Prosecutor wraps up case in Bountiful child bride trial

A man is on trial for the alleged removal of his daughter into the U.S. to marry an American man

Crown lawyers wrapped up a case against a man associated wit the polygamous community of Bountiful who is charged with the removal of a child from Canada on Monday in Cranbrook.

James Marion Oler is accused of allegedly bringing his underage daughter from the Creston area into the United States to marry an American fundamentalist Mormon in June 2004.

The charge was filed under a Criminal Code subsection that the removal would facilitate sex offences by Oler’s daughter being placed in a relationship of authority or dependency.

Special Prosecutor Peter Wilson said Crown doesn’t have to prove that sexual activity took place between Oler’s daughter and her husband, but that the removal was done with the intention that it would occur.

“The Crown only has to prove, that at some point during the unfolding of the events, that the accused intended or subjectively foresaw that [Oler’s daughter] would be subject to sexual contact,” said Wilson.

READ: Witness testifies on growing up in polygamous B.C. community

Wilson walked through the Crown’s evidence establishing that Oler’s daughter was born in the Creston Valley hospital and pointed to a decade of school attendance records at Bountiful up to February 2004.

Witness testimony also places Oler’s daughter in Bountiful four days before her wedding to James Leroy Johnson, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

The wedding was ordered by Warren Jeffs, the FLDS president and prophet who arranged marriages for church members based on divine revelation.

According to church records seized by U.S. law enforcement a decade ago at an American FLDS community, Jeffs called Oler on June 23, 2004, and ordered him to bring his daughter into the United States to be married.

Three days later, she was wedded in one of 18 FLDS ceremonies that occurred in a hotel room in Mesquite, NV.

A witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was also married that same day in one of the ceremonies.

She travelled to the United States the day before the wedding, crossing the Canadian border south of Creston in a van with her parents.

Shortly after entering northern Idaho, the van pulled over at a rest stop and the witness went into the woods to relieve herself. When she returned from the forest, a second van containing Oler and his daughter had arrived.

Everyone transferred into the newly arrived van and left for Utah except for for one man who remained behind.

Wilson also argued that Oler should have known his daughter would be subject to sexual activity following her marriage based on the very nature of FLDS doctrine and the role of women in the faith.

During the trial, former FLDS members testified they were taught that obedience to the priesthoood head — the father or husband of the family unit — was a divine directive.

Men were anointed into various levels of the priesthood, while women were taught to fully submit to their husbands and girls to obey their fathers. Refusal to obey carried consequences, such as removal from the community or a religious threat of damnation.

Women do not have financial assets, own personal vehicles and need permission from their priesthood heads to travel or pursue post-secondary education, according to former FLDS members. They were taught that their role within the FLDS religion was to be a celestial wife in polygamous marriages and to bear children.

This is the second time Oler is being tried on the child removal charge, after he was acquitted in Cranbrook Supreme Court two years ago. Crown successfully challenged the trial judge’s decision at the B.C. Court of Appeal, which ordered a new trial last year.

Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore, who were two co-accused in the first trial, were found guilty and sentenced to 12 months and seven months in jail, respectively.

Oler, who is self-represented, did not call any witnesses or mount a legal defence. However, Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, will present his closing arguments on Tuesday.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

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