Feb 13, 2017

Daphne Bramham: Convictions pave the way for more charges in polygamous community of Bountiful

Regina Leader-Post
February 6, 2017

It is significant that after more than 60 years of rumours, members of the polygamous community in Bountiful, B.C. have finally been held to account for sexually abusing children.

It is also significant that one of those convicted is a woman. It points out that even in a staunchly patriarchal religious sect, women can be their own worst enemies.

But what may be more significant than the convictions of Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore for removing a 13-year-old girl from Canada for an illegal purpose are the documents that the judge relied on.

Those documents include the Priesthood Records of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which were deemed so dangerous to the FLDS that they were stored in a vault with two-feet-thick concrete walls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas.

The records contain marriage details of at least 31 under-aged girls from Bountiful, which could and should be used for future prosecutions.

Without those records, FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs would not be a convicted pedophile serving a life sentence.

The Blackmores’ daughter — whose name is protected by a publication ban — was one of his victims.

Based on the priesthood records, Justice Paul Pearlman’s 47-page, written decision details what happened in 2004, starting with a phone call from Jeffs to Brandon Blackmore.

Within a few hours of Jeffs telling him that his 13-year-old daughter “belonged” to Jeffs, Blackmore, his wife and two daughters began a 19-hour drive to Utah.

There is no record of the 13-year-old crossing with her parents and her sister, who was already one of Jeffs’s more than 80 wives.

However, given that obedience is a fundamental tenet of the religion, the judge wrote: “It is implausible that (she) would have crossed the border on her own and without her father’s knowledge and approval. It is even more implausible that (she) would independently depart from Bountiful and travel to the United States at or about the time her father received Warren Jeffs’s direction to bring her to Short Creek.”

Pearlman concluded that the girl was either hidden in the vehicle or somehow not documented by the U.S. border officials, or that Blackmore had arranged for her to cross the border somewhere else and meet up with them.

As instructed, Blackmore dropped his daughters off at Jeffs’s home when they arrived in Colorado City, Az. Three days later on March 1, 2004, the parents witnessed their 13-year-old’s marriage.

The marriage was consummated on Oct. 9, according to the girl’s personal record. Jeffs tape-recorded the act. At the trial, the girl’s brother confirmed that the tiny voice on the recording was his sister’s.

Based on testimony of former FLDS members and some religious tracts entered as evidence, the judge concluded that the Blackmores would have certainly known that sexual intercourse was the only possible outcome.

With the conviction, special prosecutor Peter Wilson proved that religion is no justification for child sexual abuse. He also proved officials in the B.C. attorney general’s ministry wrong. For decades, they had not been willing to even take a case to court.

Disappointingly, Blackmores’ co-accused, James Marion Oler, was found not guilty. However, it does prove that despite Oler and Gail Blackmore refusing legal counsel, they did get a fair trial.

The judge appointed John Doyle as an amicus curiae (or friend of the court) as a counter-balance to the prosecution.

By pointing out that there was no evidence that Oler was in Canada when Jeffs ordered him to take his 15-year-old sister to Cedar City, Utah, and no evidence that Oler and his sister crossed the border, Doyle secured Oler’s acquittal.

With reasonable doubt, Pearlman agreed that Oler could not be convicted.

It also meant that the judge didn’t need to rule on the other part of the charge — whether Oler knew that the marriage would result in his under-aged sister having sexual intercourse.

Yet, the judge did.

“Placement into a plural marriage in a foreign country only served to enhance her vulnerability and her dependency upon her husband for her subsistence and the necessities of life,” the judge wrote.

The girl’s husband “had the power to demand, enforce and expect obedience from her in all matters; to determine whether she received any further education; to control her movements, travel and social life; and to control the time and frequency of sexual intercourse.”

While Pearlman didn’t find Oler guilty, what he did do was succinctly summarize a tragedy all too familiar within the FLDS, and one that Oler set in motion for his own sister.

Oler got off this time. But he may not be so fortunate in April when he returns to B.C. Supreme Court charged with one count of polygamy alongside Winston Blackmore, another former bishop of Bountiful.




No comments: