Two Former Leaders of Religious Sect Found Guilty of Polygamy

FLDS Polygamy

Winston Blackmore and James Marion Oler face up to five years in prison after being found guilty in the first real test of Canada's polygamy law, enacted 127 years ago. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said: “Mr. Blackmore confirmed that all of his marriages were celestial marriages in accordance with FLDS rules and practices.” “Having concluded the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that James Oler … practiced a marriage with more than one person at the same time, I find Mr. Oler guilty of practicing polygamy,” Donegan said.

Under Canada’s century-old anti-polygamy law, the British Columbia government had been weighing prosecution since the early 1990s against members of the isolated community of 1,500 residents. “Twenty-seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we’ve proved is something we’ve never denied,” Blackmore said. “I’ve never denied my faith. This is what we expected.” “I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that,” Blackmore told reporters after a judge announced a verdict against him and co-defendant James Oler.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the largest Mormon fundamentalist denominations and one of the largest organizations in the United States whose members practice polygamy. The mainstream Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially renounced polygamy in 1890 and disputes any connection to the fundamentalist group’s form of Mormonism.

Blackmore, 61, was accused of practicing “a form of polygamy” or “a kind of conjugal union” with 24 women between 1990 and 2014, according to court documents. Media have reported that he fathered at least 146 children. Oler, 53, faced the same charge involving five women between 1993 and 2009. It is not known how many children Oler has fathered.

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. Oler had five wives. “Mr. Blackmore confirmed that all of his marriages were celestial marriages in accordance with FLDS rules and practices,” the judge said.

Blackmore and Oler were charged in 2014 for the second time with practicing polygamy, more than two decades after allegations that members of the Bountiful community were involved in multiple marriage, sexual abuse and cross-border child trafficking. In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the law was constitutional and that polygamy is a crime.

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