A key witness in a trial against two polygamous towns in Arizona and Utah described Tuesday the elaborate steps the church and communities took to avoid outside law enforcement and help their leader while he was a fugitive, including using “burner” cellphones, encrypted radios and hidden all-terrain vehicles.
Willie Jessop served as a spokesman and head of security for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before leaving the sect in 2011.
He testified about a list of cloak-and-dagger efforts that church leaders and officials in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, undertook to evade authorities and help their fugitive prophet, Warren Jeffs.
Convinced the local cellphone tower was being monitored, they drove 40 miles from town to make calls. They collected disposable cellphones from around the U.S. and used encrypted radios.
Jessop said church officials received law enforcement training from former Secret Service members and even went to sniper training.
He said all of those efforts were made in cooperation with town officials — a central component in the trial before a jury in Phoenix.