Defense in polygamist case cites sodomy ruling

Associated Press, Aug. 1, 2003

ST. GEORGE, Utah – The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Texas’ sodomy law has been cited by attorneys for a polygamous policeman charged with unlawful sex and bigamy.

Fifth District Court Judge G. Rand Beacham on Thursday heard and took under advisement arguments on a motion to dismiss the charges against Rodney Holm. Beacham also could decide whether the constitutional issues should be addressed first by a higher court, or he may order the trial to go ahead as scheduled on Aug. 11.

Holm and his wives are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which teaches polygamy as a central doctrine. Rodney Holm is a certified police officer in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., and has had 21 children with the three wives.

Holm is charged with three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year old and one count of bigamy involving his third wife, Ruth Stubbs.

Holm’s attorney, Rodney Parker, who also is an attorney for the church, said regarding the Texas case, ” ”This has caused us to really rework our approach to the case and what kind of evidence to present.”

Parker contends Utah is selectively prosecuting polygamists for their beliefs. Polygamy was a part of early belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was abandoned more than a century ago as the territory sought statehood. The Utah Constitution bans it and the Mormon church now excommunicates those who advocate it, but it is believed that tens of thousands in Utah continue the practice.

“The national social order in the United States does not compel a conclusion that plural marriage is against public policy, especially when considered in light of emerging lifestyles,” Parker argued in his motion to dismiss the charges.

Assistant Attorney General Kristine Knowlton said the Texas case was not applicable because it dealt with sex between consenting adults – not sex with a minor. She said that even if the bigamy charge were dismissed, the charges on unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year old could go forward.

Utah law prohibits adults from having sex with 16- and 17-year olds when they are 10 or more years older than the teen, unless they are legally married.

“I find it (the motion) very interesting and challenging, but it doesn’t matter what I say if afterward it goes off to the Supreme Court,” said Beacham.

Parker said, “There are some good reasons to get these issues resolved before hand. Quite frankly, this case turns on this legal stuff, to an extent.”

Knowlton said the constitutional issues could be addressed after the trial.

Also during the trial management conference Thursday, Knowlton said a subpoena had been served on Stubbs, whom she said apparently had been in hiding.

Stubbs has refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and Knowlton said, “If she doesn’t show up (for court) we’ll ask that she be held in contempt of court or serve a warrant for her arrest, or whatever.”


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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday August 2, 2003.
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