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Phoenix • A few minutes into her opening statements in the discrimination trial against Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., U.S. Department of Justice attorney Jessica Clarke pointed to a slide displayed on a video screen.
The slide showed photos of Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned president of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the Leroy S. Johnson Meetinghouse in Colorado City. A date was written beside both photos: Jan. 10, 2004.
That day, Clarke told the jury, Jeffs evicted 21 men from the faith.
The impact of those excommunications didn't stop at the meetinghouse doors, the Justice Department has contended during the civil trial in which it accuses municipal governments in Hildale and Colorado City of discriminating against people who do not follow Jeffs.
The Justice Department spent much of its case showing how the excommunications affected government and policing in the towns, collectively known as Short Creek, including replacing a mayor.
"As that incident demonstrates, Warren Jeff's influence doesn't stop at the meetinghouse," Clarke told the jury.
The jury has been deliberating since Wednesday and is scheduled to return to the federal courthouse in Phoenix on Monday. If the jury finds for the federal government, a judge could opt to impose sanctions such as disbanding the police force in the towns.
The worship service around which the Justice Department built so much of its case was filled with drama.
First, according to testimony from multiple witnesses, Jeffs by 2004 was already on the run from law enforcement and process servers trying to hand him summons and subpoenas. The faithful in Short Creek hadn't seen Jeffs in weeks or months until that morning.
Jeffs arrived at a rear entrance. Willie Jessop, then a Jeffs confidant and a leader on church security, testified during the trial that Jeffs asked him if he had a gun; Jeffs was worried about getting out alive. Jessop testified he watched from behind a curtain, with .357 Magnum inside an open holster as Jeffs surprised the congregation by walking into the sanctuary.
About 3,000 people were at the meetinghouse that day. Dowayne Barlow testified at the trial that he was in the balcony of the meetinghouse that day. Jeffs, according to Barlow, told the congregation, "The Lord has sent me this day to make a correction."
He heard Jeffs call the names of men and order them away from the community and their families. One of the men was Dan Barlow, the mayor of Colorado City and Dowayne's uncle.
"We were shocked," Dowayne Barlow said.
"As we came out of the meeting, there were people crying, weeping," he added.
Dan Barlow soon submitted his resignation to the city. Under Jeffs' direction, a man named Richard Allred was appointed mayor, according to trial testimony.
The Justice Department has argued that church service made life harder for the men who were evicted. An early witness in the trial was Isaac Wyler, who was kicked out at that service.
When Wyler went to church that day, he testified, there was a load of hay sitting near the barns and pasture where he kept about 150 head of horses. After church, he called the deliverer to make arrangements for unloading.
No, the man said. Wyler was an apostate now and he couldn't help him. Wyler later went to buy livestock feed. An employee there told him, "It will be a cold day in hell before we ever sell feed to you again," Wyler testified.
Wyler's problems extended to the police, he testified. People began vandalizing his home and his trucks. People cut the water lines and fences in his pasture.
The marshals didn't investigate any of those complaints, Wyler testified, but they cited Wyler for having an animal at large when a horse escaped through a hole someone made in his fence.
"It's ongoing and has been ever since I got kicked out," Wyler testified in January.
Lawyers for Hildale and Colorado City contended there has been no discrimination, or at least not the pattern which the Justice Department needs to prove. The defense has argued it's the towns that are suffering discrimination at the hands of the federal government.
Under cross examination from Hildale lawyer Blake Hamilton, Wyler acknowledged Jeffs was never an employee of the towns, but maintained as Clarke did that Jeffs gripped both the church and the marshals.
"What I'm saying is Warren Jeffs runs them both," Wyler said.