One morning last month, something changed about the testimony of Joseph Steed Allred, the mayor of Colorado City, Ariz. He stopped answering questions.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Allred's city and the neighboring town of Hildale, Utah, regularly violated the rights of people they considered a threat to the dominant religion in town — a fundamentalist sect of Mormonism that regards imprisoned polygamist Warren Jeffs as its prophet.
Officials in both towns have denied the allegations, and the case is now under deliberation by a 12-person jury after a seven-week trial.
The two cities, federal prosecutors allege, misspent federal funds, denied housing and water to new arrivals and intimidated apostates from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as FLDS.
Allred took the stand on Feb. 9, his attorney in the witness box with him, a move U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland called “interesting,” but allowed.
Allred then answered questions on his city's population, its religion and his election. But then the mayor began to refuse to answer questions, citing his rights against self-incrimination. He declined to talk first about city business, then Jeffs, city money in FLDS coffers and the ages of his wives at the time of their “spiritual” marriages.
The repeated refusals allowed Justice Department attorney Sean Keveney to perform a kind of soliloquy for the jury that eventually spelled out the contours of the government's case without Allred having to say much of anything.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Matura broke in occasionally to protest, objecting to the questioning's relevancy. At one point, apparently frustrated with the entire performance, he stood up.
“He's just trying to taint the jury with these questions to the mayor,” Matura said.
Keveney was permitted to continue. Here are some of the questions Allred refused to answer on the stand.
“As mayor, you oversee the police department. Is that right?”
“Is this a copy of a letter that you wrote to Warren Jeffs when you were city clerk, sir?”
“The signature on the letter looks like the one on your driver's license record, doesn't it?”
“Isn't it true, sir, that you got this letter to Warren Jeffs through a secret FLDS courier network?”
“Isn't it true, sir, that you knew as city clerk that the [city] Marshal's Office knew about this courier network and concealed the information about the network from the FBI?”
“Isn't it true, sir, that you were married to Miss [Josephine] Olds in Needles, Calif., in a ceremony
performed by Warren Jeffs on Sept. 20, 2004, when Miss Olds was 17 years old?”
“I don't want to give Miss [Julia] Williams' full date
of birth in open court but, if we do the math, sir, isn't it true that at the time of the marriage, she was 15 years old?”
“And isn't it true, sir, that Miss Williams gave birth to your child when she was 17 years old?”
“Isn't it true, Mayor Allred, that the Colorado City Marshal's Office was aware of your marriage to Miss Williams and was aware that you engaged in conduct that could have been considered statutory rape?”
“Isn't it true, sir, that as late as 2012 you were taking cash out of the Twin City Water Works for either your personal benefit or the benefit of the church?”
“All that money that was flowing out of Twin City Water Works to the church, that could have been used to upgrade pipes, is that right?”
“To fix pump failures?”
“Isn't it true, sir, that you used that Nextel function because it's a secure, encrypted channel that allowed you as church security to communicate with other church security members and police officers?”
“And you kept those communications secret because you knew perfectly well, sir, that what you were doing on church security was illegal, didn't you?”
When Allred's attorney asked Keveney to repeat a question to Allred, Keveney replied: “I can move on. I think I recall his answer.”
The jury was scheduled to resume deliberations Monday.
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