When it comes to polygamy, it appears that Utah’s chief cop is copping out.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff found time in his schedule last week to appear on the “Dr. Phil” show on an episode about polygamy. He declared to a nationwide audience, “There’s no way we have the resources” to prosecute polygamy in the state of Utah.
Shurtleff reasoned that there are 30-40,000 polygamists in Utah, too many for him to prosecute and jail. He also claimed that 20,000 polygamist children would be left without parents.
One could carry Shurtleff’s reasoning further and claim that if too many people are committing any crime in Utah, the AG should just quit seeking to put them in jail. If there were 30,000 people committing robbery in Utah, Shurtleff could supposedly decide that he simply didn’t have the resources to go after them. How many drug dealers would there have to be before the AG decided to call off the dogs? What’s the tipping point on the number of murderers that would cause Shurtleff to throw in the towel?
While Shurtleff’s office deserves credit for investigating the financial dealings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and having a trustee appointed to oversee the FLDS trust, there is still much work to be done in terms of polygamy. Illegal activity is illegal activity and Shurtleff is being paid by the taxpayers to enforce the laws.
Shurtleff’s comments seem particularly disingenuous in light of the fact that Utah has in the past found the resources to create a porn czar and regularly puts away people for significant periods of time for crimes as small as drug possession.
The AG’s claim that the state would have to put 20,000 children on the welfare roles if polygamous parents were locked up ignores the fact that many of those children are already on the welfare roles in a fraudulent fashion. Furthermore, many of those children would probably be better off in foster homes, particularly the girls who are forced to marry when they are underage.
Shurtleff has said he wants to prosecute those who take underage brides, but one recent example shows that his office doesn’t seem up to the task, and doesn’t seem to be getting much help from the judicial system either.
Rodney Holm, a former police officer for Hildale and Colorado City, was convicted on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and one count of bigamy in 2003.
When Holm was 32, he took a 16-year-old as his third wife. Holm could have been sentenced to 15 years in jail, and had he been a St. George school teacher who had sexual relations with a 16-year-old student, one could imagine that he would have been sentenced to most of those 15 years. However, 5th District Judge G. Rand Beacham gave Holm one year in the county jail, and said he couldn’t really expect Holm to feel remorse for his crime.
Holm left jail nearly one year ago on June 9, 2004, and, according to the claims of one Assistant AG, is living with two wives, a clear violation of his parole. Nearly one year later, the Attorney General’s office still hasn’t presented Beacham with evidence of a parole violation. Is this because the resources just aren’t there, or is it because the will just isn’t there?
When it comes to prosecuting polygamy and the crimes within polygamous communities, Dr. Phil might well have used one of his famous bromides on Shurtleff.
“Mark, you’ve got to get real with yourself. You’ve certainly got to get real with me. But most important, you’ve got to get real with the people of Utah.”
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