Two members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) have been found guilty in Canada of “taking a 13-year-old girl into the United States for a sexual purpose.” The offense took place in 2004 when she married one of the leaders of the polygamous community.
Another member of the church, James Oler, was found not guilty of the same charge because the court couldn’t prove that the man had crossed the border with a 15-year-old girl who was later married to an FLDS member in Nevada.
British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Paul Pearlman ruled Friday that former husband and wife Brandon Blackmore and Gail Blackmore are guilty of taking the girl across the border in 2004.
The Blackmores will be sentenced April 13. They face up to five years in prison.
The three defendants were members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamous offshoot church that has members in the community of Bountiful in southeastern British Columbia. The church’s headquarters is in Hildale, Utah, and adjoining Colorado City, Ariz., and the trial was watched by current and former FLDS members in both countries.
It is thought to have been the first time polygamists in Canada were tried for allegedly facilitating children’s underage marriage or the sex that followed.
Records show that the 13-year-old girl was married to FLDS President Warren Jeffs in 2004. Jeffs, who was 48 at the time, is now serving a life sentence in Texas. The 15-year-old girl was taken across the border to marry James Leroy Johnson, who was 24 at the time of the marriage. That ceremony was on June 25, 2004, in Mesquite, Nevada.
Much of the evidence heard in the judge-only trial arose from a U.S. investigation into Jeffs and the FLDS. But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also traveled to Utah, Arizona, Texas and other U.S. states to build their case. Witnesses included U.S. law enforcement and former FLDS members.
In their investigation of FLDS in February of 2016, ABC News’ 20/20 shined a light on the difficulty members have in leaving the secretive community and how much more difficult it is for parents who have left to extract their children out of the Mormon cult.