SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two prominent members of a polygamist sect on the Utah-Arizona border have been jailed on contempt of court charges for allegedly not testifying before a federal grand jury in Arizona.
James Allred, 58, and Mica Barlow, 36, were subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury in Phoenix, Ariz., on April 5.
“They were subpoenaed to appear and testify in front of the grand jury,” said Dennis Harkins, a deputy U.S. marshal in Phoenix. “They didn’t do that so they were given a contempt of court warrant to self-surrender.”
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
Allred and Barlow surrendered on April 6 at the U.S. marshal’s office in the federal courthouse in Phoenix, Harkins said.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton on Friday sent the two to the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence, a private prison. No bail is set in such cases.
Barlow is a deputy town marshal for the twin polygamist communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah. Allred is the postmaster for the communities and an official of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Wednesday that his office has forwarded information about the contempt charge involving Barlow to the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which is in charge of certification of law enforcement officers.
Federal prosecutors in Arizona declined to comment on the arrests or the grand jury investigation.
“I can’t discuss any details at all about that case,” Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for Arizona, told the Deseret Morning News.
In January, FBI agents reportedly served subpoenas to people at an FLDS meeting. FBI agents would not discuss what was done, but confirmed it was part of the ongoing investigation into the whereabouts of the church’s fugitive leader, Warren Jeffs.
Jeffs is wanted on Utah and Arizona charges that he arranged plural marriages between underage girls and older men.
Under federal law, witnesses charged with civil contempt can be held until the expiration of a grand jury’s term, after which they could be brought before a new grand jury.
Barlow and Allred may be ready for a long stint in custody.
“The word right now is they will stay there indefinitely if they have to to protect their prophet,” said Isaac Wyler, an ex-FLDS member who still lives in Colorado City.
Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney who represented the FLDS church in the past, said members see the situation as similar to persecution faced by Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
FLDS followers believe that “to betray leadership is an extreme sin,” one that could cost them their salvation, Parker told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Polygamy was abandoned by the Mormon church about a century ago, and it now excommunicates members who practice or advocate it, but tens of thousands of people in the Utah region are believed to still practice it.
During the middle of the last century, there were raids on polygamists and some established the community on the Utah-Arizona border to try to duck across the border when officers from either state arrived.
The states launched joint raids, the last of which was in 1953. There was a public backlash against keeping fathers in prison while their families suffered, and polygamists mostly were left alone for close to a half century.
However, stories of underage and forced marriages, abuse and welfare fraud within some of the cults have brought renewed attention by prosecutors in recent years.