Two of three found guilty in child bride case

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A for­mer cou­ple from the polyg­a­mous com­mu­nity of Boun­ti­ful, B.C., have been found guilty of tak­ing a 13-year-old girl into the United States to marry the now im­pris­oned leader of the sect that prac­tises plu­ral mar­riage.

Jus­tice Paul Pearl­man of B.C. Supreme Court found for­mer hus­band and wife Bran­don Black­more and Gail Black­more guilty of the charge of tak­ing a girl across the bor­der for a sex­ual pur­pose in 2004.

He found James Oler not guilty of the same charge, say­ing he couldn’t prove that the man crossed the bor­der in 2004 with a 15-year-old girl who was later mar­ried to a mem­ber of the polyg­a­mous church.

The Black­mores will be sen­tenced April 13.

The court in Cranbrook, B.C., heard dur­ing their trial late last year about the polyg­a­mous be­liefs and prac­tices in the Fun­da­men­tal­ist Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints.

The three, who are or have been mem­bers of the church, are con­nected to the com­mu­nity of Boun­ti­ful in south­east­ern Bri­tish Columbia, where the trial heard plu­ral mar­riage was prac­tised.

The charges against the Black­mores cen­tred on records that show the 13-year-old girl was mar­ried to War­ren Jeffs, the 60-year-old church prophet now serv­ing a life sen­tence in Texas.

Oler was ac­cused of bring­ing the 15-year-old girl across the bor­der to marry James Leroy John­son, who was 24 at the time of the mar­riage.

Much of the ev­i­dence heard in the judge-only trial came about as a re­sult of a U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Jeffs.

Spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Peter Wil­son drew on records found locked away in a Texas ranch dur­ing the trial in an ef­fort to prove the girls’ mar­riages took place within days of the ac­cused re­ceiv­ing in­struc­tions from Jeffs.

Wil­son also fo­cused much of his case on how sex and mar­riage were viewed in the church. The court heard from for­mer mem­bers who said women were ex­pected to obey their fa­thers and hus­bands, have as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble and never turn away their hus­bands’ sex­ual ad­vances.

Bran­don Black­more’s lawyer John Gustafson told the judge in his clos­ing sub­mis­sions that the pros­e­cu­tion failed to prove his client trans­ported the girl across the bor­der or that he knew be­fore­hand that sex­ual con­tact with an older man would re­sult.

Gail Black­more and Oler didn’t rep­re­sent them­selves dur­ing the trial, so an im­par­tial ad­viser was ap­pointed to as­sist the court and pro­vide bal­ance. The pair did not give open­ing or clos­ing ar­gu­ments for them­selves.

CP PHOTO

Gail Black­more and James Oler ar­rive at the court­house in Cranbrook, B.C., Fri­day. Oler was ac­quit­ted but Black­more and her for­mer hus­band Bran­don Black­more were found guilty of tak­ing a 13-year-old girl into the U.S. to marry the now jailed head of a re­li­gious sect.

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