October 17, 2016 — A federal lawsuit has been filed in Arizona by former-FLDS businessmen who say they were illegally arrested and discriminated against because they are not members of the FLDS Church.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed on October 12, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for Arizona in Prescott — In Re: Prairie Farms LLC, et al. vs. Town of Colorado City, et al. — Case No. 3:16-cv-08232.
The dispute arose in October 2015, when Andrew Chatwin and Patrick Pipkin were arrested for trespassing on land they had legally leased to start a farm. The land is a 12-acre former zoo in Colorado City, Arizona, in the FLDS-dominated “Short Creek” community.
The men leased the land from the United Effort Plan (UEP), a trust that holds and manages property in Short Creek. The UEP was taken over by the courts in Utah in 2005, two years before Warren Jeffs was imprisoned for sexually assaulting children.
According to the lawsuit, Chatwin and Pipkin went to city marshals on October 13, 2015 to discuss vandalism to the property. They were told they had no right to access the property because a squatter from the FLDS church was living in a tack shed and operating an herb farm.
In Arizona, commercial property owners do not need court authorization to evict a squatter, but residential property owners do.
Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and told city marshals that the businessmen had the right to access their property. The marshals disagreed and arrested Pipkin and Chatwick for first-degree trespass, according to the lawsuit.
The men said they were arrested again on October 17 when they tried to stop unidentified residents from taking property from the herb farm. The men asked sheriff’s deputies for help, but marshals exercised jurisdiction and arrested them for trespassing.
The businessmen say the marshals took no action against the squatter and never investigated the vandalism allegations.
The men also paid a $500 deposit for water and garbage services in October 2015. The city refused to provide services without permission from its former registrant — a man who been dead for 10 years. The city only provided utilities after losing a discrimination lawsuit in March.
The allegations are more bad news for the Colorado City Marshal’s Office, a local police force that has long been accused of acting as armed security for FLDS and discriminating against non-members.
The U.S. Justice Department sued the towns for discrimination and recommended replacing the local marshals with Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies. In March, the trial ended in a $1.6 million jury verdict against Colorado City and Hildale.
During the trial, a former marshal testified that the officers ignored underage marriages, spied on non-FLDS members, and denied police protection and other services to non-members. Government prosecutors said the marshals “operated as an arm of the FLDS church … engaged in discriminatory policing … and subjected individuals to unlawful stops, seizures, and arrests.”
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