A police officer from a southern Utah polygamist enclave is seeking a protective order – not because he fears for his safety but because he doesn’t want to answer certain questions related to a church trust.
Attorney Peter Stirba has filed a motion in 3rd District Court to limit the scope of deposition questions for Helaman Barlow, a deputy town marshal from Colorado City, Ariz., which hugs the Utah border.
Barlow is one of at least eight men, several of them officers, who are being pursued for information about the United Effort Plan Trust. The request comes from attorneys for a court-appointed accountant overseeing $100 million in property.
The trust was established in the 1940s as the charitable arm of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamy-practicing sect that dominates every aspect of community life in Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah.
But church leaders, including Warren Jeffs, were stripped of control in June 2005, after a judge said they had used assets for personal benefit.
Church members, however, have largely ignored the court orders and refused to cooperate with accountant Bruce Wisan and his attorney, Jeff Shields.
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Barlow and others were first deposed in April, after a grain elevator, a modular building and other property disappeared.
Witnesses have said police, including Barlow, refused to comply with court orders and failed to stop the removal.
Barlow and others have refused to answer deposition questions or given answers that lacked detail, said Shields, who has turned to judges in Utah and Arizona to order cooperation.
Among the questions: Were Barlow and others members of the FLDS church? Were their primary loyalties to Jeffs and other church leaders or to state and federal laws?
Stirba declined to discuss Barlow’s specific objections Friday, but said questions at future depositions should be “limited to his capacity as a witness in these proceedings.”
“Anything that relates to his religious beliefs, his church and his religious philosophies is not appropriate to ask in the context of this deposition,” Stirba said.
Shields had yet to see Stirba’s motion but said he planned to fight it.
“When you’re a police officer and you’re questioned as to your duty, even if it bumps up against your religion, you should have to answer,” he said.