A special prosecutor is recommending up to two years in prison for a former leader of Bountiful convicted of removing a child from Canada to marry a fundamentalist Mormon church member in the U.S. in 2004.
Special Proecutor Peter Wilson noted that as a bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), Oler is culpable for facilitating the directive of church leader and prophet Warren Jeffs, who ordered him to bring the underage child to the U.S. to be married 15 years ago.
Wilson said aggravating sentencing factors against Oler included his daughter’s age at the time, his position of trust as a father and his position as a bishop and religious authority in the community.
“He occupied the highest priesthood office in the community of Bountiful because he was the bishop and that office made him directly answerable to Warren Jeffs,” said Wilson, in front of Justice Martha Devlin in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
During Oler’s trial, FLDS church records seized by American law enforcement indicated that Jeffs called Oler on June 23, 2004, and ordered him to bring his 15-year-old daughter to the United States to be married.
A trial witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was also named by Jeffs in the directive to come to the U.S. and be married.
The witness testified she travelled to the United States with her parents on June 24, 2004, crossing into Idaho at the Porthill crossing south of Creston and pulling into a rest area shortly after. She went into the woods to relieve herself, and when she returned, another van containing Oler and his daughter had arrived.
All but one piled into the newly arrived van and headed to Cedar City, UT, and later to Mesquite, NV.
FLDS recods indicate a list of 18 marriages on June 25th, as the witness, Oler’s daughter, and Oler himself were all married in separate ceremonies.
Wilson also suggested that Devlin could excercise her discretion to consider Oler’s conduct in the removal of the trial witness even though she wasn’t included in his indictment.
“It’s my submission that no unfairness to Mr. Oler will result in the event you choose to exercise your discretion to consider his role in the removal of [the witness] from Canada,” Wilson argued.
However, Devlin questioned whether she could be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Oler was guilty of all the same elements of the child removal offence involving the trial witness, given that Oler may not have known she was under 16 years of age at the time.
Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, suggested a sentencing range between six to 18 months in jail, drawing parallels to an earlier ruling against Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore.
They were convicted and sentenced for the same child removal charge after being ordered to bring their 13-year-old daughter to marry Jeffs in March 2004. Brandon James Blackmore was sentenced to 12 months in jail, while Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore was given a seven-month jail term.
Oler, however, was acquitted because the presiding judge was unable to determine, based on the trial evidence, whether he ‘did anything’ to remove his daughter from Canada. The acquittal was successfully challenged by the Crown and a new trial was ordered by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Devlin found Oler guilty of the child removal charge in a new trial that was held in the Cranbrook earlier this year. A date for sentencing has been tentatively set for Aug. 29.
Oler is currently living in isolation in Alberta after being stripped of his bishop’s appointment and excommunicated from the Bountiful community nearly a decade ago for participating in legal proceedings examining the contitutionality of Canada’s polygamy laws.
He was also charged and convicted of polygamy alongside Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore and sentenced to three months house arrest in 2018.