Eyes Wide Shut

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

The custody ruling, however, was overturned on appeal in 1955 after the defendants successfully argued that the juvenile court had prevented defense attorneys from representing them during certain proceedings. The appeal was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court. Most of the women and children soon returned to Short Creek.

The self-described legal "blunder" during the custody proceedings by Mohave County Judge J.W. Faulkner put an end to the state's legal effort to dislodge the polygamists.

Faulkner, who played a crucial role in planning the raid with Governor Pyle, predicted that the appeals court's decision would severely set back efforts to end sexual abuse resulting from polygamy. "[This] will inevitably give new life to the cause of polygamy, and prolong the fight for another fifty years," Faulkner wrote after retiring in 1955.

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.

Legal issues aside, the Short Creek raid generated massive negative publicity stemming from the clandestine nature of the arrests combined with photographs of fathers being forcefully separated from their wives and children. The publicity doomed Pyle's political career.

No Arizona political leader has since directly addressed the issue of underage marriages among Arizona polygamists.

In the last 20 years, two former Arizona governors, Democrat Bruce Babbitt and Republican J. Fife Symington III, publicly assured fundamentalist Mormon leaders that the state would not interfere with their unique religious lifestyle.

Short Creek had been renamed Colorado City in 1963, and Arizona endorsed the incorporation of the town in 1985 when Babbitt was governor. The state action came despite the fact that most of the land in the community is owned by a trust controlled by the FLDS. The church can thereby control the assets of the community, charging rent on some property and allowing church faithful to build houses on some of it. The caveat is that citizens can never take title to the homes on church land and can be evicted at any time by FLDS leaders.

The state of Arizona, records show, has become a major contributor to the FLDS collective. Arizona now pours more than $10 million a year into welfare programs, $5 million to the public schools and $1.1 million in other assistance to the town. Utah is pouring millions of dollars into welfare programs to take care of FLDS polygamists living in Hildale.

There is virtually no outside oversight of how this money is spent. On the Arizona side of the state line, local oversight comes in the form of a polygamist-controlled Colorado City town council, whose membership has not changed since its first councilmen were appointed by Mohave County supervisors in 1985. No incumbent has ever faced an election challenge. Hildale, Utah, meanwhile, has had the same mayor for nearly 20 years, and its town council includes Fred Jessop, bishop of the FLDS, who is second in command to Prophet Warren Jeffs. Both councils, sources say, report directly to religious leaders such as Jessop and the Prophet.

New Times' investigation into Colorado City uncovered widespread financial irregularities within its school district, including misuse of credit cards and state vehicles, salary discrimination (non-FLDS workers generally are paid less), an exorbitant number of employees, conversion of public school space to church-run private schools and the questionable purchase of a $220,000 airplane flown by the school board president's son (both father and son are FLDS loyalists).

As a result of New Times' earlier stories, Tom Horne, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, last month asked the state auditor general to conduct a formal financial and performance audit of the Colorado City school district.

Most of the Colorado City-area teachers, along with police, school board members and town council members, are polygamists. They were all required to swear an oath to uphold the Arizona Constitution at the time they assumed their elected posts or were hired -- and the state Constitution has banned polygamy since 1912.

Yet despite this state constitutional prohibition, the Arizona Legislature has never passed a corresponding criminal statute.

Napolitano Fence SitsNormally well-briefed on subjects that she has agreed to talk about to the press, Governor Napolitano in the interview with New Times neither knew that Article XX of the state Constitution bans polygamy nor that the state has never enacted a law banning it.

Napolitano's apparent unfamiliarity with the legal issues surrounding polygamy makes anti-abuse activists wonder whether she has any intention of taking action to solve the problems in Colorado City. Plus, it is incredible that the governor would be ignorant on a subject that was thrust into the center of the gubernatorial campaign last fall by independent candidate Dick Mahoney.

In a series of commercials in the last month of the campaign that attracted national attention, Mahoney blasted Napolitano for failing to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminal activity in Colorado City. Mahoney based his commercials on documents -- which appeared to have originated in the AG's Office, but in reality were forgeries -- that nonetheless accurately described the horrific conditions in the polygamous area.

Recently, cell phone records from Mahoney's former campaign were linked to the fraudulent documents by the state Department of Public Safety after an investigation. It seems that Napolitano, who won by a small margin, may have wound up getting helped by the ads from the liberal Mahoney, who came in a distant third. The commercials also blasted Republican Matt Salmon, saying he would not work to solve the Colorado City problem because he is a mainstream Mormon. In any case, it was Napolitano who ordered the DPS to conduct the criminal investigation into how the forgeries were leaked to the press. While the bogus material did not come from the AG's Office, its claims of rape, incest, welfare abuse and school fraud by Colorado City polygamists have since been substantiated by New Times.(See earlier stories under "Polygamy in Arizona" at www.phoenixnewtimes.com.)

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