New evidence about alleged child brides from Bountiful prompts application to re-open polygamy trial

The B.C. government has applied to re-open the polygamy trial to present new evidence that parents in Bountiful smuggled young girls across the border to marry controversial fundamentalist leader Warren Jeffs.

Canadian newspaper The Provice reports:

In an affidavit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the attorney-general’s ministry says it last week received new information from a Texas prosecutor about the alleged child smuggling.

The prosecutor told B.C. officials that two 12-year-old girls from Bountiful were reportedly “celestially married” to Jeffs in 2005.

A girl only identified as “Child B” was driven by her father across the border to Short Creek, Arizona accompanied by the girl’s mother, for the purpose of the marriage, according to court documents.

The girl was then driven to Texas by an official of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

A second girl, identified as “Child C” was also driven by her father to Short Creek and then on to Texas by an FLDS official.

A third girl, identified as “Child A” was 13 years old when she was taken across the border and married to Jeffs in Arizona in 2004. Her parents participated in the wedding ceremony.

Daphne Bramham* says in the Vancouver Sun:

At the time of their “celestial marriages” to the prophet for “time and eternity,” Jeffs was in his late 40s. Jeffs … is in jail in Texas awaiting trial on two counts of sexual assault of minors and one count of bigamy. It’s not clear whether the charges are related to the Canadian girls. However, what triggered Friday’s filing was Texas authorities were seeking more information from the B.C. government about the girls’ ages.

Lawyers for the B.C. government filed an application Friday asking Chief Justice Robert Bauman to waive an earlier ruling and allow new evidence to be considered in the ongoing constitutional reference case. The application also asks that the evidence that includes the names of the parents, the girls’ names and birth dates and the FLDS marriage records be sealed.

Regardless of whether the chief justice allows the evidence to be heard, the more important question is what are police and the criminal justice officials going to do with the new information? Because there’s no doubt that what’s alleged in the application, if true, is criminal.

Bramham also writes:

Next Friday, the chief justice will hear arguments before deciding whether to admit the evidence and whether to seal the documents attached to the application that include: the parents’ names, the girls’ names and birth records and FLDS marriage records seized in a 2008 raid on the Texas compound that was prompted by a complaint about child sexual abuse.

At the time, former Bountiful resident Teressa Wall Blackmore told The Vancouver Sun that she knew of five Bountiful girls who were living at the ranch — two of whom were married to Jeffs.

At the time, Canadian consular officials as well as then-attorney general Wally Oppal also said that they were aware that some Canadian teens were taken into protective custody in Texas.

Why nothing was done in 2008 either by the ministry of children and family development or by the attorney general’s criminal justice branch is an open question.

Now, that information about the three child brides is being used by the government lawyers as evidence of the harm of polygamy — harm is a primary reason that a right such as religious freedom can be overridden.

But what these parents allegedly did is not only shocking and amoral, it is criminal.

Branham points out that Canada’s human trafficking legislation was not enacted until November 2005, and may therefore not be applicable. But, she says, if the child brides were delivered to Jeffs after November 2005, the parents could face up to life in prison and a $1 million fine.

Research resources on Bountiful
Research resources on the FLDS
Research resources on Polygamy
More about polygamous sects of the Mormon church

* Since May of 2004 Daphne Bramham has written more than 100 columns on the fundamentalist Mormons and is the author of the book, The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect [Kindle edition | Buy a Kindle].

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday February 19, 2011.
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