Two of three peo­ple found guilty in child-bride case

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LAU­REN KRUGEL

A for­mer cou­ple from the polyg­a­mous com­mu­nity of Boun­ti­ful, B.C., has been found guilty of tak­ing a 13year-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 trial in Cranbrook, B.C., heard 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.

In his rul­ing is­sued Fri­day, Pearl­man said that he found Bran­don Black­more “acted on the prophet’s di­rec­tion” by tak­ing the 13-yearold across the bor­der and he was sat­is­fied Black­more would have known the girl would have sex­ual con­tact with Jeffs “in short or­der” be­fore her 14th birth­day.

Al­ter­na­tive the­o­ries raised by the de­fence are “not rea­son­able,” he said.

Pearl­man ruled Gail Black­more was a party to re­mov­ing the girl from Canada.

While the judge said Jeffs in­structed Bran­don Black­more to bring the girl to him, Gail Black­more would have known about the des­ti­na­tion and pur­pose for the jour­ney, given the hasty de­par­ture from Boun­ti­ful for a 19hour drive into the United States.

Although there was no in­di­ca­tion of when the 13-year-old crossed the bor­der from cus­toms records, Pearl­man said he can in­fer she was “in the ve­hi­cle and con­cealed” or that the ac­cused “oth­er­wise ar­ranged” for her to cross the bor­der.

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

But the judge said he was left with rea­son­able doubt about Oler.

“Here the ev­i­dence and lack of ev­i­dence give rise to com­pet­ing in­fer­ences.”

Much of the ev­i­dence pre­sented at 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.

JEFF MCINTOSH, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Bran­don Black­more, right, yells as he leaves the court­house in Cranbrook, B.C., Fri­day.

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