Last week, Arizona's 3TV News reporter Mike Watkiss spoke with KAET, Arizona PBS television, about recent developments in Colorado City, an Arizona town on the Utah border that's controlled by members of the polygamous FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) church and their imprisoned leader and "prophet" Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs was convicted of aggravated child sexual assault for his "spiritual marriages" to under-aged girls but has been issuing edicts from his Texas prison cell.
In recent weeks, the federal government sued sect members in Colorado City, AZ, and Hill Dale, UT for forcing nonbelievers out. The Justice Department says this is discrimination and it needs to stop.
Watkiss says that the discrimination has been going on for far too long and that the federal government should have filed the lawsuit a long time ago.
The two towns, he says, are "irredeemably corrupt" because their government structures are used to carry out the orders of Warren Jeffs, not to adhere to the law. "Utilities are used to persecute people. The cops are in essence the enforcers of Warren Jeffs," he said.
The majority of the people who live in Colorado City are members of the FLDS church, but a significant portion are not FLDS because they were thrown out of the church, left the church on their own, or were never members of the church in the first place. Watkiss says that Warren Jeffs has had a history of tearing families apart in cruel ways, such as taking men's wives and children and giving them to other men. If the men who lost their families speak up, the FLDS cops threaten them. Under the "tyranny of the majority," non-FLDS members have had their animals killed or abused. In one instance, a cat was buried in concrete as a "message" from FLDS thugs, as Watkiss describes them.
"The bottom line is that they have been abusing women and children in that sort of misogynistic culture for generations and Arizona's history on this is abysmal in doing anything," Watkiss said. He blamed the inactivity on cowardice and stupidity on the part of the Arizona legislature.
Last year, when the Arizona legislature took up a bill to dissolve the department known as the Colorado City Marshals Office so that law enforcement would be left to the Mohave County sheriff's department, Republican Reps. Nancy McClain and Doris Gooddale of Mohave County, who are not FLDS members, took up the church's cause to keep the police department intact, saying that Jeffs was no longer in charge because he was in jail. However, Jeffs still is able to exercise control and Watkiss alleges that the representatives should have done their homework. ArizonaFamily.com quotes Gary Engles, Mohave County investigator, as saying, "Things are getting much worse up there. It's getting worse by the day. It's getting more fanatical."
Arizona's Attorney General, Tom Horne, and the Mohave County Sheriff, Tom Sheahan, have said that the county deputies will now patrol the streets in Colorado City to provide legitimate law enforcement despite the legislature's shortcomings. People now have the option to get help from real law enforcement, not cops controlled by the FLDS church. But it's only a first step.
Jeffs' ability to control the church from within the confines of prison, Watkiss says, is because Jeffs has telephone access and is viewed as "the mouthpiece of God" by church members. He says that Jeffs' incarceration has in many ways enhanced his status because he is now viewed as a martyr for the polygamous mandate. "He's still sending reams of documents to lawmakers all over the world, telling them that there is going to be an apocalypse unless they let him out of that Texas jail cell. He's ripping families apart. He's prohibiting children from any type of play. He has these crazy edicts all the time. He's very much in charge."
"Because Arizona has done nothing, this cancer has been allowed to metastasize into these municipal structures," Watkiss alleged. The federal lawsuit has to somehow undo this by using unique solutions, such as taking control of the town governments in some sort of receivership. "Some outside authority needs to run these communities so that they do not do the bidding of Warren Jeffs."
Watkiss, who has visited Colorado City recently, thinks that things are getting worse because there is a degree of paranoia and that the FLDS church, angry at the outside world, is "circling the wagons."
"The heroes of this story are the handful of women who have gotten out and raised hell," Watkiss says.
In May, CNN profiled the corruptness of Colorado City's police force, which private investigator Sam Brower said is "the most crooked police department in the country."
Colorado City currently has six cops. Six police officers before them were decertified by the state for a number of reasons, including felony sexual conduct with a minor, bigamy, refusing to testify or answer questions before a grand jury and seeking advice from a fugitive.
The CNN story confirms Watkiss' allegations:
A kitten was buried from the neck down in concrete earlier this month, as reported by the Young Turks: