Sex charges against Barlow dropped

KINGMAN - Colorado City man Randolph Barlow faces a bench trial rather than a jury trial today, confirmed Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith on Monday.

He said both attorneys reached an agreement to go to a bench trial on Friday and had informed the presiding judge, Steven Conn of Mohave County Superior Court, about the decision the same day. The state dropped two counts of sexual assault charges against Barlow pursuant to the wishes of the victim, Smith said.

Barlow will be going to trial on charges of two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, both Class 6 felonies. If convicted, he could receive a sentence of anywhere between four months and two years in prison or receive probation.

Smith refused to give specific reasons for the apparent trade-off between him and defense attorney Bruce Griffen, only saying he dropped the sexual assault charges for strategic reasons.

Court files and relevant court proceeding records suggest that the victim, Candi Shapley, might have played an important role in dismissing the sexual assault charges.

Shapley, according to Smith in an earlier hearing, stopped by Griffen's office in Flagstaff in early August or July with her mother and talked to Griffen about her position in the case against Barlow. It is not known what was discussed.

While Shapley testified against Barlow in front of a grant jury last summer, her parents are believed to be loyal to the leader of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Warren Jeffs.

Her parents had persuaded Shapley to marry Barlow as his second wife in a plural marriage.

Barlow is believed to be a member of the church, also, which believes in the practice of polygamy or plural marriage.

Unlike the charges of sexual conduct with a minor, in which the state only needs to prove that the defendant knowingly had sex with the victim before she was 18 years old to get him convicted, the sexual assault charges require cooperation from the victim.

By dropping the sexual assault charges, the state secured a bench trial against Barlow on the charges of sexual conduct with a minor.

The state, after successfully convincing a jury that Colorado City man Kelly Fischer was guilty on the charges of sexual conduct with a minor by introducing birth and marriage certificates of Fischer and the victim to the court, is likely to use a similar approach against Barlow.

Conn told both attorneys during Fischer's trial that he believed those certificates effectively proved Fischer's guilt in his opinion.

Griffen was not available for comment on Monday.

He told the Miner earlier this month that he would actively adjust his strategy following the judge's instruction and comments on the Fischer case.