Constitutional Law

Utah AG Takes Stand re Unpaid $5.6M Judgment, Expresses Relief at Not Being Jailed

The top law enforcement official in Utah expressed relief Friday that a state court judge didn’t jail him for contempt months after a deadline expired for paying a $5.6 million court-ordered bill for services provided by a Salt Lake City accountant, lawyers and others responsible for liquidating a communal land trust associated with a fringe religious group.

Saying outside court that he was “worried” that Third District Court Judge Denise Lindberg might “decide to put me in jail” and “glad that didn’t happen,” Attorney General Mark Shurtleff testified under oath Friday that he wouldn’t have the money to pay the $5.6 million unless lawmakers provided it to him, the Associated Press reports.

The state took over the trust from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints once run by Warren Jeffs, a jailed leader of the polygamous sect. However, it can’t liquidate the assets due to ongoing litigation over the takeover, the article explains. Meanwhile, the state is worried that it will not get reimbursed for the $5.6 million, if it is paid out, should the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals find that the takeover was unconstitutional.

The Utah Supreme Court upheld the $5.6 million judgment in August.

“Everyone associated with this has egg on their face,” said Rep. Brian King, a Democrat from Salt Lake City who sits on a budget-writing committee. “The big question is how much if any of the money will be appropriated by the Legislature. I have no idea.”

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