Closing arguments made in Colorado City eviction case

Attorneys on Wednesday made closing arguments in the case of the attempted eviction of a Colorado City man by a polygamous church.

Charles Ross Chatwin is involuntarily being removed from his home after substantially improving the property, said his attorney, Joan Dudley.

Chatwin is being evicted by United Effort Plan, an association that owns and manages all property within Colorado City, an enclave of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The court should not participate in unjustly enriching the UEP," Dudley said.

Dudley is the managing attorney with Community Legal Services, based in Kingman.

The trial began March 2.

A decision by Mohave County Superior Court Judge James Chavez is expected next week.

Chatwin is married and has six children ranging in ages from 1 year to 11.

Dudley argued that Chatwin's family would be left homeless if the family were evicted without compensation.

"They will lose the only life, culture and home they have ever known," Dudley said.

The church has said that Chatwin's wife, Laurie, is free to stay in the community with her children and be assigned to another house and another husband, Dudley said.

"She chose to stay with her husband than to be transferred like a piece of chattel to another home and another man."

UEP attorney Rodney Parker called Dudley's arguments "a blatant and improper appeal based on passion and prejudice." Parker said the homelessness issue "and their entire case" appeals to "emotion and is inappropriate."

Parker said Chatwin is a "tenant at will," which does not require a written lease.

After questioning by Chavez, Parker said the only evidence of written notice of removal from the UEP to Chatwin is a letter sent to Chatwin from Parker's office.

During a Jan.

23 news conference in Colorado City, Chatwin denounced the Fundamentalist LDS Church and likened its prophet Warren Jeffs to Adolph Hitler.

Chatwin believes he is still a faithful member of the church community, Dudley said on Wednesday.

Chatwin said he has lived in Colorado City on UEP property all of his life and invested more than $100,000 in time and labor in a home on Uzona Avenue that he lived in from 1992 to 2001.

Chatwin was assigned a home on Willow Avenue in 2001 and testified that he spent a significant amount of money on improvements there, although he did not say how much.

According to court documents.

UEP proceeded with its eviction lawsuit when, it claimed, Chatwin intentionally damaged the home by cutting a hole in the second story.

Chatwin said his brother, Steve, had been directed by the church to move into the Willow Avenue home on Feb.

14.

However, the UEP accuses Ross Chatwin of damaging the home in order to keep control of it.

In March 2 testimony, Steve Chatwin testified that he left for Canada in 2000 and returned to Colorado City in 2002.

"I was given permission to take charge of the home (on Willow Street) and began construction on the upstairs.

I completed it with help of the community.

Utility service is in my name," he said.

The utility service was switched from his brother's name to his name with the approval of the UEP, Steve Chatwin testified.

Raymond Scott Berry, a Salt Lake City attorney who also represents the UEP, testified on March 2 about the history of United Effort Plan.

It was begun in the Short Creek Valley in 1936 because of a religious group that "wanted to live the United Order." This involved placement of property "in a religious institution guided by religious leadership … in order to help build the kingdom of God for the return of the Lord."

Land "consecrated" to a trust by John Y.

Barlow was what created the UEP, Berry said.

The trust has subsequently grown because of donations and property purchases.

Berry described the goal of the UEP as "to have one pure people united in one place on the earth to prepare a footprint for God's kingdom on earth."