COLORADO CITY, Ariz. – The ongoing issue of a town’s law enforcement allegedly being governed by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints manifested itself once again and was captured on video this week (see video at top of post).
Tuesday, two men were arrested for trespassing in Colorado City, Arizona – two men who had the legal right, through a lease agreement, to be on the property the marshals charged them with trespassing on, a representative from the United Effort Plan Trust said.
“They were absolutely wrongfully arrested,” UEP Trust employee and consultant Isaac Wyler said.
Bill Walker, an attorney for the UEP Trust, is representing the two men – Andrew Chatwin and Patrick Pipkin – who were arrested Tuesday.
Walker also represented Ronald and Jinjer Cooke, who received a multimillion-dollar settlement last year in a lawsuit against the Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, utility companies.
Walker said the arrests of Chatwin and Pipkin are just another example in a long history of wrongful and discriminatory acts committed by government entities within Colorado City and Hildale – in this case, the Hildale-Colorado City Marshal’s Office – against people who do not belong to, or have parted ways with, the FLDS church.
“This is outrageous conduct by the Marshal’s Office,” Walker said. “They are nothing but a group of thugs. They lie, cheat, and they do everything they can to promote the interests of the FLDS church and Warren Jeffs, to try and drive people who are not polygamists and are not part of the FLDS church out of town.”
We leased a zoo
The UEP Trust is a charitable trust that was originally instituted by the FLDS church as a property holding company. The trust was reorganized by Utah’s 3rd District Court to oversee housing matters and trust benefits, and properties held by the UEP Trust are now under the control of Judge Denise Lindberg and managed by special fiduciary Bruce Wisan.
A company called Prairie Farms recently signed an agricultural lease with the UEP Trust to occupy an approximately 12-acre parcel of land in Colorado City that, many years ago, used to be a zoo.
The FMJ Zoo was a popular site that housed exotic and wild animals, including zebras, camels, bears and wolves, Wyler said, adding that FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs sold all the animals around 2005, and the zoo was closed down.
Prairie Farms now intends to use the property for agricultural purposes, Wyler said, including keeping livestock there during the winter.
After signing the lease agreement with the UEP, Prairie Farms carried out eviction proceedings on the property – but it was discovered that an FLDS family had moved into a tack shed on the land, claiming they lived there and that it was residential land and not commercial property.
Walker said there are multiple witnesses who say the family moved onto the property after the eviction notice was posted. Since a commercial property eviction had been carried out, the FLDS family claimed the property is residential in an attempt to derail the commercial eviction, he said.
“This is not unusual,” Walker said.
“Every time our people try to do a commercial eviction on a commercial property, somebody moves in and claims it’s a residence,” he added. “… This is happening all over the city.”
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has also addressed such issues multiple times in the past (see MCSO document inset).
Wrongful arrest claims
Tuesday, Mohave County Sheriff’s Deputies came out to assist in the eviction proceedings on the zoo property, Wyler said. Officers from the Marshal’s Office were also there.
The issues about the tack shed and the people claiming to live there were brought up, but everything was ultimately resolved; the Prairie Farms people were able to take possession of the property, and the sheriff’s deputies left.
People from Prairie Farms, including Patrick Pipkin, who is affiliated with Prairie Farms, later began checking over the property and discovered a great deal of vandalism had occurred, including the entire water system being ripped out.
Andrew Chatwin, who is not affiliated with Prairie Farms, was invited to the property to record video and help document the vandalism.
“So they then called me,” Wyler said, “and asked me to see what to do about it because I work for the United Effort Plan Trust and that’s kind of my job, to turn that sort of thing in. I called (UEP Trust fiduciary) Bruce Wisan and told him (what had happened), and he says, ‘Well, that’s a direct violation of Judge Lindberg’s injunction.’”
Wisan instructed Wyler to have an officer come out and take a report and document the damage, Wyler said, so he called the Hildale-Colorado City Marshal’s Office.
“When the officer got there, rather than investigate the crime, he started treating me like a criminal and he even said he was going to arrest me,” Wyler said.
“He all of a sudden said I was trespassing, and I’m just like, ‘What?’ You know, because this (the eviction) had all been resolved earlier in the day,” Wyler said. “He then offered to arrest me for trespassing.”
Wyler said the officer told him that Pipkin and Chatwin were guests of the FLDS man living in the tack shed, asserting that the man in the tack shed was the rightful property occupant, but Wyler did not have permission to be there.
Wyler said he called Mohave County and asked them to send the sheriff’s deputies back to the property. When they arrived, he said, they started talking to the man from the Marshal’s Office about the legalities and everything that had happened that morning regarding the people living in the tack shed and the eviction proceedings, and that it had been determined the property was commercial and the question of the tack shed and the eviction had all been resolved.
Others from the Marshal’s Office, including the chief marshal, also arrived, Wyler said. When the chief got there, he said, he told them he was not only going to arrest Wyler for trespassing, but he was also going to arrest Pipkin and Chatwin.
“He says everything has changed and that now he’s going to arrest everyone, including the leaseholder,” Wyler said, “… even though they had proof, yes, and even though Mohave County had decided that, yes, they have absolute proof that they have the right to be here.”
Wyler said the Mohave County deputies advised the officers from the Marshal’s Office that they should not arrest anyone, but the marshals proceeded, anyway.
Wyler said he called Wisan, the UEP Trust fiduciary, and said, “I’m willing to be arrested if I need to be. What do you want to do?”
He said Wisan told him to leave the property, so Wyler went to the other side of the fence, also taking Chatwin’s camera with him and continuing to film all that was happening.
The marshals placed Chatwin and Pipkin under arrest on one class B misdemeanor charge each for trespassing, also impounding Chatwin’s truck. The two were transported to Washington County’s Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane.
“I was arrested having proof of the lease agreement on my own property that I had leased from the trust,” Pipkin said. “They arrested me and towed Andrew Chatwin’s truck and arrested Andrew, one of my guests that I had invited onto the property.”
When asked for comment on the matter, a public information officer for the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office referred St. George News back to the Marshal’s Office. As this report is published, the Marshal’s Office has not responded to comment about the incident.
Deputies from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office were also dispatched to the scene as the events unfolded. A statement issued Wednesday by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said:
On 10/13/15 at around 1700 hours, The Washington County Sheriff’s Office received a call to assist Mohave County when a Mohave County Deputy was not responding to his radio while at the scene of an eviction in Colorado City, AZ. WCSO deputies responded and remained on scene until additional Arizona deputies were able to respond and assist their deputy.
Two WCSO deputies were on scene when the Colorado City/Hildale Marshal’s Office took two males into custody for trespassing, but they were not involved in the Marshal’s Office investigation of the alleged crime. The deputies were informed by Marshal’s that they had were (sic) placing the two men under arrest.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s role in Arizona was to check the welfare of the Mohave County deputy who was not responding to his radio, and they remained until he received backup from his own agency. WCSO deputies were outside the scope of their jurisdiction and would have taken no other action, absent the imminent risk of physical harm.
A church-run police department
Corruption and misconduct within the Marshal’s Office have been longstanding problems, Walker said, and the bottom line is the Marshal’s Office serves the FLDS church and its prophet instead of the law of the land and the United States of America.
“These marshals all are FLDS church members,” Wyler said. “They will do whatever their prophet tells them to do.”
A representative from the Utah Division of Peace Officer Standards and Training said POST has an open case against specific officers within the Marshal’s Office, though additional details were not available as of publication time.
Pipkin and Chatwin spent a night in jail. On Wednesday, they appeared before a judge at the North Canyon Justice Court in Colorado City. The judge entered “not guilty” pleas on each man’s behalf and scheduled court hearings for them to take place in December.
Both men were released from custody.
Walker said it’s his understanding that Chatwin was able to get his truck back, though he had to pay a towing fee and an impound fee.
Walker called the incident “a disgrace.” Not only were his clients within their legal rights to be on the property they had lawfully leased from the UEP Trust, but a minor crime like a trespassing charge is normally dealt with by issuing a citation, not taking someone to jail, he said.
“This was a bad mistake that they (the Marshal’s Office) made,” Walker said, “because this one is so clear and such a clear violation.”
“We intend to fight this,” he went on to say. “We intend for them to be exonerated, and then we intend to look at suing the city for additional civil rights violations. They apparently have learned no lesson whatsoever from the Cooke case.”
St. George News reporter Devan Chavez contributed to this report.
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