Jury finds Colorado City, Hildale guilty of discrimination

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
The defense team arrives for the verdict. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The defense team arrives for the verdict. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix is home to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. (Source: Derrick Neill via 123 RF) Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix is home to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. (Source: Derrick Neill via 123 RF)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -

A jury has found two polygamous towns in Arizona and Utah guilty of discriminating against non-FLDS residents by denying them housing, water services and police protection in a .Justice Department's discrimination lawsuit.

The verdict Monday in the civil rights case marks one of boldest victories by the government in its efforts to confront what critics have long said was a corrupt regime in Colorado City, AZ, and Hildale, Utah.

The seven men and five women of the jury have been deliberating the case since Wednesday.

"Today’s verdict reaffirms that America guarantees all people equal protection and fair treatment, regardless of their religious beliefs," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "When communities deny their residents critical services simply because of where they worship, they violate our laws and threaten the defining values of religious freedom and tolerance that are the foundation of our country."

During the seven-week long proceeding, lawyers for the federal government laid out story after story of alleged abuse, misconduct and law breaking on the part of FLDS government officials and police officers in Hildale and Colorado City. 

DOJ attorney Jessica Clarke told jurors in opening statements in January 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.   

Some profound changes are likely to occur along the Utah/Arizona border now that the verdict is in, including the disbanding of the Colorado City Marshal's Office.

The trial provided a rare glimpse into the communities that for years have been shrouded in secrecy and are distrustful of government and outsiders.

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Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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