Charges dropped against accused polygamist

KVOA TV News, Arizona/February 28, 2007

Kingman, Arizona -- A member of a polygamist sect was cleared of sexual assault charges Tuesday after his alleged victim refused to testify against him.

Randolph Barlow, 33, had been accused of joining in a "spiritual marriage" with Candi Shapley four years ago when she was 16.

But Shapley, now 20, repeatedly refused to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to a 30-day sentence in a woman's shelter last year. Prosecutors could have tried to send her to jail for contempt, but they instead asked Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn to dismiss the charges against Barlow.

Defense lawyer Bruce Griffen said Barlow wasn't surprised by the decision.

"We all felt that if she was willing to go to jail for contempt, that it was unlikely that that would ever change," Griffen said.

Griffen wouldn't comment about whether Barlow and Shapley ever had a sexual relationship. Barlow, a tow-truck driver who is married to another woman, has long contended the state could not prove he ever had a relationship with Shapley, Griffen said.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Shapley was expected to be a key witness for prosecutors.

In addition to the Barlow case, Shapley was supposed to contribute to Arizona's prosecution of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs, who is being held in Utah on two counts of rape by accomplice, faces life terms in prison if convicted. In Arizona, he faces sexual misconduct charges which carry lesser penalties.

Both states brought the charges in connection with marriages Jeffs allegedly arranged between older men and teenage girls.

Jeffs heads the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based in Colorado City and nearby Hildale, Utah.

Seven other men were charged in the Mohave County investigation.

One man was acquitted and one case was dismissed by the state because the defense proved the alleged victim and the defendant lived outside Mohave County.

David Bateman, 49, was convicted Oct. 25 of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy.

Vergel Jessop, 47, pleaded no contest to child abuse. Jessop is expected to be sentenced March 22.

Kelly Fischer, 39, was convicted of one count of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He was sentenced to probation and 45 days in county jail.

Trials are pending for Rodney Holm and Dale Barlow.

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