KINGMAN - The Mohave County Sheriff's Office may get a much-needed boost in funding to put more deputies in the Colorado City area.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced at Wednesday's Mohave Republican Forum that his office is seeking an additional $250,000 in federal anti-racketeering funding to help the sheriff's office patrol the area.
The Colorado City area in northern Mohave County is well-known for its large population of members from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect follows some of the old rules that the modern Church of Latter-day Saints has abandoned, such as polygamy.
"It's not just a matter of polygamy," Horne said. "You have young girls forced into the harems of these older men. They kick out the young men so the older men won't have competition."
The young men are left on the streets of Salt Lake City or dumped on the highway to hitchhike, Horne said. Girls who try to run away are captured by the Colorado City Marshal's Office and returned to their husbands.
"I was ashamed that the previous attorneys general hadn't done anything and I was determined to do something," Horne said.
Horne's predecessor, Terry Goddard, actually signed an agreement with Utah's attorney general to prosecute crimes in Colorado City and its Utah sister city, Hildale, in 2003. He also put an investigator in the Colorado City area to research claims of polygamy and child abuse, appointed a receiver to run the mismanaged local school district and replaced the trustees who were in control of the church's trust. His office also sued two businesses in the area in 2006 for discriminating on the basis of religion and removed several local law enforcement officers from the Colorado City Marshal's Office.
Goddard also founded the first county/state services office in the Colorado City area.
Horne said he contacted local law enforcement officials, including Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, shortly after taking office and asked what he could do to help.
"The unanimous priority was to substitute for the local law enforcement the Mohave County Sheriff's Office," he said. "We submitted a bill to the legislature. Unfortunately for two years in a row now the bill has failed to pass."
Horne blamed those in legislative leadership positions for the failure of the bill.
"But I was able to find some federal racketeering money to give to (Sheahan) and so he's been able to have someone out there. As a result of that, for the first time the law is being enforced objectively," he said. "We'll continue fighting to get that bill through the Legislature."
Horne said his office is also working on cutting down the child sex trafficking trade in Arizona. The state is known as a sports and entertainment center and with the Super Bowl coming up in 2015, he is working hard to eliminate the child sex trade.
His office is working with local hotels to teach staff in what to look for and how to contact law enforcement if they suspect trafficking is going on in their establishment.
He's also working to increase the amount of prison time for pimps who are convicted of child sex trafficking from 15 to 20 years.
At the same time, Horne said he continues to fight the federal government on new federal Environmental Protection Agency visibility standards, which he says would put coal-fueled power plants out of business in the state and threatens the Navajo Generating Station, which provides electricity to pump Colorado River water to businesses in the Phoenix area.
Horne also represented the state in two U.S. Supreme Court cases.
The first dealt with the death penalty case of Ernest Gonzales, who stabbed a man to death in 1990. In 2010, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found Gonzales incompetent and unable to help his attorneys in his appeals process. It ordered an indefinite stay of his execution. Horne argued that the official court record was all that was needed for the appeals process.
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the 9th Circuit's ruling, saying there was no right to competence during federal appeals as long as the official record provides enough information.
Horne also said while Arizona lost its case before the Supreme Court on requiring residents to prove U.S. citizenship before registering to vote, the case will ultimately turn out to be a victory for the state.
In 2004, Arizona voters approved an initiative that required all residents registering to vote to prove that they were citizens of the U.S.
The Supreme Court ruled this year that the state couldn't require more information from residents who fill out the federal voter registration form than is already on the form. The federal forms require voters to state under penalty of perjury that they are legal U.S. citizens. However, the court agreed that states could ask the federal government to include state-specific instructions on federal forms. If the federal government refuses, the issue can be brought back to the courts.
"Arizona has the right to set qualifications for voters. This is not over and I think it will become a long-term victory for Arizona," Horne said.