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Colorado City Mayor Invokes Fifth Amendment Right In Questioning By DOJ

Colorado City
Photo Sarah Nichols - CC BY 2.0
Colorado City is on the Arizona-Utah border.

Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate when questioned by the U.S. Department of Justice lawyers in the civil rights trial against his city. The mayor took the Fifth when asked if he took two underage girls as brides.

The Justice Department is accusing the town governments of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah — and their joint police department — of acting as arms of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous sect that broke off from the Mormon religion.

A trial began in Phoenix last month, and Justice Department lawyers rested their case on Tuesday afternoon. The defense will call its witnesses on Wednesday morning.

Allred took the stand on Tuesday morning and was joined in the witness box by his lawyer, Barry Mitchell. After consulting with Mitchell in whispers after most questions, Allred invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions more than 50 times in the span of 45 minutes.

Allred refused to answer questions about allegations that town policies were designed to discriminate against non-church members, and that the the local water company, Twin City Water Works, was funneling public money to the FLDS church.

Justice Department lawyer Sean Keveney showed the jury a check Allred had apparently signed from Twin City Water Works when he was in a leadership position there. The check was made out to the church cause, "Short Creek Stake For Zion," for $15,000.

Keveney also showed the jury a letter of support that appeared to be written by Allred to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs when he was a fugitive. Allred refused to answer questions, though Keveney then showed the jury the signature on the letter matched Allred's signature on DMV records. Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for child sexual abuse.

As part of this case, the Justice Department is trying to prove the local police and officials turned a blind eye to illegal marriages of underage girls to adult men performed by the FLDS church.

Leading up to today's testimony, the Justice Department has shown the jury evidence Allred himself took underage brides. The Justice Department has previously shown a marriage certificate indicating Allred married a 15 year-old-girl named Julia Williams. The plaintiffs also questioned Williams' father, Jerold Williams, who confirmed the marriage in his sworn testimony. 

Keveney asked Allred if it was true that he had first married a legal wife in 1994, then married a 17-year-old in 2004 in a church ceremony, and then not long after that, 15-year-old Williams in 2005. Keveney also asked if it was true that Williams had given birth to Allred's son when she was 17. Allred invoked the Fifth.

Allred did initially answer a few questions in his testimony. After Keveney asked how many voters there are in Colorado City, Allred admitted he did not know exactly. He guessed 700 or 800, when there are in fact over 1100 according to Mohave County records.

He also admitted he did not “do much campaigning” before the election. In response to a question about whether anyone ran against him for his seat on the city council, Allred answered, “I don’t know that there was anyone running against me.”

The Justice Department has alleged in this case that city council positions in Colorado City are determined by the FLDS church rather than a truly democratic system.

Attorney Bill Walker watched Tuesday’s testimony after seeing Allred invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in a trial two years ago. Walker had sued Colorado City and Hildale for discriminating against non-church members and won that case.

“How can he remain as the sitting mayor for Colorado City?” Walker asked after Allred’s testimony.

“There is no other city in America that would have a sitting mayor and allow him to take the Fifth on questions like that without punishment, and without being discharged as the sitting mayor.”

Defense lawyers for the towns of Colorado City and Hildale did not have any questions for the mayor during cross examination. They declined to comment to the media, as did Allred.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This headline and story have been updated to clarify the invocation of Fifth Amendment rights during a civil proceeding. The story was updated to include quotes gathered after court concluded.

Updated 9:51 p.m.

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.