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Utah sheriff, prosecutor among those who will argue to disband polygamous town marshals

First Published      Last Updated Jul 19 2016 11:35 am

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to call Washington County's sheriff and county attorney as witnesses to testify why a judge should disband the police force in two polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona line.

The Justice Department filed its witness list Friday. It says Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and County Attorney Brock Belnap will describe their experiences with marshals in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., collectively known as Short Creek and home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Pulsipher and Belnap will discuss "the need for disbandment of the [marshals] to ensure constitutional policing in the Cities," according to the Justice Department filing.




After a civil trial in federal court in Phoenix, a jury in March found that the towns and the marshals discriminated against people who did not follow or were out of favor with FLDS leaders. Judge Russel H. Holland has scheduled a four-day hearing in October to consider what changes he should order in the towns.

The Justice Department, which was the plaintiff in the lawsuit, wants the judge in the case to disband the marshals office. The county sheriffs on each side of the state line would then police the towns.

Lawyers for the towns have argued in court filings that the problems with the marshals are not so egregious that the office should be dissolved, and that there is no precedent for the judge to disband the office. The defense attorneys also have pointed out that no Short Creek marshals have been decertified since 2007.

However, the Justice Department witness list includes two investigators with the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, Russel Rader and Travis Meadows. They will testify about the findings of the current investigation into the marshals.

Last week, the council, which regulates police in Arizona, formed a subcommittee to review those findings and report back to the entire council. Investigators are looking at years' worth of complaints against the marshals, including allegations of false arrests, refusal to enforce court orders and refusal to investigate crimes. The findings have not yet been disclosed to the public.

The Justice Department also will call personnel with the Mohave County, Ariz., Sheriff's Office to testify about their experiences with the marshals. Justin Grenier, the assistant manager of the emergency services dispatch center in St. George, will testify about how police and fire communications work in Washington County and the ability of the center to assume those functions for Hildale and Colorado City.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

 

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