Lawyers give opening statements in discrimination case against polygamous towns

(Source: Maggie Keane) (Source: Maggie Keane)

With a jury selected, the stage was set Wednesday morning for opening statements in the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights lawsuit against the twin border towns of Hildale, UT and Colorado City, AZ.

[RELATED: Trial begins against polygamous towns in discrimination case]

DOJ attorney Jessica Clarke told jurors of a long-standing "pattern and practice of misconduct" at just about every layer of government in the two isolated communities.

"You are going to hear a lot about Warren and Lyle Jeffs," the lawyer said.

The lawsuit accuses Colorado City and Hildale of being controlled by imprisoned Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints prophet Warren Jeffs and his younger brother, Lyle.   

Warren Jeffs may be in prison, the lawyer said, "but he maintains control."

Clarke then outlined the government’s case, saying the non-FLDS residents of the community are routinely denied "some of the most basic rights … freedom to live in a city governed by the laws of the land, not by the laws of religion."

The lawyer representing Colorado City, Jeff Matura, countered, accusing the federal government of "trying to eradicate" a religion of which it does not approve.   

Matura told jurors that the feds were guilty of the same type of discrimination that they are alleging against Colorado City and Hildale.

[RELATED: Sins of my fathers: Unfinished business]

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