Arizona couple awarded $5.3 million in suit against polygamist towns
An Arizona couple was awarded $5.3 million in a lawsuit on Thursday, after a jury concluded they had been subjected to discrimination by members of the Fundamentalist Church of of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Ronald and Jinjer Cooke won their suit in a federal court against Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and were awarded $650,000 each in damages for discrimination, as well as $1.95 million each for interference and retaliation on the part of church personnel — which actually exceeded attorney William Walker’s request for a $2 million award for his clients.
“I’m particularly thrilled for the Cookes who have withstood this discrimination for five and half years and have finally been vindicated by a jury of their peers,” Walker told the Tribune.
The Cookes’ suit argued that they had been singled out after moving to Colorado City because they were not FLDS members, and were barred from participating in the city’s joint water-use agreement with Hilldale.
The couple argued that they were subsequently forced to live in a 35-foot trailer and use a large outdoor water tank that required manual refills. One witness, FLDS security officer Keith Barlow, testified that he was ordered to monitor the Cookes’ activities. Their home remains without water to this day, though electricity and sewage service were eventually hooked up.
Another officer, Willie Jessop, testified that he attended a meeting in which local leaders and church officials came up with the idea of keeping water from the couple. The Cookes’ attorneys also introduced correspondence between city officials and polygamist leader Warren Jeffs — who is serving a life sentence in prison — pointing to heavy church influence in the community.
The two cities, Walker said, are not “run as typical American cities. They’re run as arms of the FLDS Church and Warren Jeffs.”
[Image via KUTV-TV]