PHOENIX – A second town marshal from a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border has admitted writing letters that may have reached then-fugitive Warren Jeffs, the sect’s leader.
But the attorney representing the two marshals continued arguing for light discipline from Arizona’s law enforcement regulators.
Administrative law judge Diane Mihalsky has 20 days to issue her findings about alleged misconduct by Preston L. Barlow and Fred J. Barlow, marshals for Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Testimony in the two-day hearing concluded Wednesday. Mihalsky also will make recommendations about any discipline, but police regulators will determine the final disposition.
“I love the people.” On Wednesday, Preston Barlow, 28, testified he grew up as a member of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said he has one wife and five children, but is a descendant of polygamists and has about 15 siblings.
He said he will discuss polygamy, and even joke about it, only around people with whom he feels comfortable.
“Through my whole life, I’ve had situations where [polygamy] is used against us in a negative connotation,” he testified.
After high school, he trained as a firefighter and emergency medical technician. “I’ve always believed in helping my friends,” he said. “I love the people out there.”
He became a marshal on March 1, 2006, four weeks before investigators from the Arizona Attorney General’s office arrived to question the town’s officers.
“Personal and private.”
Preston Barlow said he refused to answer some questions about church leadership and whether he communicated with Jeffs, the church president, because he was concerned about his right against self-incrimination and his religious freedoms.
“When I communicate to Warren Jeffs, it’s extremely personal and private,” he said.
He said he was more forthcoming in August 2006 with Arizona police regulators, after he had consulted an attorney.
But Arizona state attorney Nancy Beck pointed out he never specifically invoked First or Fifth Amendment rights in the first interview.
The marshals also refused to answer investigators’ questions about whether they would arrest Jeffs if they found him. Beck asked Preston Barlow that question again.
“It’s kind of hard to answer because it’s a hypothetical,” he said. When the judge directed him to answer, he said, “Yes.”
He initially testified he never tried to communicate directly with Jeffs. But under cross-examination, he said he wrote Jeffs at least twice but not more than five times, while Jeffs was a fugitive.
“I don’t keep track” of the number of letters, he said.
After the hearing, defense attorney Bruce Griffen said he is not aware of Preston Barlow ever addressing a letter specifically to an on-the-lam Jeffs.
Before closing arguments, the judge observed: “The issue here is less about what happened then what it means.”
Beck asked the judge to reject defense arguments about the marshals’ First and Fifth Amendment rights. She said Fred Barlow lied to investigators about having communicated with Jeffs and other issues, and that should be considered an aggravating factor.
Beck also asked the judge to reject claims the marshals have performed better in recent months.
“A peace officer is not permitted to say ‘Oops, I acted really badly but I’m doing OK now,'” Beck said.
But Griffen asked the judge to not recommend discipline against Preston Barlow, and to consider mitigating factors while suggesting any punishment for Fred Barlow. Griffen said both men refused to answer questions in a good faith effort to preserve their rights.
“A good faith belief by a sincere and religious person…would not jeopardize the public trust,” Griffen said.