Under Siege

Polygamists are barricading their homes in the midst of mounting legal assaults by authorities

Last spring, in the wake of the Colorado City teachers' paychecks bouncing, the Arizona Legislature passed the receivership bill, giving the AG and the state Board of Education the power to seize financially failing school districts.

Then came a new wrinkle, which demonstrates that even those who have been disenfranchised by the fundamentalist church are resentful of outsiders.

Now that the state finally has the power to remove FLDS members from key school district positions, Centennial Park residents -- worried that a school district takeover would be a step toward the state's ending polygamy, which they also practice -- now claim that the school board and administrators are getting unfairly attacked.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith
Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists are building imposing walls around the perimeter of their homes in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.
Mark Folkerson
Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists are building imposing walls around the perimeter of their homes in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.

"Suddenly people are defending the school district," Michele Chatwin says. "They are saying the horrible AG is coming. Now, all of our concerns about the district's financial operations are being swept aside because the district is under attack."

New Times interviewed several teachers and staff members outside the school recently. None would give his name, and most expressed skepticism that anything positive would come out of the state's intervention.

One middle-aged man, who sat in a van with a teenage girl, concluded that the AG's action has "all been trumped up by the media."

Underage girls coerced into "celestial marriages" with much older men are not the only ones exploited by the FLDS.

Boys who grow up in Colorado City and Hildale are also victimized. In fact, two lawsuits filed in 2004 by young FLDS men have delivered the most powerful blow yet to the fundamentalist church.

Named as a defendant in the suits, Prophet Warren Jeffs did not respond to their allegations. His Salt Lake City attorney, Rodney Parker, withdrew from the cases last December.

Jeffs' failure to defend himself led to his removal as president of the United Effort Plan trust last June. That is when the Utah state court appointed Bruce Wisan as special fiduciary of the trust.

The fact that Jeffs failed to show up in court -- or even respond to the suits -- cost the prophet a fortune.

The UEP trust controls more than $100 million in businesses and real estate in Colorado City, Hildale and Crestone, British Columbia (the site of another FLDS enclave).

Jeffs' control of the trust not only provided him access to the millions of dollars in real estate and property, it gave him legal dictatorial power over FLDS members living on land owned by the UEP. Any FLDS member residing on UEP land who dared to question Jeffs could be legally evicted from his home. With that often came banishment from the community and forfeiture of his wives and children -- not to mention eternal damnation.

As for the lawsuits, one alleges that Jeffs sodomized his nephew when he was a little boy.

Brent Jeffs, now 21, maintains in his July 2004 suit in a Utah state court that Warren Jeffs sodomized him when he was 5 and 6 years old.

Brent Jeffs accuses Warren and two other uncles -- Blaine Jeffs and Leslie Jeffs -- of raping him repeatedly in the basement of Alta Academy, an FLDS school in Salt Lake City where Warren was then principal.

The suit offers a chilling narrative of what allegedly transpired:

"On repeated occasions the Jeffs Brothers would enter the basement room where the children were located, find [Brent Jeffs], and instruct him to come to a nearby lavatory. While in the lavatory, the Jeffs Brothers confronted [Brent] and instructed him to remove his clothes. After [Brent] undressed himself, one or more of the three defendants told him that it was God's will that he submit to them. The Jeffs Brothers would take turns forcing their erect penises into [Brent's] anus.

"Warren Jeffs told [Brent] that these sodomizing activities were a way for [Brent] to become 'a man.' Warren Jeffs admonished [Brent] that it was God's will that [Brent] not tell anyone -- particularly his parents -- about said activities."

In fact, Warren Jeffs said Brent would be cast into hell if he revealed what was going on, the suit contends.

Warren Jeffs, the suit claims, had been committing assaults on young boys since he was 14 years old.

Despite Warren's admonitions, complaints that Warren and his brothers were raping young boys did reach FLDS leaders, including Warren's late father, Rulon Jeffs, FLDS Prophet at the time. The suit says these complaints were ignored, thereby allowing Warren to portray himself to the community as a "chaste" and "honorable" religious leader.

Brent Jeffs, the suit states, decided to break his silence in the aftermath of the January 2002 suicide of his brother, Clayne, who also was sexually assaulted by the three Jeffses.

In the other suit, filed in August 2004 in a Utah state court, more than a dozen young men allege that Warren Jeffs and FLDS leaders forced them to leave town to reduce competition for wives in the polygamist society.

The suit alleges that Jeffs and FLDS leaders reduced the male population in the communities by "systematically expelling young males" from Colorado City and Hildale.

While he was avoiding the lawsuits, Jeffs ordered the transfer of valuable UEP assets to FLDS insiders to shield the land and property from possible monetary judgments, according to pleadings filed by lawyers representing Brent Jeffs and the young men expelled from the enclave.

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