Judge to impose sentence in B.C. child bride case
A B.C. judge is expected to sentence today a man and woman who took a 13-year-old girl into the United States over a decade ago to marry the now-imprisoned leader of a polygamous sect.
Former husband and wife Brandon Blackmore and Gail Blackmore were found guilty by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in February of the charge of taking a child under the age of 16 out of Canada for sexual purposes.
The trial heard that in 2004, the girl was secreted into the United States to marry Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who is serving a life sentence for assaulting two of his child brides. Jeffs was 49 at the time.
At a sentencing hearing last month, special prosecutor Peter Wilson argued that Brandon Blackmore, 71, should serve a jail sentence of 12 to 18 months, while Gail Blackmore, who is 60, should get six to 12 months.
Wilson said the sentence must deter other members of the secluded community of Bountiful in southeastern British Columbia, where plural marriage is practised.
“Deterrence might have particular importance in this case because other persons who could potentially commit the offence are, I would say, a very, narrow group,” Wilson said. “The likely group of potential offenders is probably small and could very well be limited to other adherents of the FLDS as it’s being espoused by Mr. Jeffs.”
Wilson said Brandon Blackmore is more culpable than his ex-wife, but both were present at the wedding of the girl and knew what would happen. He said the girl and many women in the church live cloistered lives.
“The fact that the victim was 13 … had spent her whole life in Bountiful, and was not what I would call a worldly person, which I submit would have rendered her more vulnerable.”
The identity of the teenager is protected by a publication ban.
John Gustafson, Brandon Blackmore’s lawyer, told the sentencing hearing his client was ex-communicated in 2012 and has no contact with any of the members of his former church.
He asked for a conditional sentence, a form of house arrest.
A former bishop of the community, James Oler, was acquitted of the same charge in connection to a 15-year-old girl. Justice Paul Pearlman ruled that there wasn’t proof Oler crossed the border with the girl, who was later married to a member of the sect.
Oler was convicted last month in a separate trial of practising polygamy. That trial heard he had five wives.