Two Mormon Towns Accused of Ignoring Child Abuse Claims
By Jamie Ross, Courthouse News Service
PHOENIX (CN) - The Marshal's Office in two towns on the Arizona-Utah border failed to investigate claims of child abuse or timely complete reports, an expert witness for the Justice Department testified Thursday during a religious discrimination trial.
Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah are largely made up of followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Department of Justice sued the towns in 2012, accusing them of denying non-church members access to police protection, water and electricity. The sect's leader, Warren Jeffs, is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting 12- and 15-year-old girls, whom he called his spiritual wives.
Joseph De Lopez, a former deputy superintendent for the Chicago Police Department hired to review policies of the Colorado City Marshal's Office, told the jury the towns' Marshal Office did not investigate reports that town members married underage girls.
"Not only should there be an Internal Affairs investigation if it involves an officer, but a criminal investigation," De Lopez testified.
On Wednesday, the towns' former Chief Marshal Helaman Barlow testified that the Marshal's Office ignored claims of underage marriages.
"If it was a church marriage, I as a church member saw it as a valid marriage," Barlow testified.
On Thursday, De Lopez said this was just one of the Marshal's Office's many "deficiencies" in investigating and documenting alleged crimes and failing to train its officers.
Matthew Donnelly, a Justice Department attorney, asked De Lopez if the Marshal's Office gave its marshals any timeframe on when incident reports had to be completed.
"No," De Lopez said. "There were reports completed well after the event."
De Lopez testified that when he was hired as an expert, he spoke with then-Chief Marshal Barlow about his department's policies and procedures, and whether Barlow reviewed reports made by other marshals.
"He said they were about a year behind in reviewing call logs," De Lopez told the jury.
When the Justice Department requested documents from the Marshal's Office, De Lopez said, Barlow told him that he and Colorado City Manager David Darger began reviewing reports in an "expedited manner."
This review included editing reports made by Darger, De Lopez testified. A city manager, which is not a sworn position, "should not be involved in the documentation of a police report," De Lopez said.
"What about just correcting typos?" Donnelly asked.
"It's not something that should be done themselves," De Lopez answered.
One edited report, De Lopez testified, included a handwritten addendum by Darger that appeared to change the outcome of the reported incident.
"The whole objective of the police report is to collect information and document what happened," De Lopez said.
Jeffrey Matura, an attorney for Colorado City, questioned De Lopez's concerns about Darger's edited reports.
"You're assuming that these edits were somehow nefarious," Matura said. "You don't know if this report, with or without the edits, is accurate."
"I don't," De Lopez acknowledged.
De Lopez was unable to give a specific answer when Matura asked for statistics on the Marshal's Office's uncompleted or delayed reports.
"What percent of reports were open after a week?" Matura asked.
"I didn't actually calculate a percentage," De Lopez said. "All I can say was it was many."
The trial continues next week.
To Learn More:
Towns Run by Mormon Sect Deny Running Water to Non-Mormons (by Jamie Ross, Courthouse News Service)
Federal Government to Monitor Police Force Run by Polygamist Mormons (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Arizona Asks Federal Judge to Disband Police Department that Places Church Directives over Law (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
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