Longform

Under Siege

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The plaintiffs' request for removing the UEP trustees led to the Arizona and Utah attorneys general intervening in the cases.

Both states supported removal of the FLDS trustees. A Utah state court in June stripped Jeffs and other FLDS leaders of their trusteeships and appointed Wisan as special fiduciary. The FLDS prophet's ironclad control over the UEP trust -- which started 63 years ago with the ownership of a few acres and grew to a $100 million empire -- was over.

Wisan immediately initiated legal action to at least temporarily stop the sale of the Western Precision property and the 1,300 acres of ranch land to FLDS insiders. A Utah state court is scheduled to consider the disposition of the property later this year.

The bigger problem for Wisan, though, will be raising the more than $1 million in property taxes from FLDS families in Colorado City and Hildale after Warren Jeffs has ordered FLDS faithful not to cooperate with him.

Wisan says he hopes the taxes will be paid. But if they are not, what will tax officials do to collect the levies?

Some authorities suspect that the potential for a property tax boycott is one reason the walls have gone up around homes in the fundamentalist towns, though it would be years before the property could be seized for non-payment.

Short of eventual seizures, attempting to get past those walls and collect the taxes in person could be difficult and potentially dangerous for county officials.


Despite no longer being in legal control of the United Effort Plan and its assets, FLDS leaders have continued to oversee the demolition of UEP-owned buildings and the evictions of dissidents from UEP-owned houses.

And the Colorado City Marshal's Office, the local police force, has been right there to enforce the orders of Warren Jeffs and his lieutenants.

In one instance, Colorado City police did not obtain a court order before proceeding with a July 24 eviction.

They arrested the occupant of the home, Andrew Chatwin, on trespassing charges, and the local cops then assisted FLDS members in removing the personal property of Chatwin and his family from the house.

FLDS members spent several days rebuilding the interior of the house to "purify" it for an occupant approved by the prophet. In church theology, Chatwin is the worst kind of sinner -- someone who has willingly left the church after receiving its teachings and baptism. Such defectors, along with those kicked out of the church by FLDS leaders, are called apostates.

"They started working on the house at 12:30 that night and they stayed on it three days until they moved somebody else in," Chatwin says.

City-owned garbage trucks were dispatched to the site to haul away debris ripped from the UEP-owned structure.

Chatwin says the FLDS routinely moves families out of houses without the permission of Wisan, the court-ordered legal fiduciary of the UEP trust.

His eviction, Chatwin says, proves that UEP trustees have no intention of submitting to their court-ordered removal.

That the Colorado City cops are helping the ousted UEP trustees enforce their mandates is no surprise. They have long put religious rules ahead of civil law.

For instance, the local police force traditionally brushes aside complaints of incest and rape, court and police records show.

After decades of inaction, Arizona law enforcement officials are attempting to rein in the renegade Colorado City department by stripping polygamist officers of their state law enforcement certifications.

Two Colorado City policemen, including longtime Chief of Police Sam Roundy, are expected to have their Arizona police certifications rescinded for violating their oath to uphold the Arizona Constitution.

Neither man appeared at hearings before the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board recently. A formal vote of the AZ POST to strip them of the police certifications is expected next month.

The Arizona Constitution bans polygamy. Roundy and Officer Vance Barlow each has three wives and more than 20 children. Both already had been stripped of their police certifications in Utah because they are bigamists.

Roundy told Utah police that he knew Ruth Stubbs was fellow officer Rodney Holm's plural wife and that he knew the underage girl was pregnant. He said he considered the marriage legitimate because Stubbs' father had given permission.

"I thought everything was hunky-dory," Roundy told a Utah investigator during an October 2004 interview.

Rather than decertifying polygamist cops a couple at a time, Arizona Attorney General Goddard says he is seeking ways to eliminate or greatly reduce the powers of the Colorado City police department. Goddard last month asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Colorado City police because of repeated civil rights violations.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty