When two peace officers from the polygamist community on the Utah-Arizona border go before a judge this week, the overriding question will be: Where do their loyalties lie?
An administrative hearing begins Tuesday for Fred J. Barlow and Preston L. Barlow, marshals in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The Phoenix hearing will explore their actions – as well as their inactions.
If an administrative law judge upholds allegations against the pair, their police certifications in Arizona will be suspended or revoked and the stage will be set to boot them from Utah law enforcement, too.
Hildale and Colorado City are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a religious sect with members who practice polygamy. Their leader is Warren Steed Jeffs, who is in jail awaiting trial in Utah on charges of rape as an accomplice for allegedly performing the wedding of an unwilling bride.
Similar charges have been filed against him in Arizona.
The town marshals – there are believed to be five – have police certification in Arizona and in Utah.
Through the years, police regulators in the two states have investigated other town marshals, typically questioning whether the officers had multiple wives.
The cases against Fred and Preston Barlow instead inquire whether they are beholden to the law or to Jeffs and other FLDS leaders.
Fred Barlow, the chief marshal, is accused by Arizona regulators of sending Jeffs a letter while he was on the FBI’s most wanted list. The letter was intercepted in November 2005 by police in Colorado who stopped one of Jeffs’ brothers.
In it, Barlow affirmed his allegiance to Jeffs and sought direction on running the marshals’ office.
Roger Hoole, an attorney representing teenagers and young men exiled from Hildale and Colorado City, called the letter “Exhibit A” for why he and Preston Barlow should be decertified.
“It would be very difficult to convince my clients any of the FLDS officers would not be beholden to a religious leader,” Hoole said. “You can’t be FLDS and not be beholden to a religious leader, in their view.”
Another allegation against Fred Barlow accuses him of being derelict by not answering 39 questions during a deposition in litigation over a church-related trust.
The questions were posed by an attorney who represents a court-appointed overseer of trust property. The attorney asked about the removal of trust property, FLDS leadership and whether marshals treat FLDS members and nonmembers differently.
Silence about Jeffs
Fred Barlow also is accused of not answering questions for an investigator from the Arizona attorney general’s office in March 2006. The investigator was trying to find Jeffs’ whereabouts.
Preston Barlow is accused of not answering questions for the same investigator, which is the lone allegation against him.
The Arizona attorney representing both men did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The hearing is scheduled to last up to three days. The judge is not expected to rule immediately. The marshals could appeal the eventual decision to state court.
Police regulators in Utah have an open investigation into Fred and Preston Barlow and will consider whether to decertify the pair after the ruling in Arizona.
Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed overseer of the church-related trust, and his attorneys have said the marshals have at times been unhelpful in enforcing court orders and policies set by Wisan. But Wisan said the marshals’ performance has improved in recent months.
“They are trying harder,” Wisan said last week. “I also feel if the question came down between church leadership and any other question, church leadership would dominate their thinking.”