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GOD SQUAD: Jury Finds Polygamous Mormon Towns Guilty of Discriminating Against ‘Non-Believers’

Jamie Ross
Courthouse News Service

PHOENIX – Two towns on the Arizona-Utah border dominated by members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect discriminated against residents who are not members of the church, a jury found Monday afternoon, granting $2.2 million in damages to six residents.

The U.S. government sued Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah in 2012, accusing the border towns of denying police protection, water and housing to nonmembers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church’s leader, Warren Jeffs, is imprisoned in Texas for life plus 20 years for the sexual abuse of two young girls he had taken as his “spiritual wives.”

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The jury returned the verdict after nearly seven weeks of testimony, finding that the towns engaged in religious discrimination of nonmembers of the church in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Another aspect of the verdict found that the towns’ police force – the Colorado City Marshal’s Office – violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments by subjecting nonmembers to unreasonable search and seizures and arrest without probable cause.

The jury also found that Colorado City, Hildale and the cities’ water utility, the Twin City Water Authority, violated the Fair Housing Act.

“Obviously, we should’ve went a different way, but we respect the process,” said Blake Hamilton, an attorney for Hildale, after the verdict was announced.

“The case is far from over,” said Colorado City attorney Jeff Matura. “[The Justice Department] will have to propose what kind of injunctive relief they want.”

After deliberating for three days, the jury awarded six residents $2.2 million in damages for discrimination. The amount is not binding.

During trial, the towns and the Justice Department entered into a $1.6 million settlement to cover damages suffered by the individuals, and possible civil penalties and fines.

Christopher Jessop testified that church security ran his son off the road, and that the Marshal’s Office helped cover it up.

Nicknamed the “God Squad,” church security is said to monitor current and former FLDS members and keep an eye out for outside law enforcement.

Jessop also testified that the Marshal’s Office failed to investigate dozens of incidents of vandalism against his vehicle. The jury awarded him $1 million.

Another $1 million will go to John Cook, a man repeatedly denied a water connection on a property to park his trailer. Cook eventually received a water connection but could not afford to move his trailer onto the property since he was forced to move elsewhere…

Read more at Courthouse News

READ MORE RELIGIOUS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Religion Files

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