SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The first of eight trials alleging sexual misconduct with minors by men from a polygamist community on the Utah-Arizona border will begin next week, despite the inability of prosecutors to locate some witnesses and alleged victims.
In a news release issued Friday, Mohave County, Ariz., Attorney Matthew Smith said a jury trial for Kelly Fischer will begin Wednesday in a Kingman district court and is expected to last two days.
Fischer, 38, is charged with one count each of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor for his alleged ”spiritual marriage” with a 16-year-old girl that occurred between October 2000 and March 2001. Prosecutors have constructed the time frame for the marriage from birth certificates of the girl and her first child.
The charges are class 6 felonies, punishable by up to two years per count in an Arizona state prison.
Fischer is one of eight men from Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, facing the same set of allegations.
All are believed to be members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a religious sect that believes plural marriage is the key to eternal salvation. Most of the church’s 10,000 members make their home in the border towns, where for nearly 100 years they have lived an insular life, shunning contact with outsiders.
Smith acknowledges that his office has had difficulty locating witnesses and securing alleged victims willing to provide testimony in all eight cases.
”There is also a strong possibility that even the few witnesses that have been subpoenaed will fail to show up for these cases,” Smith said. ”Therefore there is a lot uncertainty about these initial cases.”