Politics Over Principle

Napolitano and Goddard exhibit cowardly conduct in the polygamy probe

As for the difficulty of getting testimony from women indoctrinated from birth to be subservient to all men . . . no question. But Shurtleff managed to get a conviction of FLDS member and Colorado City police officer Rodney Holm, who lives in Hildale, by a jury of Holm's peers. Holm's third wife, who bore him two children before she turned 18, testified against the cop, and he was convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor. His sentencing was scheduled for October 10, a day after this edition of New Times hit the streets.

Several people close to the polygamy investigation on both sides of the state line accused Goddard and Napolitano of playing politics with the lives of the young females trapped in the fundamentalist world. Despite the fact that far more abuse victims live on the Arizona side of the Mormon enclave, they noted, the AG and governor are doing little more than hanging on to Shurtleff's tow rope.

Shurtleff didn't answer directly when I asked him if he thinks Goddard and Napolitano are water-skiing behind him -- letting him take all the political risks in Mormon-dominated Utah, before taking any real action on this side of the state border. But he used the question as an opportunity to relate an interesting story.

Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Governor Janet Napolitano.
Governor Janet Napolitano.

He and Goddard recently met with public officials in the Colorado City-Hildale area and talked with local law enforcement about a legal strategy for dealing with the widespread abuses by the polygamists. "Do you know who Dan Barlow is?" Shurtleff asked, referring to the mayor of Colorado City and a major polygamist leader. "Well, when Terry came up here, Dan Barlow picked him up at the airport and shuttled him around the area."

The Utah AG said Barlow, whose family members have been among a chosen few running things in the fundamentalist society for decades, had been bragging before the visit that he and Goddard were friends. "I asked Terry about that later," Shurtleff related, "and he said they had gotten to know each other when he was mayor of Phoenix."

Critics claim Shurtleff's only interested in busting polygamists as a steppingstone to the governor's office, but he seems to be making more enemies than friends in high places in Utah. He said he has gotten no public backing from mainstream Mormons in the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (or LDS). "The church hasn't issued a statement of public support," he said, wryly. "Every now and then, somebody [from within the church hierarchy] will tell me privately they are behind me, but pretty much [polygamy's] treated as a dirty little secret [in Utah]."

He said the Utah legislature and governor have been generally supportive of his efforts. "But I really don't care what anybody thinks. I couldn't sleep at night if we didn't do something about [the predatory behavior] against women and children that we're told is going on. You don't know the half of it."

Shurtleff's not admitting to any aspirations for higher office, but he said he takes heart in the guilty verdict in the Holm case as an indication of grassroots support for his crusade.

When I talked to him, he was in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he was trying to persuade Geoff Plant, the province's attorney general, to get tough on polygs in the BC outback. Shurtleff wants Plant to help him stop the shuttling back and forth of young girls between the polygamous community of Bountiful, British Columbia, and the Colorado City-Hildale area. "They're trading these girls," Shurtleff said. (The idea, our New Times stories have pointed out, is to freshen up the breeding stock.) He also planned to talk to Winston Blackmore, fundamentalist bishop of Bountiful, about testifying against FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs, who just recently ordered church property foreclosed on in the remote Canadian outpost.

"There's dissension between them," said Shurtleff, who makes no secret of his desire to prosecute Jeffs, the spiritual leader of the FLDS faith. "I don't mind saying that I want to bring charges against Warren Jeffs." Utah birth records show that Jeffs, who has more than a dozen wives, is the father of children from at least two mothers who appear to have been impregnated prior to their 18th birthdays.

"We've been trying to serve subpoenas for records on [Jeffs] at his compound [in Hildale], but so far we haven't been able to get past the barricades," he said, adding that members of the God Squad, an armed force of zealots that protect the prophet, have been confronting his agents as a scare tactic.

"They aren't so much trying to scare us as they are trying to scare the [female victims] in the community by showing them how they are standing up to law enforcement," Shurtleff said.

"Mark Shurtleff is taking the bull by the horns," said a source close to the investigation of Colorado City that was initiated by Napolitano when she was AG and has gone next to nowhere. "Terry Goddard is looking at going after the polygamists on the school front. That they have misused state money. But I don't think that will even happen until he and Janet see what comes of Shurtleff's investigation. They're letting that do-gooder take the heat so they don't have to."

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