|LYLE JEFFS (polygamist)|
|SEAN REYES (UTAH A.G.)|
|Rep. MIKE NOEL (Rules Chair)|
Was it all just a big lie?
Lyle Jeffs, Warren’s brother and stand-in leader of the FLDS, just pleaded guilty to the crime of Food Stamp (SNAP) fraud, and will serve years of prison time. Like his brother Warren Jeffs, Lyle is a notorious polygamist with some 60 children (children who could not have been born to just one woman). Warren was never charged with polyga-bigamy.
Utah has a law in place (at least since 1976) making polygamous cohabitation (bigamy) a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Since 1976, two defendants, Thomas Green and Rodney Holm, have been convicted under the law and served time. In 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas) the Supreme Court decriminalized all adult consensual (non-commercial) sexual cohabitation and intimacy.
In 2013, Federal District Court Judge Clark Waddoups (in Brown v. Herbert) affirmed that polygamous cohabitation (in Utah) fell within the ambit of the Lawrence decision’s protections. Despite the 10th Circuit’s later overruling of Waddoups in 2016, Utah’s Attorney General, Sean Reyes, fought to protect the language of the now-reaffirmed bigamy statute by more tightly defining the elements of the crime of bigamy (falsely purporting to marry, and cohabitating). He also convinced the Utah (2017) legislature to add an enhancement (second degree) to the crime, so that bad polygamous actors who ALSO commit abuse (upon wives or children) or tax- (or other types of financial) fraud can face up to 15 years in prison.
When asked by the Utah House Law Enforcement committee (on February 7, 2017) if, once the new statutory language were signed into law, the A.G. would proceed with immediate enforcement, the A.G.’s chief-of-staff, Parker Douglas, testified, “Yes”. Douglas has since left his post at the Attorney General's office.
I have to wonder if during the years-long prosecution of the very-polygamous Lyle Jeffs, Utah's distinguished law enforcement community inadvertently forgot that Lyle practice(s)(d) polygamy (i.e. had/has multiple pretend wives) throughout the period of time when he appeared before Judge Ted Stewart and complied with Stewart’s order for him to be a Salt Lake County resident.
Did the A.G. overlook Jeffs’s continued bigamy, or did Reyes elect to break his promise to the Utah legislature because he is afraid of yet another polygamy law test case (see Green, Holm, Bronson,and Brown)?
Did Representative Mike Noel and Parker Douglas argue so passionately for the preservation of the felony penalties for “good” AND “bad” polygamists out of a sincere commitment to begin prosecuting them, OR - was it because representatives of the LDS Church were breathing hotly down their necks to keep the felony penalty in place so that the Church can continue its frantic P.R. repudiation of “criminal” fundamentalist Mormon polygamists?
Hundreds of sincere plural families and their children held a protest rally in the rain at the Utah Capitol on February 10, 2017, pleading with their legislators to see through the disingenuousness of the Attorney General and his surrogates in the House. On the last night of the session, A.G. Reyes held an urgent, dinner-time meeting with the State Senators to urge them to pass Mike Noel’s bigamy enhancement bill (HB-99). He argued that he was pursuing a group of polygamous human traffickers, and that this amendment would give him the tools he needed to prosecute them. At the midnight hour, the bill passed by one reluctant vote.
Utah has tens of thousands of polygamists practicing their deeply-held religious beliefs and lifestyles in the open. One has to wonder if A.G. Sean Reyes has simply forgotten all of his pre- and post-election promises to prosecute all (or even ONE) of them.