Former polygamous leader found guilty in child bride case

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

New programs and services aimed at helping the unhoused find shelter or housing in Victoria, and to take advantage of support services of various kinds, could be funded if a City of Victoria grant application is successful. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria seeks $3M to $4M in grant funds to enhance community services for unhoused population

Various supports, services for unhoused population part of broad-based funding application

A Victoria parks staffer turns compost made from organics collected in the parks. Piles of this steaming, nutrient-rich stuff will be handed out between April 12-18. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Victoria shovels free home-made compost out to gardeners

Ideal for prepping food gardens, the compost, mulch and wood chips will be at city parks for pick up

Victoria Police Department seized a replica firearm during an early morning call to the 100-block of Gorge Road East on April 11. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police seize replica firearm in early Sunday morning call

Officers called to temporary housing facility in 100-block of Gorge Road East

Road improvements in Sooke are nearing completion . (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
Sooke road work nears completion

Projects part of $5.7 million in improvements

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School South Campus Monday morning to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Proposed $1.5-million cut would hit elementary and middle school programs

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Most Read