The U.S.Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit alleging a “cult” run by Warren Jeffs is ruling two Southwestern towns, the World News Daily (WND) reports. The DOJ believes that two towns located on the Arizona-Utah border are under the direction of the imprisoned Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) leader. Jeffs garnered national notoriety during his polygamy trial last year. Jeffs was ultimately convicted on underage sexual assault charges and is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison. DOJ officials believe he controls the actions of the fundamentalist church from his prison cell.
DOJ officials maintain that Jeffs and his FLDS cohorts “control” Colorado City, Arizona and the town of Hildale in Utah through “intimidation” which targets non-FLDS residents. Such residents allegedly comprise just a small minority in each city. Excerpts from the federal civil rights lawsuit republished by USA Today claim local law enforcement officers still follow “illicit” orders from Jeffs.
The lawsuit also alleges that non-FLDS members are denied municipal services, housing and access to a public playground. If the allegations contained in the DOJ lawsuit are accurate, local officials also permit members of the fundamentalist sect to “damage” the crops and property of non-member citizens as well. The DOJ civil rights lawsuit claims local leaders help prevent underage brides from escaping the area.
Defense attorney Blake Hamilton who represents the marshal’s office which serves both town, stated no discrimination has taken place, according to Associated Press statements republished by WND. “There’s nothing to support the allegation that non-FLDS members are treated differently. The DOJ asked us to dismantle a community,” Hamilton said. Bills introduced to eliminate the marshal’s office in both Arizona and Utah failed to pass.
Jeffs, who allegedly has “24 brides” was once the on-site leader of the Yearning for Zion Ranch. During a raid on the FLDS ranch in 2008, 400 children were removed from their homes, prompting the largest custody battle in United States history. Finding no proof of child neglect or endangerment, law enforcement officers eventually returned all the children to their parents.