Arizona AG Pleads for Federal Help in Dealing with Polygamists


July 24, 2008

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard went before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to ask for more federal help in dealing with the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, on the Arizona-Utah border.

Goddard told the committee that a partnership between his office and that of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, began in 2003, has made important changes, but "a great deal of work still lies ahead."

He said the polygamist communities of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have existed for years and, ""What has taken a century to build cannot be changed overnight."

Goddard opened his testimony before the committee by emphasizing that the FLDC is not the mainstream Mormon Church, but a branch that emerged after the Mormon Church renounced the practice of polygamy in the early 1900s.

He added, "The work being done by my office in Colorado City is not about religion, culture or lifestyle. Rather, it is about protecting women and children from domestic abuse and sexual violence, combating fraud and public corruption, enforcing civil rights laws."

He noted Arizona and Utah authorities have succeeded in prosecuting FLDC leader Warren Jeffs on charges of forcing underaged women into marriage. Jeffs, convicted in Utah last year, is now in jail at Kingman, Ariz., awaiting trial on felony charges of sexual abuse of a minor.

Goddard said federal involvement is particularly important to determine if the civil rights of the citizens of Colorado City and Hildale have been violated and in tracking business dealings of the FLDS, which extend into several states, Mexico and Canada.

He said he asked the Justice Department in 2005 to investigate the Colorado City Marshal's Office for civil rights violations, but has received no response.

"The Department of Justice could play an important role in this effort," Goddard said. "If the Colorado City-Hildale Marshal's office cannot function as a viable law enforcement agency, perhaps the authority in this area should be assumed by the federal government or the county sheriffs."

Goddard expressed concern that most of the children in the polygamist communities have not attended school for nearly two years. The children were in private FLDS schools until they were closed by the state in September 2006. Goddard said Jeffs reportedly ordered FLDS parents not to enroll their children in the public school system, so they just do not go to school.

Other panelists at the hearing included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Gregory Bower, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah Brett Tolman and former Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints member Carolyn Jessop.


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