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Arizona prosecutors dropped trespassing charges Monday against an accountant appointed by a Utah judge to oversee a polygamous sect's communal property trust.
Bruce Wisan and employee Jethro Barlow were each facing six misdemeanor counts after allegedly telling another employee, Isaac Wyler, to pick the locks on Colorado City, Ariz., homes of sect members.
Wyler has already been found guilty.
Prosecutors said changing the locks amounted to trespassing, but Wisan and Barlow countered that no law was broken because the houses were empty. The charges were filed in 2009, but didn't come to trial until last year, and Judge Paul Julien declared a mistrial months later.
At a hearing Monday, Wyler testified and was cross-examined, but following an in-chambers meeting, Colorado City prosecutor Ken Brendel dropped the charges, said Wisan attorney William Walker.
"I think he saw the judge was beginning to rule in our favor," Walker said. "There was only an entry into these houses after a long series of surveillance where [Wyler] confirmed no one was living there."
Brendel could not be reached for comment.
The homes at issue, along with nearly all the property in the twin border towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, are part of a communal property trust that once belonged to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the sect led by Warren Jeffs. The state of Utah took over the trust five years ago amid allegations of mismanagement by FLDS trustees, and Wisan was appointed to run the trust. Sect members still live and work on the property,
"Obviously, I'm very pleased," Wisan said. The case has cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, he said money that added to the trust's debts incurred since the state takeover, which now total nearly $6 million. The Utah Supreme Court ruled last month that the state of Utah should kick in a temporary loan to help pay that debt.
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