Polygamous Town Arrest

Three girls embrace before they are removed from the home of Samuel Bateman following his arrest Wednesday in Colorado City, Ariz. Seven were removed from the Bateman home, as well as two others from another house as part of the investigation.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A leader of a small polygamous group on the Arizona-Utah line pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges of tampering with evidence, weeks after being stopped on a highway with young girls in an enclosed trailer.

Samuel Bateman, 46, was indicted earlier this month on three counts of destroying or attempting to destroy records, and tampering with criminal proceedings. He pleaded not guilty in U.S. Magistrate Court in Flagstaff, a mountain city where he was arrested in late August by a state police agency after someone spotted small fingers in a gap of the trailer’s rear door.

Authorities found three girls, between the ages of 11 and 14, in the trailer he was hauling through Flagstaff, according to court documents. The trailer had a makeshift toilet, a couch, camping chairs and no ventilation, the documents state. The documents didn’t say if the girls are related to Bateman, and it wasn’t discussed during Thursday’s hearing.