Former polygamous leader found guilty in child bride case

James Oler found guilty of removing an underage child from Canada to marry a U.S. man in 2004

A former leader of a polygamous community south of Creston has been found guilty of removing a child from Canada knowing she would be subject to sexual offences, according to the presiding judge.

James Oler was found guilty of taking a 15-year-old girl from Bountiful, a fundamentalist Mormon community in the Kootenays, to the U.S. in order to marry an American fundamentalist Mormon in 2004.

Justice Martha Devlin agreed with Crown arguments that Oler should have known the marriage would facilitate sexual activity based on the religious teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which demand obedience to the priesthood head — the father or husband — as a representative of God’s authority.

Justice Devlin ruled that Oler would have known that the marriage transferred the priesthood head authority to the husband.

“As a result, Mr. Oler foresaw with certainty, or substantial certainty, that as an FLDS wife to whom obedience to her Priesthood head husband was the sine qua non of her FLDS identity, [she] would be dependent on her husband for every aspect of her life just as she had been on James Oler as her father.”

READ MORE: Two of three people found guilty in B.C. child bride case

Crown’s evidence included marriage and priesthood records seized at an FLDS compound in Texas a decade ago, testimony from current and former members of the FLDS community and religious experts.

According to the records seized by Texas law enforcement in 2008, Warren Jeffs, the FLDS leader and prophet, had called Oler on June 23, 2004 and ordered him to bring the 15-year-old girl to the United States to be married. A marriage record confirmed a ceremony occurred two days later that was performed by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in Mesquite, NV.

It was one of 18 ceremonies that day, one of which included a polygamous marriage between Oler himself and another woman.

While there wasn’t any direct evidence of Oler crossing the Canada-U.S. border with his daughter, a trial witness testified she travelled from Bountiful over to northern Idaho in the early morning hours of June 24, 2004, and met up with Oler and his daughter.

The witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said she crossed from Canada into the United States with her parents in a van, and stopped at a highway pullout shortly afterwards. After going into the woods to relieve herself, she came back out and saw another van had arrived which contained Oler and his daughter

They all piled into the newly-arrived van, except for one person, and continued to Cedar City, UT.

“While not a private area, it was certainly situated some distance from the highway,” said Devlin. “I find that the rendezvous of these two vans at this isolated spot was not a coincidence. Indeed, I find that it was the result of Mr. Oler’s implementation of Warren Jeff’s direction which Mr. Oler received the night before.”

Further testimony from another witness placed Oler’s daughter in Bountiful a week before the wedding at a church function, while school records also confirmed her attendance up until February 2004.

Former members of the FLDS testified about their experiences growing up in the faith, which involved consistent religious instruction requiring strict obedience to the priesthood head. Women were taught that their role was to submit to their priesthood heads, be married into polygamous relationships and bear children.

Documentation submitted by Crown showed that Oler’s daughter gave birth just over a year after the wedding when she was 17 years old.

The case was tried by Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General in 2012, and his colleague Micah Rankin. Joe Doyle served as an amicus curiae, a friend of the court, to ensure a fair trial.

Oler was self-represented but didn’t participate in the proceedings. He is expected to be sentenced July 15.

READ MORE: Prosecutor appealing Oler acquittal

He was previously acquitted in 2017 of the same charge after the presiding judge was unable to determine if Oler did anything within Canada to remove the underage girl. However, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal on appeal from the Crown, and awarded a new trial.

Two co-accused, Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore, were found guilty of the same charge three years ago and sentenced to 12 months and seven months behind bars, respectively.

Oler was kicked out of the community following his involvement in polygamy proceedings a decade ago in Vancouver. He was formerly the bishop of Bountiful, assuming the role after Winston Blackmore, the former bishop, was excommunicated following a a power struggle against Jeffs for church leadership.

Jeffs remains the leader of the FLDS, however, he is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison after being arrested and convicted of sex assault against a child.

Oler was also charged and found guilty of polygamy alongside Blackmore in 2017 after nearly three decades of police investigations and litigation involving members of the Bountiful community. Following the polygamy conviction, Oler was sentenced to three months house arrest.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shea Long roosts in the Shoot Out in the Telkwa Range. (SnoRiders, Houston/Shea Long photo)
Telkwa Range snowmobiling permit lottery opens

Application period is Oct. 20 to Nov. 20 for snowmobiliers and skiers to gain access to Starr Basin

Students from Houston Secondary School showed up voluntarily on Nov. 29, 2019, during their lunch break to provide input on the board’s strategic plan. (Matthew Monkman/Houston Today)
SD 54 unveils their new logo

Part of the Strategic Draft Plan released by the school district

The Dupras family has been regulars at the Babine River and have seen plentiful grizzlies over the years. (Jay Dupras photo/Lakes District News)
A family’s close encounter with a grizzly on Babine River bridge

Photo-enthusiasts let the bear access the bridge for photos putting others at risk

Catenary poles, from which lights will be strung, mark some of the progress as the 9th St. improvement project nears its finishing date. (Houston Today photo)
Downtown work to continue into end of this month

Finishing touches not expected until next spring

District of Houston office
Wants variance to allow taller building

Property owners adjacent to M. Brown Contracting on Vriend Road have the… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

Most Read