For­mer bish­ops guilty of polygamy

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - BILL GRAVELAND CRANBROOK, B.C. —

Two for­mer bish­ops of an iso­lated re­li­gious com­mune in Bri­tish Columbia have been found guilty of prac­tis­ing polygamy af­ter a decades-long le­gal fight launched by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

Win­ston Blackmore, 60, was mar­ried to Jane Blackmore and then mar­ried 24 ad­di­tional women as part of so-called “ce­les­tial” mar­riages in­volv­ing res­i­dents in the tiny com­mu­nity of Boun­ti­ful.

His co-de­fen­dant James Oler, 53, was accused at trial in B.C. Supreme of hav­ing five wives, and he too has been found guilty of polygamy.

Jus­tice Sheri Ann Done­gan said Mon­day the ev­i­dence proves that Blackmore has been a prac­tis­ing mem­ber of the Fun­da­men­tal­ist Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints, a break­away Mor­mon sect that be­lieves in plu­ral mar­riage.

“His ad­her­ence to the prac­tices and be­liefs of the FLDS is not in dis­pute,” she said as she read her rul­ing in a Cranbrook, B.C. court­room.

“Mr. Blackmore ... would not deny his faith in his 2009 state­ment to po­lice. He spoke openly about his prac­tice of polygamy.”

Blackmore was shown a list of his al­leged wives and ac­tu­ally made two cor­rec­tions to the de­tails, Done­gan said.

“Mr. Blackmore con­firmed that all of his mar­riages were ce­les­tial mar­riages in ac­cor­dance with FLDS rules and prac­tices.”

Done­gan praised the tes­ti­mony of Jane Blackmore, call­ing her a highly cred­i­ble and re­li­able wit­ness.

“She was a care­ful wit­ness,” Done­gan said. “There was noth­ing con­trived or re­hearsed in her an­swers. She was im­par­tial.”

Blackmore’s lawyer Blair Suf­fre­dine has al­ready told the court that he would launch a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge of Canada’s polygamy laws if his client was found guilty.

The 12-day trial ear­lier this year heard from main­stream Mor­mon ex­perts, law en­force­ment who worked on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Jane Blackmore, a for­mer wife of Win­ston Blackmore who left the com­mu­nity in 2003.

Oler was self-rep­re­sented in the trial but had the ser­vices of Joe Doyle, an ami­cus cu­riae, a so­called friend of the court ap­pointed to en­sure a fair trial, though he could not of­fer any le­gal ad­vice.

Doyle pointed to Oler’s po­lice-seized records from a Texas raid in 2008, say­ing im­por­tant events were miss­ing, such as his client’s el­e­va­tion to presiding el­der in the com­mu­nity in June 2004. He also ar­gued the Crown didn’t prove Oler con­tin­u­ously prac­tised polygamy be­tween 1993 and 2009.

Blackmore’s lawyer also at­tacked the cred­i­bil­ity of mar­riage and per­sonal records per­tain­ing to mem­bers in the United States and Canada. They were seized from the Yearn­ing for Zion Ranch, an FLDS church com­pound.

JEFF MCIN­TOSH, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Win­ston Blackmore, left, ar­rives to hear the ver­dict in his trial in Cranbrook, B.C., on Mon­day. He was found guilty.

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