Canada prosecutor recommends jail time in polygamy case
CRANBOOK, British Columbia (AP) — A special prosecutor is recommending jail time for two leaders of a religious sect in British Columbia who were found guilty of polygamy.
Peter Wilson asked a British Columbia Supreme Court judge Tuesday for a sentence of between 90 days and six months in jail for Winston Blackmore and a term of one month to 90 days for James Oler.
Wilson says they were motivated by “sincerely held religious beliefs” but he says they must denounce their crimes and deter others.
“They are both, by all accounts, law-abiding, hard-working citizens, honest men,” he said
Both men have been leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which condones plural marriage. They live in the small community of Bountiful in southeastern British Columbia.
Wilson told Justice Sheri Ann Donegan that there are only two other convictions for polygamy in Canadian history, but because those cases took place in 1899 and 1906, they do not help in determining a sentence for Blackmore and Oler.
Donegan found Blackmore, 62, guilty last July of marrying two dozen women, while Oler, 54, was found to have married five women.
The maximum sentence for polygamy is five years in prison.
Blackmore’s lawyer, Blair Suffredine, asked the judge to consider all possible sentences in the case, including an absolute discharge.
He said the unusual circumstances of the case need to be taken into account, including decades of investigations and court proceedings, as well as Blackmore’s positive influence in the community and his religious beliefs.
“None of this was done with the intention of breaking the law. All of it was done through legitimate religious beliefs,” Suffredine argued.
The courtroom in Cranbrook was packed for the sentencing hearing, mostly with members of Blackmore’s family. There were not enough seats to accommodate everyone and a video link was set up so dozens of others could watch the hearing from another courtroom.