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The Polygamy Blog
Nate Carlisle
Reporter Nate Carlisle and photographer Trent Nelson cover polygamy for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow the Polygamy Blog on Twitter at @tribunepolygamy. Follow Nate Carlisle on Twitter at @natecarlisle. Follow Trent Nelson on Twitter at @trenthead.

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What's coming on the FLDS federal civil rights suit?

I've always kind of wondered why we don't see more public action from the federal government on the Warren Jeffs issue. If we're talking about interstate and even international allegations, wouldn't a federal agency be the natural choice to file charges?

So it was interesting to me last week when the first major public action we've seen from the feds came in the form of a civil suit rather than criminal charges. One would imagine charges would be more difficult to prove and couldn't include as long a time frame, but could result in a more serious punishment.

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So what's the end goal? Well, it could be that the DOJ wants to essentially take over Colorado City/Hildale and remake it, as defense attorneys said last week.

The lawsuit does contain some serious accusations that the Hildale/Colorado City town governments are "an arm of the FLDS church" but such sweeping language can be very difficult to prove, as Carolyn Jessop pointed out today. (Read more of her comments, and news of some 50 new excommunications from the FLDS, here.)

She said the lawsuit may be something of a "warning" to town/church leaders - one that could end up being settled fairly quickly, or turn into a protracted legal battle.

But word on the street in Short Creek, she said, is that the lawsuit could be "way worse than the '53 raids" — referring to an action by Arizona authorities that separated families for years and is still a painful memory for fundamentalist Mormons of all stripes.

Any reference to that kind of trauma doesn't point to an easy ending.

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