Sentencing for child removal trial set for Friday

Two Bountiful members were found guilty of facilitating underage marriage of their daughter.

Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore (left) is set to be sentenced alongside her husband Brandon Blackmore after being found guilty of removing an underage child from Canada to be married to a man in the US. Jim Oler (right) was also charged with the same offence, but he was acquitted.

The sentencing for a couple associated with a polygamous community near Creston, who were found guilty of bringing their underage daughter across the American border to marry a fundamentalist religious leader, will be sentenced on Friday in Cranbrook.

Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore were found guilty of a child trafficking law back in February, while a third accused, Jim Oler, was acquitted.

All three are associated with Bountiful and were charged with the removal of a child of a child from Canada under a criminal code subsection that their removal would facilitate sexual interference or sexual touching. The two children, who were daughters of the accused, were married to men involved with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) during ceremonies in the United States back in 2004.

While the verdict was delivered in February, the courts have been waiting for a pre-sentencing report. According to the Criminal Code of Canada, the maximum punishment is up to five years in prison.

The removal of a child from Canada trial resulted from charges approved by Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the government, in August 2014.

Wilson’s case relied heavily on religious records seized by American law enforcement during a raid on an FLDS compound in April 2008. According to FLDS doctrine, record-keeping is a key aspect of the faith, as what is sealed on Earth is also sealed in Heaven, which is why marriage, personal and priesthood records were so securely stored in a bank-like vault inside the main temple building.

The Crown pointed to priesthood records from FLDS leader and prophet Warren Jeffs, who called Brandon Blackmore to tell him a revelation from God that involved marrying his daughter.

“The Lord had revealed that his 13-year-old daughter belonged to me and we would discuss that when he brought her down south sometime Friday. I am praying the Lord to touch his heart to receive the Lord’s will,” reads the record, which was ruled admissible by Justice Paul Pearlman.

Other evidence included testimony from former members of Bountiful, birth records and school records confirming that the daughters were underage at the time of their marriages.

Oler was acquitted after Pearlman found that there was no evidence to prove Oler was in Canada when Jeffs ordered him to bring his daughter to the U.S. to marry an American man.

There were no records from US Customs and Border Protection indicating Oler had crossed the border with his daughter. A former Bountiful member, who’s identity is protected by a publication ban, testified that she crossed the border with her family in a van and stopped at a rest area, where another van containing Oler and his daughter arrived.

The witness testified everyone transferred into the newly-arrived van with Oler and his daughter before heading down to Nevada and the wedding ceremony.

“On the totality of the evidence, I am left with a reasonable doubt that Mr. Oler did anything in Canada for the purpose of removing [his daughter] from this country,” wrote Pearlman.

Though Oler was acquitted, Wilson is launching an appeal, according to a media release from the Criminal Justice Branch.