Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here we go again?

It seems someone has placed a call alleging that abuse is occurring in Hildale, UT, an FLDS-run town. Utah's AG Mark Shurtleff is making sure she isn't the one who placed the call:
(Rozita Swinton, the alleged Texas FLDS caller)

The Utah Attorney General's Office is now in contact with other law enforcement authorities investigating similar calls made to anti-polygamy activists, Arizona child welfare workers and a Texas family crisis shelter.

"We're working with other authorities to see if it deserves further scrutiny," Utah attorney general spokesman Paul Murphy told the Deseret News Tuesday night.

A Colorado Springs woman has been declared a "person of interest" in the Texas Department of Public Safety's investigation into the calls that sparked the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's community near Eldorado.

A 16-year-old girl named "Sarah" called a family crisis center hotline, claiming that she had been beaten, was pregnant and married to a 50-year-old Colorado City, Ariz., man named Dale Barlow. Authorities have been unable to find her, and questioned Barlow in St. George but did not arrest him.

Anti-polygamy activists received similar calls, and when the girl's story became suspicious, they forwarded them on to the Texas Rangers.

Last week, Colorado Springs police arrested 33-year-old Rozita Swinton on charges of making a false report stemming from an incident in February where she's accused of claiming to be a child in distress to a local shelter.

Texas Rangers were there for the arrest and have said they seized items from her apartment that indicated a possible connection between Swinton and calls regarding the FLDS compounds in Colorado City and Eldorado. The Texas Department of Public Safety has declined to comment further on the case. Swinton has a prior conviction for making a false report to police.

Rod Parker, an attorney acting as spokesman for the FLDS Church said Tuesday that "Sarah Barlow doesn't exist and Dale Barlow lives in Arizona."
Parker, like any defense attorney worth their salt, is going to argue that the case against his client should be tossed because of Swinton's phony calls.

Shurtleff's approach of prosecuting the crimes surrounding the FLDS--child rape, abuse, police misconduct, kidnapping, embezzlement, welfare fraud--and not polygamy in-and-of itself, is a smart one. (And the exact opposite of the Texas approach) The idea is to bring these communities "above ground" and have the women and children in these societies begin to trust the police and prosecutors, and not to think they are going after the polygamists because of their plural marriage practices. This is a tactic, not a policy based on the AG's view of the morality of polygamy.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the investigation into these calls uncovers.

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