PHOENIX - A federal jury has ruled in favor of all six plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit against the polygamous towns of Colorado City and Hilldale.
The two cities, along with the Twin City Water Authority were found guilty of violating the 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment and "the establishment clause" of the 1st Amendment, which prohibits government from favoring one religion over another. City leaders were also found guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act.
During the trial, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that elected leaders from the two communities routinely made decisions about public policy, job placements and elections based on instructions from leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Witnesses testified that the Colorado City Police Department enforced church orders and even harassed residents who fell out of favor with FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.
Attorneys for the defense said the civil lawsuit amounted to religious persecution.
In its decision Monday afternoon, the jury awarded more than $2 million in damages to the six plaintiffs. However, earlier Monday both sides agreed to settle for a $1.6 million payout. The settlement amount overrides the jury's decision for damages.
Leaders of the two communities situated near the Arizona-Utah border were not present in court when the verdict was read. However, their attorneys told the media the town is ready to move forward.
"Obviously we would have wanted a different outcome but we respect the process and we respect the time and effort the jury put into this case," said attorney Blake Hamilton.
Attorneys for the Department of Justice declined to comment.
The jury deliberated for three days. The decision could result in further remedies and sanctions against the two cities by the federal government, including the possibility of the police department being dissolved. The cities could also be placed into receivership of a third party. Hamilton said Colorado City's residents and leaders were prepared to follow what the court orders.