Judge: Officers in polygamous community acted appropriately

The Salt Lake Tribune/February 21, 2008

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that law officers in a polygamous community acted appropriately when they handcuffed and removed a former sect member from a home he was trying to claim.

U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball granted summary judgment in favor of the city and officers, saying the deputies had reasonable cause to handcuff Andrew Chatwin during a dispute over the home and that Chatwin failed to prove his rights were violated during the short standoff.

Chatwin had alleged the city of Hildale, former Colorado City Town Marshal Fred Barlow and deputies Jonathan Roundy and Helaman Barlow violated his rights when they barred him from a home in the community in 2005.

The Colorado City Town Marshal's Office provides law enforcement service in Hildale and the adjoining town of Colorado City, Ariz., home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Chatwin built the home in Hildale but left it in his father's care when he defected from the sect in 1996.

Chatwin returned to the community in 2004 and tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the home, which FLDS leaders had reassigned to one of his brothers.

In 2005, he tried to visit his father at the home, got in a shouting match and refused to leave. Officers on the scene handcuffed Chatwin for about an hour while they tried to sort out claims to the home.

The officers contacted fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan, who has overseen property in the twin towns since 2005, and learned Chatwin did not have permission to occupy the home.

"It is an important affirmation that the officers in Hildale conducted themselves in line with the Constitution and as prudent law enforcement officers," said Peter Stirba, a Salt Lake attorney who represented the city and officers. "Even though there have been statements in the press contrary to this, in this particular case, after a federal judge looked at it, he validated what the officers did."

Fred Barlow resigned his post in November after Arizona revoked his certification for unprofessional allegiance to polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.

Chatwin subsequently gained rights to the home from Wisan.

In a separate lawsuit, Chatwin sued Big Dan's Drive-In, a fast food restaurant in Colorado City, alleging religious discrimination after he and other relatives were denied service. The

Arizona Attorney General's Office negotiated a settlement of that lawsuit in December.

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