Eight hit with teen bride sex charges

Defendants live in FLDS polygamist community

Salt Lake Tribune/July 12, 2005
By Pamela Manson

Eight residents of a polygamous community have been charged with sex offenses involving marriages to underage girls, including a former police officer who is fighting to overturn previous convictions for taking a teenager as a plural wife, Arizona authorities announced Monday.

Six of the men surrendered Monday at the Mohave County Sheriff's Office in Kingman, Ariz., while a seventh was arrested over the weekend. The eighth man also appeared in court on Monday.

Bond was set at $2,500 each for seven defendants; the other's was set at $7,500. All posted bond Monday and were released.

The eight men are from Colorado City, Ariz., which with Hildale, Utah, is home base of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which embraces plural marriage as one of its tenets.

Rodney Holm, the former Hildale police officer, is appealing bigamy and sex convictions stemming from his "spiritual" marriage to a 16-year-old. As part of his appeal, Holm is asking the Utah Supreme Court to decriminalize polygamy. A decision is pending. As a registered sex offender, he cannot serve in law enforcement.

Five men, including Holm, were indicted Thursday by a Mohave County grand jury. Indictments against the other three were handed up about a month ago. Most are Class 6 felonies, which are punishable by four months to two years in prison or probation at the judge's discretion.

The charges resulted from a probe by Gary Engels, a special investigator for the Mohave County Attorney's Office. Among other agencies helping with the investigation were the sheriff's office and the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

The indictments are the latest chapter in the increased scrutiny and legal trouble the FLDS has encountered in the past 18 months.

FLDS President Warren Jeffs was indicted June 9 by a Mohave County grand jury on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He is accused of arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 28-year-old man who already was married; he is not accused of having sex with the teen.

An arrest warrant for Jeffs, who has not been seen in public for at least a year and a half, was issued June 10 by an Arizona district judge on those state charges. On June 27, a federal magistrate in Flagstaff issued a warrant for Jeffs' arrest on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid arrest.

Jeffs also has been named as a defendant in three civil suits filed in Utah and was stripped last month, along with other trustees, of power over an FLDS trust fund.

The FLDS hews to the early teachings of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, among them plural marriage. The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left polygamy behind in 1890 as a condition of statehood for Utah and now excommunicates members who practice it.

Defendants and the charges against them connected to alleged plural marriages:

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