7 Polygamist Men Surrender, Accused of Sex Crimes

7 Polygamist Men Surrender, Accused of Sex Crimes

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John Hollenhorst ReportingSeven men surrendered at an Arizona jail today in what appears to be the biggest crackdown on a polygamist community in more than a half-century. All are followers of fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

One man was arrested Friday when a squad of deputies descended on Colorado City, Arizona. Seven others voluntarily gave themselves up today. A ninth man is unaccounted for. All are charged with felony sex crimes for marrying, or arranging marriages, with underage girls.

The polygamist town sits on the border of Utah and Arizona. Utah authorities landed the first big punch last year with the successful prosecution of polygamist policeman Rodney Holm. Now Arizona has fired off a volley of felony charges. Eight men, including Rodney Holm, have been booked into jail in Kingman Arizona.

Utah's Attorney General applauded the Arizona arrests.

Mark Shurtleff, Utah Attorney General: "They all relate to unlawful sexual activity with children, and conspiracy in arranging those kind of marriage relationships."

The last crackdown on this scale was in 1953. Arizona authorities raided the same town, then known as Short Creek, and arrested dozens of men. But it turned into a public relations disaster. Public sentiment turned against the raid because so many children were separated from their parents. Shurtleff says this crackdown is more carefully targeted on serious crimes against children.

Mark Shurtleff: "You may question what's going to happen to them if their fathers are put in jail. But if their fathers are committing crimes, particularly against children, then we have a duty to protect those children."

The arrests are ratcheting up the pressure on FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. He faces civil suits, criminal charges, and the loss of his financial empire. And his whereabouts are unknown.

Mark Shurtleff: "He's been able to escape justice all these years; he continues to be a fugitive from justice. My challenge to him is 'come forward! If you really believe God is fighting your battles, put Him to the test!' I don't [think he'll come forward] because I think he's a coward."

According to the latest information from Sheriff's Office in Kingman, all of the suspects have posted bail. They were secretly indicted in recent weeks by a Grand Jury, presumably the same jury that previously indicted their leader, Warren Jeffs.

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