LAS VEGAS Top law enforcement from Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas have gathered here for a closed-door summit on polygamy-related crimes.
The meeting is taking place at the U.S. Attorney's Office for Nevada. Among those in attendance: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith and federal prosecutors.
The group is meeting to map out a plan to go after crimes connected with polygamy. It is the first time they have met since the U.S. Justice Department appointed a senior level prosecutor to assist. The meeting came out of a very public spat between Shurtleff, Goddard and U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who accused Utah and Arizona of "doing nothing" about polygamy.
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said the summit is a good way for all the states to get on the same page.
"We're just here to talk about issues we have in common," she told the Deseret News.
Law enforcement has refused to say what was discussed, but is appears the Fundamentalist LDS Church is on the agenda. The polygamous sect has been under scrutiny for years, most notably for allegations of so-called "child bride" marriages. FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice, for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Photographs surfaced in a child custody hearing in Texas depicting Jeffs kissing a 12-year-old girl, whom Child Protective Services lawyers suggested was his "wife." Texas authorities are investigating Jeffs' relationships with four girls, ages 12-15.
Beyond the marriages, authorities have conducted probes into financial crimes and child abuse. Shurtleff and Goddard have sought a federal task force to push those investigations forward.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman has said he felt such a task force was unnecessary, as many of the crimes being investigated are state-level offenses. Tolman, alongside his federal colleagues from Arizona and Nevada, is also here.
Tolman told the Deseret News that Wednesday's summit was not a "task force meeting" that Reid had envisioned, but an opportunity to share information between multiple agencies.
The meeting comes as a criminal investigation is under way into allegations of abuse at the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch. A Texas judge ordered 440 children removed from the property in April after a call about abuse prompted a raid by law enforcement and CPS. The children were recently returned after an appellate court and the Texas Supreme Court found the state acted improperly in removing all of the children.Authorities are investigating if the original calls that prompted the raid are a hoax.
E-mail: [email protected]