Judge won’t likely decide punishment for Hildale, Colorado City until next year

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has asked for additional briefing in the penalty phase of a discrimination lawsuit leveled by the U.S. Department of Justice against the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

After three days of hearing testimony in Phoenix, U.S. District Court Judge Russel Holland asked attorneys for additional briefing before making a ruling, Blake Hamilton, an attorney for Hildale, told FOX 13 on Friday. All filings were due by the end of January 2017.

Earlier this year, a jury ruled that Hildale and Colorado City governments had discriminated in services against people who are not members of the Utah-based Fundamentalist LDS Church. The Colorado City Town Marshals office had been accused of acting under orders from imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving life in a Texas prison for child sex assault.

As a result of the jury verdict, the town governments have already paid more than $1.4 million in a settlement over the discrimination accusations. The Justice Department has also asked the judge to dismantle the Colorado City Town Marshal’s Office. Testimony for the government included Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap, who advocated for the police force to be shut down. Colorado City government officials testified in support of keeping the police force going, arguing that they serve a vital role for people in the towns and have already taken steps to address any claims of discrimination.

The earliest that Judge Holland is likely to issue a decision on the police force would be February 2017.