Eyes Wide Shut

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

Neither Barton nor Jeffs returned phone calls seeking comment.

At the time of the assaults, Dutson lived in a polygamous household with his stepfather, mother, his stepfather's two additional wives and 24 children. The girls he assaulted were the daughters of one of his stepfather's plural wives.

Barton says in the letter that Dutson's behavior had become well-known in the community, including to police, yet no one did anything.

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.

"I have heard that many others in the community, including some affiliated with law enforcement, became aware of Todd's conduct and chose to do nothing to protect the girls from further victimization or to assist Todd in correcting his inappropriate conduct," Barton's letter states.

It was only after Dutson became enamored of a girl from a prominent Colorado City family in April 2002 that "the community decided to begin a criminal investigation" into his past activities, Barton states in his letter.

While Barton expressed serious concern over the conduct of religious leaders and local police in failing to aggressively pursue criminal behavior, he felt that Dutson was largely a victim of his polygamous environment.

Barton asked Judge Weiss for leniency, citing Dutson's willingness to admit to wrongdoing and seek counseling.

In this case, Dutson naturally received no letters of support from church elders. He had committed the sin of seeking a romance that didn't meet with FLDS approval.

Unlike in the Dan Barlow Jr. case, where Mohave County prosecutors agreed to drop four of the five felony charges in exchange for a plea, Dutson was only offered a reduction in the severity of both felony counts. As a result, he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child molestation.

Judge Weiss then sentenced the 20-year-old -- who committed the crimes while a juvenile -- to six months in county jail and 10 years' probation. Dan Barlow Jr., the 52-year-old son of Colorado City's mayor, got less than two weeks in the Arizona case.

"The judge hit him pretty hard for the first time," says Lyman Dutson, Todd's father. "That's because he didn't have the right last name."

State Bust in '50s FailedThe ongoing sexual exploitation of minors in Colorado City is nothing new.

Older men have been taking teenage plural "wives" for generations. The marriages are considered essential to the fundamentalist Mormon religious practice that requires a man to have at least three wives to reach the highest levels of a complex heaven called the celestial kingdom.

Drawing on the practice of Old Testament prophets having multiple wives, fundamentalists have expanded the concept to include New Testament figures, including Jesus, who they claim was a polygamist who had many children.

The plural wives have no legal right to community property generated by the earthly marriage. Their goal can only be the afterlife, where the religion says righteous men and women will become gods and goddesses and reign over a multitude of planets that will be populated by their progeny.

The founders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that controls Colorado City and Hildale today split off from the main Salt Lake City-based Mormon church in the late 1880s over the issue of polygamy.

Congress was refusing to grant Utah statehood unless the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) renounced polygamy -- which was introduced as a central tenet of the Mormon religion by church founder Joseph Smith in 1843, and put into common practice by Smith's successor, Brigham Young.

The Mormon church leadership under the direction of president Wilford Woodruff disavowed polygamy in 1890 -- months after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law that disenfranchised the church and threatened to destroy the religion. A large number of Mormon faithful, however, continued to practice polygamy, believing God's law as given through "Prophet" Joseph Smith was superior to civil law.

Some of the polygamist renegades from the mother church eventually gravitated to the Utah-Arizona state line and settled a remote outpost called Short Creek. The mainstream Mormon church to this day officially opposes polygamy and claims to have excommunicated all members who practice it.

In the early 1930s, Mohave County authorities arrested several Short Creek leaders on unlawful cohabitation charges. Two men were sentenced to 18 months in prison in 1935. Upon their release, they returned to the area. The community continued to grow.

On July 26, 1953, former governor Howard Pyle directed a secretly financed, predawn raid on Short Creek. The governor declared the community was in a state of insurrection and sent more than 100 state troopers to arrest all the men in town and remove about 40 women and 160 children.

The raid came after authorities learned that in the previous five years about 20 young girls between the ages of 11 and 15 had entered into polygamous marriages with much older men, according to a statement written in 1954 by Charles Adams, then Mohave County's chief probation officer.

Twenty-six men later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy to commit unlawful cohabitation and were sentenced by a Mohave County Superior Court judge to one year on probation.

The women and children were placed under the protective custody of the juvenile court in Phoenix. After a series of hearings, two judges found that the children were endangered by their home surroundings in Short Creek and were to remain wards of the court. The children and mothers were assigned to Mormon families scattered across the state.

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