Kingman - An accused Colorado City polygamist lost his bid to have the state's constitutional ban on the practice overturned when state prosecutors dropped one of three charges he was facing.
Randolph J. Barlow, 32, had been charged with two counts of sexual assault and one charge of sexual conduct with a minor.
The underage-sex charge was dropped Thursday, and a Mohave County judge then denied several motions his lawyer had filed, including one challenging the constitutional ban.
Dropping the underage-sex charge makes the case solely one of sexual assault and guts the defense strategy to mount a religious defense, defense lawyer Bruce Griffen said.
"The state's strategic maneuver . . . has ruined the vast majority of what we were going to do today," Griffen said.
Barlow and seven other Colorado City men face sex charges related to their marriages with girls younger than 18. They were already legally married to other women when they married the underage girls.
All are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, centered in Colorado City and nearby Hildale, Utah. The sect splintered from the mainstream church and believes that polygamy is a protected and sacred aspect of their religion.
County prosecutor Matt Smith said the victim in Barlow's case is reluctant to testify.
A second man set for a court hearing Thursday, David Romaine Bateman, didn't show up, and Griffen told Judge James Chavez he had mistakenly told his client he wasn't due in court.
Chavez set a new court date for Bateman and set trial for Barlow for March 13.
The other six defendants are being tried before another Mohave County judge.
The eight men were indicted in June and July. The Arizona Attorney General's Office worked with Mohave County prosecutors to obtain the indictments.
The church's leader, Warren Jeffs, 49, also was indicted in Arizona in early June on counts including conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He remains a fugitive.
Capturing Jeffs is considered to be a key in ending the turmoil in the two towns, where polygamist men marry one wife legally and then take on other women as so-called spiritual wives.