Judge to rule in B.C. child bride case centred on sect’s polygamous beliefs

By The Canadian Press
February 2, 2017 - 11:24am Updated: February 2, 2017 - 5:25pm

CRANBROOK, B.C. — A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to deliver his ruling Friday in the case of three people accused of removing girls from Canada so they could be placed in plural marriages.

Evidence presented to Justice Paul Pearlman in a Cranbrook, B.C., courtroom late last year delved into the polygamous beliefs and practices in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Brandon Blackmore, Gail Blackmore and James Oler — who are, or have been members of the church — are accused of taking girls across the border for a sexual purpose in 2004.

The trio are connected to the community of Bountiful in southeastern British Columbia, where the trial heard plural marriage was practised.

The charges against the Blackmores, who are separated as husband and wife, centre on a 13-year-old girl who records show was married to Warren Jeffs, the 60-year-old FLDS prophet now serving a life sentence in Texas.

Oler is accused of bringing a 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 the 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 have chosen to represent themselves during the trial, so an impartial adviser was appointed to assist the court and provide balance. The pair spent much of their time in court quietly reading and did not give opening or closing arguments for themselves. 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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