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Phoenix • Arizona's police regulators on Wednesday heard allegations of lying, false arrests and ambivalence in connection with six marshals from a polygamous community on the state line with Utah.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board then voted to start the process of removing those marshals from the police force in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The marshals will be allowed to remain on the job while they appeal, which their lawyers indicated Wednesday they will do.
The appeal process likely will take up to a year.
Colorado City and Hildale, collectively known as Short Creek, are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Wednesday was the first time the Arizona board publicly disclosed findings of an investigation of the Short Creek marshals.
Some of the accusations were no surprise, including that marshals falsely arrested two men at an old zoo last year, and that marshals denied knowing about the private FLDS security force though the marshals names were on the security force's roster.
But other allegations offered insight into what it is like being raised in a polygamous sect and policing there. One deputy marshal, Daniel Musser, is accused of telling investigators that he didn't think former FLDS Bishop Lyle Jeffs attended his wedding. But investigators apparently obtained a video showing Jeffs at the wedding.
At least two of the marshals also are accused of not disclosing all the names they were known by when they applied to be peace officers with the state of Arizona. FLDS members sometimes use their mother's last name or, if their mother is assigned to a new husband, use the stepfather's surname. Deputy marshal Jacob L. Barlow, Jr., for example, is accused of not telling Arizona he also used the surname Jessop.
All six marshals also are accused of not investigating or finishing reports of property crimes against the United Effort Plan, the trust that owns most of the homes in Short Creek. The state of Utah seized the trust in 2005 over concerns it was being mismanaged, and FLDS members have refused to pay $100-a-month housing fees or cooperate with trust managers.
None of the marshals attended Wednesday's meeting. The lawyer for the town of Hildale, Blake Hamilton, and for Colorado City, Jeff Matura, both attended but did not speak.
After the meeting, Hamilton said the allegations are "nickel and dime stuff," some of which was almost a decade old. In the case of the property crimes against the United Effort Plan, Hamilton said the marshals are being penalized for not finishing cases where there are no records of what appliances or furniture were ever inside homes.
"We're talking about property disputes where there's really no evidence anything was stolen," Hamilton said.
Hamilton also disputed the descriptions of the marshals serving on church security. Some of them were on the security force years before becoming marshals, Hamilton explained, and didn't understand the questions asked of them by investigators.
Marshals in Short Creek have been accused for decades as acting as arms of the FLDS. Arizona investigators looked at some of the same accusations levied by the U.S. Department of Justice during a civil trial held in Phoenix earlier this year. Witnesses testified about the marshals failing to investigate reports of vandalism, theft or child sexual abuse.
The former chief marshal, Helaman Barlow, testified for the Justice Department that he and other marshals obstructed the FBI and altered police reports.
The jury found that the towns and the marshals discriminated against people who did not follow or were out of favor with FLDS leaders. The jury also found the marshals had a practice of unreasonably seizing property and people and making arrests without probable cause.
The Justice Department has asked the judge in that case to disband the marshals office and let the two county sheriffs police the towns. A ruling is expected in the first half of 2017.
Matura on Wednesday said the Arizona process appears to be a fallback plan if the judge doesn't disband the marshals.
"It's a backdoor way to accomplish the same goals," he said.
One deputy marshal, Curtis L. Cooke, resigned earlier this year rather than face discipline from the Arizona regulators. Cooke's replacement is the only marshal not under suspicion.
The marshals facing discipline are Chief Jeremiah "Jerry" H. Darger and deputies Samuel E. Johnson, Hyrum S. Roundy, Daniel R. Barlow, Jacob L. Barlow Jr. and Daniel N. Musser.
The Short Creek marshals are certified in Utah and Arizona. Utah's police regulators recently announced it closed an investigation into the marshals with no action.
Laws in the two states are different. Arizona's police board can take action against "malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance," according to its regulations.
Utah once had similar language. Then, in 2010, the Utah Legislature changed the law to limit police discipline cases to a few specific offenses, including criminal conduct, sex on duty, and drug and alcohol problems.