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Moccasin, Ariz. • A judge here on Monday heard prosecutors make their criminal trespassing case against the accountant appointed by a Utah court to oversee a polygamous sect's land trust.
At the one-day bench trial held in Colorado City Magistrate Court, city prosecutor Ken Brednel argued that Bruce R. Wisan authorized an employee to break into sect members' homes and change their locks.
Wisan and employee Jethro Barlow are both charged with six misdemeanor counts of solicitation and facilitation of criminal trespassing and have pleaded not guilty.
Wisan asked the judge to delay the trial Monday morning because the pair did not have a lawyer. Wisan said he fired attorney D'Arcy Downs-Vollbracht on Friday after she failed to respond to a ruling excluding two important defense witnesses.
But Judge Pro Tem Paul Julien decided to push ahead anyway, noting that misdemeanor defendants often represent themselves. The trial has already been delayed several times since the charges were filed nearly two years ago.
Barlow and Wisan declined to say anything in their defense, consistently maintaining they needed a lawyer. After calling the proceedings a "miscarriage," Wisan hinted at a possible appeal.
"I don't think this case is over," he said. He could not immediately say how a guilty ruling could affect his job as administrator of the United Effort Plan trust.
Julien said he's planning to issue a ruling by the end of the month.
Wisan runs the trust that holds nearly all property in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where almost all the residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The state of Utah took over the approximately $110 million trust in 2005 after allegations of mismanagement by FLDS trustees.
In August 2008, Wisan employee and former FLDS member Isaac Wyler had a locksmith pick the lock on one man's home to determine if anyone was living there. Wyler also changed the locks on a woman's home, then dangled the keys at her, asking for $500 in back taxes, according to testimony given by both residents Monday.
Wyler was convicted of trespassing in 2009. He testified that he carried out jobs for Barlow and Wisan. Wyler but did not appear in court Monday due to health problems.
"He does nothing without Mr. Wisan and Mr. Barlow telling him to do it prior," Brendel said. "They provided him the means to do this, they instructed when and how to do it."
Wyler started delivering past-due property tax notices and court summonses after many residents refused to pay property taxes and $100 monthly fees on their homes following the state takeover of the trust, which is now millions of dollars in debt.
In the past, lawyers for Wisan have argued that the Utah courts gave him the authority to "manage, lease or rent the property," and that he had warned in a prior notice that people could be evicted if they did not pay their taxes, according to court documents. Prosecutors countered that Wisan and his employees should have gone through a legal eviction process.