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Water rights in polygamous Utah town auctioned for $20,000

Published May 28, 2014 10:09 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Willie Jessop, who obtained a $30 million judgment against leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, used some of that money to buy water rights in Hildale last week.

Jessop's lawyer, Mark James, said his client used $20,000 credit from the judgment to buy water belonging to Twin Cities Improvement Association. That association has been controlled by thepolygamous FLDS church.

A listing with the Utah Division of Water Rights shows Twin City Improvement owns rights to Water Creek in Hildale. The rights amount to 53.8 acre-feet of water.

In an email, James said no one else bid on the rights. The Washington County Sheriff's Office auctioned the rights Thursday on the steps of the courthouse in St. George.

The judgment he is collecting came after FLDS leaders failed to respond to a lawsuit alleging they orchestrated a late-night break-in of Jessop's excavating business in Hildale in 2011.

Last year, Jessop applied $3.6 million of the judgment to seize the compound constructed in Hildale for imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

Jessop received the $30 million judgment in 2012 in 5th District Court in St. George, after no one in the FLDS came forward to challenge his lawsuit or the amount of damages he claimed to have suffered.

— Nate Carlisle

Twitter: @natecarlisle