A southern Utah man accused of mailing a letter threatening to kill IRS agents will go on trial next week in federal court.
But the judge presiding over the trial is expressing concern that Thomas Vaughn Barlow’s polygamist past may eclipse the otherwise straightforward federal charges of mailing a threatening communication and interfering with the administration of internal revenue laws.
During a brief hearing in federal court on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart took special note of Barlow’s past as a polygamist and member of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, saying he was “not anxious to bring it up” before a jury.
“We plan for some of the information to come out at trial. It’s a necessary part of the background for the defense,” Barlow’s attorney Daphne Oberg told the judge.
“To the curious mind … it may become a trial over polygamy,” Stewart told Oberg. “Evaluate it very carefully.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber said federal prosecutors did not plan to focus on Barlow’s past and did not even plan to mention prior criminal charges of attempted kidnapping and domestic violence.
“I think that could become really confusing to a jury and can become a trial within a trial,” Huber said outside of court.
In August, Barlow, 47, was indicted by a federal grand jury, accused of mailing a threatening letter to Internal Revenue Service agents. Copies were also sent to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
In court, Huber held up a 3-inch thick folder of letters he said that Barlow had sent to government officials. Some dealt with Barlow’s history with the FLDS Church, federal prosecutors confirmed.
Barlow was previously charged in St. George’s 5th District Court with attempted kidnapping, assault and commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child. He was accused of trying to kidnap one of his ex-wives.
At the time of his September 2006 trial, his defense attorney said Barlow was kicked out of the FLDS Church in 2003 and his two wives were re-assigned to his brother. He portrayed Barlow as a man who was trying to “rescue” his family from the clutches of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. That case ended in a mistrial when it was revealed that a Hildale town marshal failed to hand over a medical report to Washington County prosecutors and defense attorneys until it was too late.
Jeffs is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20 on charges of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. The 51-year-old polygamous sect leader was convicted of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.