mohave County Attorney Bill Ekstrom has enjoyed a long, cordial history with Colorado City polygamists.

Ekstrom has been successfully courting votes from the community since 1979, when he first became county attorney just a couple of years out of law school.

"I've gone up there and handed out candy to the children," he says. The distribution of sweets helps him get permission from town leaders to put up campaign signs in the community. Colorado City historically has bloc-voted for candidates mandated by religious leaders.

So while Ekstrom delivers a tough-on-crime spiel to reporters, his office has repeatedly offered Colorado City sex offenders lenient plea bargains that allow them to avoid lengthy prison terms.

Ekstrom also has made it clear that he is not going to be peeking into anyone's bedrooms to see if underage girls have become the concubines of polygamous husbands through FLDS-sponsored "spiritual marriages."

The county attorney is up-front that he has no interest in charging anyone with polygamy-related crimes such as the unlawful cohabitation of multiple adults.

When that comes up, he quickly changes the subject to the down-home aspects of Colorado City. He expresses admiration for such small-town eccentricities as the dairy farm in the middle of town and the community's Mayberry-like July 4 parade.

Ekstrom says he has been assured by one of the FLDS' high officials, former Colorado City police officer Sam Barlow, that underage girls are no longer being thrust into polygamous marriages. Ekstrom claims to have warned Barlow, himself a polygamist, that if such marriages are continuing, Mohave County is prepared to file charges.

"I told him face-to-face, if this happens, that these are cases we are going to prosecute," Ekstrom says. "If there is a relationship between an adult who is 10 years older than a person, say 17, I'm going to assume it's predatory. That's our policy."

It's easy for Ekstrom -- who ran unopposed in the 2002 election -- to remain blissfully ignorant about the rampant sexual abuses in the town and maintain to outsiders that he has issued stern warnings to religious leaders like Barlow. After all, how can Ekstrom -- whose office is not about to go out and look for trouble -- know about sexual abuse in the community unless the polygamist-controlled Colorado City police force finds out about it and tells his investigators?

And the fact is, the Colorado City Police Department has never on its own referred a single case to Ekstrom's office of an underage girl being sexually abused in a plural marriage with a polygamist.

Look no further than the Rodney Holm case for an example of how local cops ignore even the most obvious violations of the law. Holm, a police officer, entered into a spiritual marriage with a minor. But instead of referring the case to prosecutors in Utah where Holm and his wives live -- as they were duty bound to do -- Holm's fellow Colorado City officers kept it quiet.

The Utah Attorney General's Office found out about the situation and filed charges against Holm only after the underage wife, Ruth Stubbs, fled and filed her child-custody case in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The Holm case has sparked polygamy critics to demand that the Colorado City Police Department be disbanded and its duties taken over by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office along with Washington County, Utah, law enforcement.

"Is it not time to withdraw certification from these so-called public-safety officials, most of whom are non-indicted felons engaging in illegal practices?" asks Bob Curran, director of Help the Child Brides, a nonprofit organization based in St. George, Utah.

Ironically, the department already is prohibited from carrying out law enforcement duties in Utah -- but not because of its malfeasance regarding polygamy. Seems that all 10 full- and part- time Colorado City police officers -- including chief Roundy -- let their certifications with the Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training board lapse as of June 30.

Because Arizona has less stringent continuing-education requirements, the Colorado City officers remain certified south of the state line.

If history is any guide, however, the result of the officers not being sanctioned to investigate wrongdoing in Utah has little bearing on the plight of young sexual-abuse victims on either side of the state border. The dozen teenage abuse cases originating on the Arizona side in the last decade came about because religious leaders notified local police of whatever wrongdoing they were willing to divulge. (None of the cases the FLDS let out of the bag stemmed from an underage girl marrying into polygamy.)

The area elders also haven't been willing to divulge any wrongdoing related to sexual abuse in underage marriages in Utah, records in the Washington County Attorney's Office show.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...