Sep 25, 2015

Lawyers want to keep 'polygamy,' 'underage marriages' and Warren Jeffs' sermons out of court

FOX 13
September 24, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- In a flurry of legal filings, lawyers for the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are asking a federal judge to block references to polygamy, child-bride marriages and Warren Jeffs' sermons from the U.S. Justice Department's massive discrimination case against the town governments.

"Warren Jeffs is a polarizing figure. To some, he is or was the prophet of the FLDS Church," Colorado City attorney Jeffrey Matura wrote in a filing obtained by FOX 13. "To others, he is the symbol of a Church gone awry."

Matura asked the federal judge overseeing the Justice Department's lawsuit to bar them from using FLDS leader Warren Jeffs' dictations, sermons and correspondence with Hildale and Colorado City town officials arguing that it was hearsay and would prejudice a jury against them. He also asked for any evidence regarding "polygamy," "multiple wives," "spiritual wives" and "underage marriage" to be barred for similar reasons.

Read the motion in limine on Warren Jeffs' writings and sermons here:

"There were over 100,000 pages of dictations of Warren Jeffs that were disclosed by the Department of Justice," Hildale attorney Blake Hamilton said in an interview Thursday with FOX 13. "You can see where they want this case to go and we want it to be focused on these municipalities and whether there was discrimination based on religion in utilities and policing."

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Hildale and Colorado City, accusing the town governments of acting as an arm of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. The towns are accused of discriminating against non-FLDS members in getting utilities and police services.

In its own filing, the U.S. Justice Department asks to use FLDS leaders' words against them by claiming they are "co-conspirators." They cite writings and statements by Warren Jeffs, FLDS bishop Lyle Jeffs, FLDS messengers Isaac and Nephi Jeffs, and others and argue the towns "are engaging in a longstanding concert of action with FLDS Church leaders with the common purpose to use the Cities' governments to further the directives and goals of the FLDS Church."

They included some of Jeffs' writings to his followers discussing political business in Hildale.

Read the Justice Department filing here:

The Justice Department also asks the judge to allow it to suggest to a jury that any witness who exercises their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination may have something to hide. Adverse inferences about "pleading the Fifth" are sometimes used in civil cases, said University of Utah law professor Shima Baughman. She said a judge may not be inclined to allow it.

"In criminal proceedings, it's absolutely barred," she told FOX 13. "I think the fact they're saying in civil proceedings it's allowed -- technically it is -- but it makes a lot of people uncomfortable."

Baughman said with such a massive case, it may be impossible to bar all references to Warren Jeffs, underage marriages and polygamy. She said the motions by both sides will determine the success of the Justice Department's case against the towns.

"I think these motions will make or break their entire case," Baughman said.

Hildale and Colorado City have requested arguments before the judge. The case is scheduled to go to trial in Phoenix in January.

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