PHOENIX (CN) - Linked fundamentalist Mormon towns in Utah and Arizona refused to provide water hookups to residents who didn't belong to the church, but connected water for church projects without waiting for an application, a former utility board member testified Thursday.
The Department of Justice sued Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, in 2012, claiming the towns denied nonchurch members access to water, utilities and police protection.
Both towns are dominated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leader Warren Jeffs is serving life plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two girls when they were 12 and 15. He called them his "spiritual wives."
The towns' federal trial is expected to last for five weeks.
Guy Timpson, a church member and member of the Colorado City Utility Board from 2007 through 2013, told the jury that the towns quit issuing new water connections in 2007, though the information was not put into writing until 2010.
In 2010, the cities promulgated new water ordinances dictating that "no new service location will be connected to the culinary water system" unless the applicant can supply water to the system that meets environmental qualifications.
Despite this ordinance, a church entity - the Twin City Improvement Association - was given a number of water connections for building projects before it even filed an application. The projects included an apartment complex, housing for Warren Jeffs and a storehouse for members of the FLDS to contribute goods for the use of other members.
"They had already received water connections," Timpson told the jury, and he worked on them in his capacity as a church member.
Meanwhile, the utilities board denied water applications from nonmembers Richard Holm and Ron and Jinjer Cooke.
Jessica Clarke, a Justice Department attorney, asked Timpson what the church's involvement was in water decisions.
"There weren't any [board members] that weren't part of the FLDS," Timpson replied. "From the church's perspective, we had gotten a sermon from Warren Jeffs saying there would be no new building."
The Cookes were awarded $5.2 million in 2014 after they sued town officials for discriminating against them "in the provision of services or facilities because of religion."
Also Thursday, Thomas Jeffs, a son of Bishop Lyle Jeffs and nephew of Warren Jeffs, testified about the symbiotic relationship between the church and the Colorado City Marshal's Office.
The Justice Department accuses the Marshal's Office of failing to investigate crimes against non-FLDS members and refusing to arrest FLDS members who commit crimes against nonmembers.
Thomas Jeffs, who was as a bodyguard for his father, said the police chief gave him night-vision binoculars to use for church security.
"He said, 'These were found outside my jurisdiction, outside my control. I could lose my badge and job for this, so don't get caught," Thomas Jeffs told the jury.
He said the towns' law enforcement treated him well because his father was the bishop: for instance, the police chief took care of a warrant for him when he forgot to pay a speeding ticket.
Thomas Jeffs grew up in the Salt Lake Valley until he moved to the community in 2001 after his grandfather, then-FLDS leader Rulon Jeffs ordered Thomas' father Lyle to move there. Thomas Jeffs left the church in October 2013.
"I feel like now I'm on the outside," Thomas Jeffs testified. "I feel like justice needs to be served."
The trial resumes next week.
This story was originally published by Courthouse News.
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