Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Star witness surprises polygamy prosecutors
I left New Orleans for Kingman, Arizona, in a flash yesterday after hearing of the arrest of polygamist Warren Jeffs. I came here to cover the trial of one of his followers, which was supposed to start yesterday. But prosecutors got a big surprise when they put their star witness on the stand and she refused to answer questions.

Candi Shapley was just 16-years-old when, she says, Warren Jeffs ordered her to marry then 28-year-old Randy Barlow. Shapley had testified before a grand jury last year that Barlow had forced her to have sex with him after she'd moved into the home he shared with his other wife and children.

"I had never even seen him in my life. He just held me down and took my clothes off and raped me," Shadley told a local television station.

Barlow is charged with sexual conduct with a minor, which is more commonly known as statutory rape. But yesterday in court, Shapley, his former wife, refused repeated requests to answer questions on the stand.

How come? That's what I asked Mohave County District Attorney Matt Smith.

"Her family has put a tremendous amount of pressure on her. They're members. Her mother, father, both are believers in Warren Jeffs as being the prophet and in the FLDS church and they don't want her to have anything to do with these prosecutions," he said. "The victim is also a key witness in Warren Jeffs' case and here Warren Jeffs gets arrested. That pressure, that added scrutiny."

Barlow is one of eight men facing similar charges. All of them believed to be members of Warren Jeffs' FLDS church. This is the largest group of men to be prosecuted for polygamy-related crimes in this area since 1953. But prosecuting polygamists isn't easy, according to District Attorney Smith.

"Most of the victims won't talk to us. The neighbors won't talk to us. All the people that are loyal to Warren Jeffs won't talk to us." He told me some witnesses even go so far as to move homes so they can't be found again.

I also talked to Gary Engels, an investigator for the Mohave County Attorney's office. He has been following this issue for years.

"I think eventually justice will win out. If I didn't, I couldn't continue to do this. So I just keep pushing and pushing and see where it leads us. I'm not done yet. I'm not ready to give up," Engels told me.

Seven of the eight FLDS members charged in Mohave County are still awaiting trial. All have pleaded not guilty and refused to speak with CNN. The only one who's been tried is appealing his verdict. His name is Kelly Fischer. He was found guilty last month of statutory rape and given 45 days in jail and three years probation.

Here's the tricky part of the Barlow case -- if Candi Shapley stays silent, then Randy Barlow could go free and Candi -- now held in contempt of court -- could be the one who ends up in jail.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 6:30 PM ET
She needs to be "un"brainwashed and made to tell the truth. The trial needs to take place in a different town/county/state.
Posted By Anonymous Vijay, San Clemente, CA : 7:14 PM ET
I don't know why they were surprised- she isn't the first one to back out! I can't imagine what it would be like to be her- if you testify, your whole life, family, and every thing you know, is gone. You get tossed out on your head and THEN what do you do? You keep your mouth shut, that's what. I feel really sad for the prosecution. Good luck!
Posted By Anonymous Sharla Jones, Buckeye, AZ : 7:50 PM ET
It's tricky, but I can believe it; even us mainstream Mormons are known for "talking the talk and walking the walk." These aren't televangelists--they REALLY AND TRULY BELIEVE what they're talking about, to the n-th degree. I can only imagine what these Fundamentalist weirdos did or said to this woman to keep her off the stand. Eternal damnation, exile from her family, friends and loved ones, violence, etc.; the possibilities are endless. I'm having religious issues, and I haven't gone through half the stuff she has. God bless her.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberley, Hempstead NY : 9:13 PM ET
I don't get it...she was strong enough to testify before a grand jury and tell her story to local television stations but now at the waking hour the "cat caught her tongue"? It's sad how this culture degrades women and makes them so insecure. That she is now sacrificing her own destiny over some dude who raped her is nothing but a tragedy. Unfortunately, justice will not be served on this one!
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 9:17 PM ET
Hi Randi: It's so obvious that these young women are being brainwashed. It looks like as soon as they start to show any self-confidense or have a mind of their own it gets quickly squashed by their elders. Imagine Ms Sharply being so afraid that she is willing to risk going to jail rather than disobey the beliefs of her church. If she's afraid to testify against Barlow, I very much doubt they can depend on her speaking out against Jeffs. I wonder what the chances are of him ever getting convicted.
Posted By Anonymous Bev. Whitby, Ontario Canada : 11:25 PM ET
I can only imagine the amount of pressure Candi is under to not testify by her family and her "religious" community. I wish she'd have the courage to testify so that another girl would not have to be victimized by Barlow in the future.
Posted By Anonymous Missy, Los Angeles, CA : 12:53 AM ET
If she's going to keep silent then she deserves to be in jail. She came that far to go before the grand jury to get an indictment against him and now that he's been found she clams up. He can't do anymore to her now than he could've when he was still a free man, so why not let go and make him face all the indigities that she had to face as a child being forced against her will. But if she is not willing to continue what she's started now that he's been found, god knowing why, then she deserves to go to jail. Maybe a few days in the clink will get her thinking straight again.
Posted By Anonymous Chelan London, Ontario Canada : 1:46 AM ET
Put her in jail. I realize she's in a predicament but shes already testified and now she wants to change her story?! These people need a wake up call. If you're silent about abuse and it continues to happen to other people then you are just as guilty as the abuser.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon, Tampa,FL : 9:11 AM ET
The fact that commenters want to send this victim to jail only reinforces my belief that we, as a country, don't care about these women. We care about winning this case for morality, but not the women themselves. How naive can anyone be to truly believe she won't be hurt if she testifies? Her family will disavow her, not to mention that she'll be told she'll suffer eternal damnation. For someone as religious as this girl, and as the other young women too scared to testify, eternal damnation is a lot scarier than a few years in jail! This chuch is not above using violence to intimidate. What if the church threatened Candi's life or, if not her life, that of her family members?

If someone told you that, by testifying in a case, you would instantly go to hell, be thrown out on the street to starve, never see your family again, and more than likely be found and physically hurt, would you testify? Honestly? It's the same reason organized crime rarely has witnesses: those witnesses know that, though they may help the cause of justice, they're basically committing suicide by proxy.

Have some sympathy. If Americans want to help these women, which they don't seem to, reach out to them and find a home for them. Teach them the skills to survive on their own so that, if they leave, they have a way to support themselves. Calling for their equality and then abandoning them when they've served their judicial purpose doesn't seem to be the actions of a concerned populace.
Posted By Anonymous Bekah Marie, Coral Gables, Fl : 12:52 PM ET
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