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Canadian judge dismisses two menís polygamy chargescomment (0)

October 8, 2009

A judge on British Columbia’s Supreme Court has dismissed criminal charges against two alleged polygamists who say Canadian law protects their right to have more than one wife.

Supreme Court Justice Sunni S. Stromberg-Stein threw out polygamy charges Sept. 23 against Winston Blackmore, 53, and James Oler, 45, leaders of rival factions in the polygamous community of Bountiful in British Columbia’s interior.

Blackmore and Oler belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway sect from the mainstream Mormon Church, which banned polygamy more than a century ago.

Blackmore was charged with one count of polygamy with at least 19 women named in an indictment. Oler was charged with having two wives. They faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Stromberg-Stein ruled the provincial government went beyond its authority to pursue charges against the men.

In a 34-page ruling, Stromberg-Stein found that former British Columbia Attorney General Wally Oppal had gone “special prosecutor shopping” when he ignored the advice of two prosecutors and kept searching until one was found who agreed to press charges.

Oppal “had finally obtained the decision he wanted all along,” the judge wrote. The “harm” in finding a willing third prosecutor, she added, “undermines the administration of justice by leaving the perception, if not the reality, of political interference and of an oppressive or unfair prosecution.”

The criminal charges were the first in Canada, even though polygamy has been illegal in the country since the 1950s. No one has ever been prosecuted. (RNS)

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