Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Tue, April 23

Dissident polygamist goes on trial in lawsuit <BR>

The eviction trial of a Colorado City man who has been excommunicated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began Tuesday.

The United Effort Plan (UEP) has requested that Mohave County Superior Court Judge James Chavez evict Charles Ross Chatwin from a home in the polygamous community.

Chatwin is being represented in the case by Community Legal Services, which is based in Kingman.

During a Jan.

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

On Tuesday, both sides presented witnesses, and Chavez set March 18 for oral arguments on whether three persons who did not show up Tuesday were properly subpoenaed.

Chatwin's attorney Joan Dudley argued that Jeffs, who also is UEP board president, church bishop and UEP trustee Fred Jessop, and UEP representative Nephi Barlow all were properly subpoenaed.

UEP attorney Rodney Parker argued that the three were not subpoenaed correctly because they live in Utah, which is not subject to subpoenas from Arizona jurisdictions.

Jeffs and Jessop live just across the Utah border in Hildale, Parker said.

Barlow previously lived in Colorado City but has since moved to St.

George, Utah.

Chatwin testified he is not married to more than one woman and has never practiced polygamy.

He said he has been accused of stalking an underage woman in the community and that she has obtained a protective order and an injunction against him.

Chatwin said he believes she was coerced into obtaining these orders.

He said he only helped the young woman after she came and asked for help.

Plaintiff's attorney Rodney Parker argued that Chatwin is a "tenant at will" subject to eviction at the whim


of the United Effort Plan, the trust that owns most of the land in Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah.

The trust is controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a splinter offshoot of the mainline Mormon church.

Berry, a Salt Lake City attorney who represents the UEP, testified about the history of United Effort Plan, which he said had its beginnings in the Short Creek Valley in 1936.

A religious group that "wanted to live the United Order."

UEP was created in 1942, Berry testified, largely from land "consecrated" to a trust by John Y.


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

He testified that a "tenant at will letter" sent to all Colorado City residents in the late 1980s triggered litigation in federal court.

A lawsuit against UEP was thrown out of federal court and moved to state court, he added.

Berry said the judge awarded UEP a "limited constructive trust," such that if the trust removed someone from its property, the person could receive compensation for improvements made to the property.

Berry said he "won" the lawsuit because the claimants sought the dissolution of the trust, which didn't occur.

"The UEP owns the property.

They (claimants) got the right to occupy (homes) for the rest of their lifetimes." This included reimbursing the UEP for property taxes and not making improvements of more than $500 without consent of the UEP.

Chatwin testified that 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.

He said Jessop appointed him a tract of land in order to build the home.

Chatwin testified he moved from that home to another on Willow Street after being told to do so by Nephi Barlow on behalf of Jessop in early 2001.

He said he was asked to leave the Willow Street home in November.

Chatwin, who lives in the home with his wife and six children, made one voluntary property tax payment toward the Willow Street home in 2003 but did not make more because "I've been too broke.

I've been boycotted.

I have no new customers."

Chatwin said he is an auto salesman and admitted he doesn't have a business license.

He said the business slowdown began on March 30.

Chatwin's wife Laurie testified that Jeffs told her that her husband had been asked not to attend the church's meetings.

When she asked why, Jeffs said he wasn't going to tell her because he "didn't want to unload on me.

That it was between him and my husband," she said.

She testified that she had phone conversations with Jeffs about her relationship with her husband.

"He said he was doing a disciplinary action" against her husband and asked if I would "help this and not sleep with my husband?"

Willie Jessop testified that he is a "dirt digger" and serves as a bodyguard for Jessop and Jeffs.

When asked where they are located, he said, "I have no idea."


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