Towns on the Utah-Arizona line will pay $221,000 to two men who claimed they were wrongfully arrested at an old zoo in 2015.
Patrick Pipkin and Andrew Chatwin will each receive $100,500 to settle their claims and another $10,000 each in attorneys fees, according to an agreement entered into a federal court record in Phoenix. The money settles their lawsuit against Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Two plaintiffs remain — Seth Cooke and a business he formed, called Prairie Farms LLC, to ranch on part of the zoo property.
Pipkin, Chatwin, Cooke and the business sued Hildale and Colorado City, which is jointly known as Short Creek and home to the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Terms of the settlement say the towns acknowledge no liability or wrongdoing. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Bill Walker, on Thursday said the towns are effectively admitting the arrests were wrong.
“This is a pretty good admission,” Walker said. “I don’t care what they say.”
Blake Hamilton, a Salt Lake City attorney who represents Hildale, said his client and the other defendants were trying to avoid costly litigation.
“That was a good faith effort to just resolve that case,” Hamilton said, “and I’m grateful that we were just able to get it done.”
The Fred M. Jessop Zoo on the Colorado City side is part of the towns’ history. Its namesake and founder was a longtime FLDS bishop who died in 2005. That same year, the state of Utah took over the land trust that owned the zoo and most of the commercial and residential properties in Short Creek. FLDS members have largely resisted working with the trust since the takeover.
By 2015, the exotic animals in the zoo were gone and Pipkin and Cooke obtained an agreement from the reformed land trust to farm and ranch on the property. But one man was found to be living in a building on the property.
Pipkin and Cooke went to take possession of the zoo, and Chatwin went with them. The towns’ marshals arrived and said they were trespassing. Pipkin and Cooke refused to leave and were arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of trespassing for the first time on Oct. 13, 2015.
Four days later, Pipkin and Chatwin returned to the zoo and were arrested again.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed they were discriminated against because they were not members of the FLDS. Pipkin and Chatwin contended the arrests violated their civil rights, while Cooke and Prairie Farms said they lost business as a result of being denied access to the property.
Walker said Cooke and the business have each been offered $50,000 to settle claims and another $25,000 in attorneys fees. They aren't taking it. Walker said those plaintiffs will proceed to trial.
No trial has been scheduled.