Top cops from Arizona, Nevada and Utah walked out of a meeting in Las Vegas excited about the prospect of banding together with federal authorities for a multistate effort to fight crimes related to polygamy.
More than one state attorney general in attendance viewed the confab with federal prosecutors, the FBI and other federal law-enforcement officials as a step toward forming a state-federal task force to share information and tactics.
The meeting in Las Vegas was June 11, 2008. The task force still hasn’t materialized.
Disappointment has replaced anticipation.
Federal authorities apparently remain cool to the idea, but state officials in Texas, Nevada and Utah remain hopeful. They say there is a glaring need for a coordinated state-federal effort to investigate allegations ranging from tax evasion to the sexual assault of underage “celestial” brides in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The polygamist sect is a sophisticated criminal organization whose members flow freely across state and international boundaries to evade prosecution, officials said.
“People, I think, make the mistake of thinking the FLDS and their agents are sort of local yokels,” former Arizona AG Terry Goddard said in a recent interview. “Many of them are very smart and they have great legal counsel.”
“We just had this explosion in Texas,” Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said in a recent interview. “This was truly a multistate problem. None of us are going to solve it alone. The strategy of the FLDS is to divide and conquer, essentially, to get into so many different jurisdictions that even if one clamps down on them, the others won’t.”
Authorities must respond appropriately — thus the Las Vegas meeting, Shurtleff said.
The U.S. Department of Justice assisted with evidence sharing for a while after that.
“But within a year nothing was happening,” Shurtleff said. “In the end, nothing ever came of it … We’ve tried multiple times.”
Goddard doesn’t believe the conviction this month in San Angelo of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old has made a task force any less crucial today than it was several years ago. [...more...]