Two men belonging to a breakaway Mormon sect from British Columbia, Canada, were convicted of polygamy by a Supreme Court judge on Tuesday. They both were given conditional sentences and have been spared jail time.
Winston Blackmore had 24 wives and 149 children, while James Oler was found guilty of having 5 wives.
The men have been leaders in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon sect that believes in polygamy.
They both belonged to the small community of Bountiful from southeastern British Columbia.
Blackmore, 61, and Oler, 54, were given 6 and 3 months of house arrests respectively while both face 12 months of probation. Their sentence allows them to go to work and deal with medical emergencies.
Furthermore, Blackmore must do 150 hours of community service work, while Oler was ordered to perform 75 hours.
Dozens of Blackmore’s relatives and supporters were in court, and many cried when his sentence was read.
‘I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that,’ Blackmore said after the court ruling came.
‘Twenty seven years and tens of millions of dollars later, all we’ve proved is something we’ve never denied.
‘I’ve never denied my faith. This is what we expected.’
Blackmore’s lawyer had asked the judge to consider an absolute discharge for the former bishop who engaged in plural marriages only due to his religious belief.
Judge Sheri Ann Donegan said although both men were law-abiding citizens who practiced polygamy because of their religious beliefs, they couldn’t be discharged due to the gravity of their offenses since some of their wives were as young as 15 when they married them.
‘He’s made it clear that no sentence will deter him from practicing his faith,’ Donegan said of Blackmore. ‘The concept of remorse is foreign to him in this context.’
Similarly, Oler’s crimes were motivated by his ‘sincerely held religious beliefs instilled in him at an early age,’ according to the judge.
The sentencing marks Canada’s first conviction for polygamy in more than a century.
Under Canadian law, the maximum sentence for polygamy is 5 years in jail.
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