St. George -- An exiled polygamous church member, who was arrested on a misdemeanor trespass charge after entering his Hildale home, won a battle to have the charge dismissed Wednesday after complaining that the arresting law enforcement officer may have targeted him unjustly because of his religious status.
“I have been in discussions with (defense attorney) Roger Hoole. He was able to provide me with an occupancy agreement that showed (the defendant) actually had permission to be in that room,” Deputy County Attorney Jerry Jaeger told Judge G. Michael Westfall.
Thomas Vaughn Barlow, 54, who has been living in Washington City, received the occupancy agreement in January from the United Effort Plan trust that manages property in the mostly polygamous communities of Hildale and Colorado City east of Hurricane.
The occupancy agreement allows Barlow to move back into the home he built and lived in until he was “expelled from his family, home and community by the (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)” in 2004, his court filing states.
FLDS church members exiled during the past decade have frequently reported they were subject to religious edicts requiring them to abandon their property and families to the care of other, more faithful, members. But after the UEP’s management was taken over by a Utah court-appointed trustee in 2005, the UEP began making arrangements for people who had invested in the land trust to occupy property there regardless of their church status.
After getting the occupancy agreement, Barlow entered the Hildale home April 3 and was surprised to find people there. The occupants identified a child who was present as Barlow’s son Ammaron, who Barlow was prohibited from seeing a decade ago by a court-issued restraining order after Barlow attempted to return from exile and reunite with his family.
Barlow said the boy denied being Ammaron and Barlow didn’t recognize him as the infant he had last seen in 2004, but the restraining order was refiled with the court at some point that day. Colorado City Marshal Sam Johnson responded to the domestic dispute and arrested Barlow on charges of violating a protective order and trespass even though Barlow showed him the court order granting him occupancy of the home.
The Marshal’s Office has long been accused of enforcing the law in accordance with FLDS church leaders’ instructions and with prejudice against exiled FLDS members.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has unsuccessfully battled with that state’s legislators for the past four years in an attempt to have the Marshal’s Office disbanded. Similar legislation in Utah backed by then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also failed in 2012.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne renewed his attack on the Marshal’s Office last month after Chief Marshal Helaman Barlow was placed on paid leave by Colorado City and subsequently turned state’s evidence, admitting in a deposition taken in St. George that he lied about the FLDS church’s influence on law enforcement during his testimony at a federal civil rights trial earlier this year.
Helaman Barlow testified he kept members of his department from arresting non-FLDS members who were using occupancy agreements to enter their homes, but after he was put on leave he learned of Thomas Barlow’s arrest and feared for other people who might end up in a similar situation — particularly Willie Jessop, the former bodyguard for FLDS prophet-leader Warren Jeffs who has since left the church.
Hoole said he has read the transcript of Helaman Barlow’s deposition and will ask Jaeger and Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher to take special note of his comments.
“I want them to know when they get criminal charges from the Colorado City Marshal’s Office against someone who’s been kicked out of the church, they ought to look at it with a jaundiced eye,” Hoole said.
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