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Cooke family seeking $4M in damages from polygamous towns

Published March 19, 2014 1:57 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Phoenix • Four million dollars.

That's how much an attorney representing the Cooke family ask a jury to award Wednesday. The number represents $2 million each for Ronald Cooke and Jinjer Cooke, the parents of the family who live in mostly polygamous Short Creek. The request was part of closing arguments in the Cookes' civil rights trial, which has been playing out for eight weeks in Phoenix's U.S. District Court. The Cookes say they were discriminated against for not being members of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Attorney William Walker, who represents the family, explained Wednesday that the Cookes — who are not FLDS — moved to the area hoping to settle down in 2008. They then spent the next five and half years without water, as well as other utilities. Walker also argued the family suffered intimidation. And were spied on. And, ultimately, were the targets of a joint church and city effort to driver them away.

Walker's point was that the church controls the town and town officials.

"These weren't people who practiced their religion privately," Walker argued of the polygamous town leaders. "These were people who inflicted their religion on others, including the Cookes."

A large award for the family would send a message that such behavior was not acceptable, Walker said. He also listed a series of factors he hoped the jury would consider, including,

• The family's physical distress;

• Their emotional distress;

• Pain and suffering;

• Humiliation they suffered.

Walker later continued: "What do you award them for the depravation of their civil rights."

An attorney for the state also spoke Wednesday in court and said the jury had three things it needs to consider as it decides the case:

1. The Cookes's claim that they were discriminated against.

2. Their claim that they were intimidated.

3. That the cities exhibited a pattern or practice of discriminatory behavior toward outsiders.

Attorneys for the cities were scheduled to deliver their own closing arguments Wednesday afternoon. However, they have argued that the Cookes are actually to blame for their own problems because they refused to comply with existing city policy.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii