JIM HARMSTON AND THE TLC SETTLE LAW SUIT
Jim Harmston and the TLC Settle Law Suit
In 1997, I was asked by Attorney Don Redd to investigate a suspected theft perpetrated by James D. Harmston, prophet and leader of the True & Living Church, a polygamist group headquartered at Manti, Utah. Harmston was suspected of defrauding two TLC members, Kaziah May Hancock out of $250,000.00, and Cindy Stewart of $15,000.00.
I spent several days interviewing the victims, witnesses, obtaining tape recordings and affidavit, besides researching real estate and other leads that came to my attention. I was able to obtain probable cause and prima facie evidence and a complaint was filed that same year. I had the privilege of serving the papers on the prophet Harmston.
A jury trial resulted in a verdict for the Plaintiff’s. When interest, attorney fees etc. were added on to the money the ladies lost it came to a nice piece of change. Justice had been served, so we thought.
But for some reason, according to one of the plaintiffs, the presiding judge had a problem with the verdict. His lack of further action was frustrating as days, weeks and years dragged by. Finally the matter went before an appeals court in Provo who sent it back to the District Court for a new trial. And there it sat, and sat, while Harmston was said to be advising his true believers that if they were patient it would eventually go away.
In the mean time a new judge was on the bench and according to reliable informants he didn’t much like the idea of another trial and recommended “arbitration.” The arbitration took place about three weeks ago, presided over by a retired judge, Roger Livingston.
I am told the attorney for Harmston convinced the arbitrator, Attorney Redd and one Plaintiff that the prophet Harmston and his church were suffering from a state of pecuniousness – that means they didn’t have very much money. So the settlement was reduced to a mere $60,000.00, to be paid in monthly installments of $3000.00 a month. If Harmston missed a month the amount would jump up to $120,000.00.
Attorney Redd took a third, attorney Redd said the appeals attorney should have a third, that left a third to be divided between the two plaintiffs. By the way, the Plaintiffs, according to a reliable informant, had to pay the arbitrator fees of $150.00 per hour.
Everyone was apparently cool with the settlement except for one Plaintiff. She didn’t believe the defendants were as penury as they claimed. She lived in Manti where she could observe new cars, new houses, new cosmetic surgery, and new ATVs driven conspicuously by Jim’s family up and down the Manti streets.
Part of the settlement was a disclosure clause in which the Plaintiffs were to agree not to talk about the settlement or give any details to the media. But this one Plaintiff, still upset over the settlement’s pittance, has so far refused to sign. (Good for her!)
I suppose I might be considered part of the media inasmuch as I’ve written a few books about Mormon polygamy. In case you’re interested you can see a picture of the great prophet, James D. Harmston, in Polygamy Under Attack, From Tom Green to Brian David Mitchell. You can also see some pictures of other folks, some good folks and some bad.
This arbitration settlement may or may not have been just – nevertheless, the fact can’t be changed that this is the second successful law suit against a polygamist group. It’s successful because I can report they have been exposed. A jury found them culpable, presumably a technicality bought them time, about 13 years to be exact. And during arbitration Jim apparently decided to give the Plaintiff’s attorneys $60,000.00 of his true believer’s tithing money -- so he could get the Plaintiff’s attorney and one of the plaintiffs off his back.
However, in both cases deception, manipulation and dishonesty were exposed. If we bring the FLDS and AUB into equation we can add immorality and the illusion of entitlement in what appears to be a pattern of exploitation endemic to the organized polygamist groups.
Polygamy is no longer under attack in Utah. “Politically,” we in Utah “feel sorry” for guys like Jim Harmston. He’s quite a guy you know, just a simple Mormon prophet diligently going about the work of a prophet, which is building up his kingdom, and the kingdom of God. He builds up his kingdom by accumulating as many wives as he can for the purpose of “multiplying and replenishing the earth.” To assist in this holy endeavor, God, or Mother Nature, depending upon your view point, planted in the testes of the male and ovaries of a the female, a hormone biologists call “testosterone,” better known as a powerful, pleasurable incentive to fulfill the sex urge.
The prophet builds up God’s kingdom by “merchandising plural wives and a celestial exaltation,” which has proven to be a very lucrative occupation – where people’s lives are exploited and sacrificed in a deadly game of conflict, power, sex and money.
You can read more about James D. Harmston and how he goes about building up his kingdom in Polygamy’s Rape of Rachael Strong, a true story, and you’ll see why polygamists are no longer under attack in Utah. Now, in the Lone Star State of Texas, it’s a different story. If a polygamist breaks the law he can expect to be prosecuted. And Canada isn’t standing still either. There is a viable movement of concerned Canadians hell-bent on permanently outlawing the practice of polygamy because of its inherently, exploitive nature.
I’m not suggesting Utah should go after all polygamists, just because they are polygamists - economics and decency doesn’t justify that; what I’m saying is that when these phony prophets use religion to exploit men and especially women, and the victims complain, we should go after them with whatever laws are available – criminal or civil -- and that includes bigamy.
If prosecutors like the Utah Attorney General and the San Pete County Attorney are not going to enforce the crime up bigamy, which has been upheld by the Utah Supreme Court, then the prosecutors should seek an amendment to the State Constitution and repeal the clause that says “polygamy shall forever be forbidden,” and then let’s debate the issue before the Utah State Legislature and make it a public issue. Let’s hear what the public has to say.