Prosecutors argued that a formerly married couple associated with the polygamous community of Bountiful who broughttheir 13-year-old daughter into the United States to marry a religious leader should spend between six to 18 months in jail.
Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the provincial government, made his arguments in front of Justice PaulPearlman in Cranbrook Supreme Court at a sentencing hearing for Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore.
After hearing arguments, Pearlman reserved his decision until August 11, 2017, where he will return to Cranbrook to deliverhis ruling.
Brandon Blackmore and Emily Blackmore were convicted of the removal of a child from Canada under section 273.3 of theCriminal Code in February — the very first time that particular charge has been prosecuted in Canada.
Following the delivery of the verdict in February, Pearlman ordered a pre-sentencing report.
Wilson argued the need to balance denunciation and deterrence given the potential for similar situations that could occur inthe future with the polygamous community of Bountiful, which adheres to religious doctrine as set out by theFundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).
“Deterrence might have particular importance in this case because other persons who could potentially commit the offenceare, I would say, a fairly narrow group,” Wilson said.
“Given the circumstances and given that this involved the beliefs of theFLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), the likely group of potential offenders is probably smalland could very well be limited to other adherents of the FLDS, at least as it is espoused by Mr. [Warren] Jeffs, so there maybe a real opportunity here to affect some deterrence of those potential offenders.”
Though the former couple was convicted in February, the child removal incident occurred in 2004 when they took theirdaughter from Bountiful across the US border to marry FLDS leader and prophet Warren Jeffs at a ceremony in Colorado Cityin Arizona.
Wilson noted that there is no case law to reference, given that this is the first time the child removal charge has beenprosecuted. However, in making his sentencing submissions, he argued that Brandon Blackmore is more culpable thanEmily Blackmore, given his role as the ‘priesthood-head’ — the religious leader of the family.
According to church documents entered as evidence into the trial, Brandon Blackmore was contacted by Jeffs on February26, 2004, where Jeffs told him that “the Lord had revealed that his 13-year-old daughter belonged to me and we woulddiscuss that when he brought her down south sometime Friday.”
The church records, which were seized by US law enforcement during a raid on the Yearning for Zion FLDS compound inTexas in 2008, included the marriage record for the daughter to Jeffs, which occurred on March 1, 2004.
John Gustafson, the defence lawyer for Brandon Blackmore, argued a conditional sentence should be appropriate.
“The pre-sentence report does indicate, if not remorse, then certainly insight by Mr. Blackmore and I think, to some extent,remorse as well,” Gustafson said. “A conditional sentence order is legally available.”
Outside Cranbrook Law Courts awaiting sentencing for two Bountiful members convicted of child removal charges. pic.twitter.com/LZ3axX3s6D
— Trevor Crawley (@tcrawls) June 30, 2017
Gustafson also argued that arrangements could be made with Creston law enforcement to allow a conditional sentence toserved within the community.
Joe Doyle, who is serving as amicus — a friend of the court that acts as a counterbalance to the prosecution — madearguments on behalf of Emily Blackmore. However, under his mandate, he cannot provide legal counsel to her.
Doyle argued that when considering a sentence, sufficient deterrence was achieved through the prosecution and convictionof the Blackmores and the resulting media coverage.
“These two…have been very much in the public eye,” Doyle said. “There’s been a tremendous amount of media attention topeople who, for all appearances, live a very quiet and cloistered life in a small community which certainly, at the time periodof this offence and the evidence you heard, had very little contact with the outside world, and were encouraged at that timenot to do so.”
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Doyle suggested a conditional sentence in the 90-day range for Emily Blackmore, as well as probationary or communityservice measures.
A third co-accused, Jim Oler, who was also charged with the same child removal charges for his role in bringing hisdaughter across the border to marry an American man, was acquitted when the verdict was delivered.
Wilson, who was appointed by the provincial government in 2012 to serve as crown counsel, is also prosecuting polygamycharges against Winston Blackmore, who is Brandon’s younger brother, and Oler.
The polygamy trial recently concluded in May, and a verdict is expected in July.