AG too soft on polygamy cases, candidate says
PHOENIX -- Attorney General Janet Napolitano is ignoring polygamy and related crimes in northern Arizona to avoid political heat, her independent foe for governor charged Monday.

Richard Mahoney said Napolitano, the Democratic nominee, is guilty of "political indifference" for refusing to pursue charges against people openly violating the law. He said the state should be prosecuting polygamists.

"We have cancer, a spot of cancer, a malignancy in northern Arizona and our state leaders have done nothing about it," he charged.

Mahoney said it is immaterial that the Mohave County Attorney's Office, which has prime jurisdiction on these matters, has been unable to bring any charges. He said the attorney general has supervisory power over county attorneys and that polygamy is specifically outlawed in the state constitution.

Mahoney acknowledged that bringing polygamy charges is difficult. He said, though, other crimes being committed, including adults having sex with underage girls and welfare fraud.

"It seems to me if there were men up there being mistreated or brutalized or raped this would have been ended immediately," he said. "But there's something about this, you know, protected possibly under the penumbra of a powerful church in which people don't do anything."

The same day Mahoney had his press conference, the Utah Attorney General's Office unsealed warrants charging Rodney Hans Holm, a police officer in Colorado City and neighboring Hilldale, Utah, with bigamy and sexual conduct with a minor.

Documents filed in Utah say the case was developed from information which came from Napolitano's office. Dennis Burke, Napolitano's chief assistant, said the case was handed off to Utah authorities because "the act of impregnation and the marriage occurred in Utah."

Holm is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mahoney said church members have made no secret that they practice polygamy and that Napolitano is turning a blind eye.

Burke did not dispute that polygamy is openly practiced in Colorado City but said his agency is doing what it can.

"This is a closed community," he said. "It's extremely difficult to get these people to testify."

Mahoney conceded as much, saying that evidence of plural marriages requires the testimony of women against their husbands. He also noted that the men marry only one of their wives under state law, with the other being only church-based marriages.

He said, though, there are instances of underage women being forced to have sex with older men and welfare fraud. Mahoney said some women have called him.

"If he's got them we'd like to meet them," responded Burke. He said his agency as "subpoenaed women up there" to testify and done numerous interviews but found few people willing to testify because the wives, who have few skills and no other source of support are being asked to help put their husbands behind bars.

Ronald C. Barton, a special agent for the Utah Attorney General's Office, said in a sworn affidavit the it was two investigators from Arizona who had interviewed Ruth Stubbs who told them she had become Holm's third wife in a religious ceremony in 1998 and that she was 16 at the time.

Also charged by Utah officials was Suzie Stubbs Holm, the first wife and sister of the third wife. She is accused in aiding and abetting the illegal relationship.

Mahoney's new charges come four days after the he accused Napolitano of refusing in 1996, when she was U.S. Attorney for Arizona, to seek a search warrant on the home of a man who postal inspectors said had received child pornography. Postal inspectors then went to Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who got a search warrant and eventually unearthed evidence which led to the man's conviction on child abuse charges.

Mahoney is trailing in all polls, with his highest rating on any of them at 8 percent. He said Monday he has his own survey showing he has the backing of 18 percent of those asked but refused to release it.
Capitol Media Services
Originally published October 8, 2002