A four-day gap in the whereabouts of a Bountiful man’s underage daughter is enough to dispute whether she was removed from Canada 15 years ago, argued a lawyer in the trial of a fundamentalist Mormon in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
James Marion Oler, a religious leader associated with a polygamous community south of Creston, is charged with allegedly removing his daughter from Canada under a subsection that the removal would facilitate sex crimes.
Oler’s daughter was married to an American member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in Nevada on June 25, 2004, according to religious records seized by U.S. law enforcement in 2008.
Joe Doyle, who is serving as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial, said that Crown prosecutors haven’t proved that Oler’s daughter was in Canada when Warren Jeffs, a fundamentalist Mormon leader, called her father on June 23, 2004, and ordered him to bring his daughter for her to get married.
“Where is the evidence that she was in Canada on June 23?” asked Doyle.
Doyle argued that prosecutors hadn’t accounted for that four-day window where Oler’s daughter was last seen in Bountiful on June 19, but then identified by a witness four days later in Northern Idaho at a highway rest stop on June 24, 2004.
The witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified that she travelled from Bountiful across the Porthill border crossing with her parents and stopped at a rest area just off the highway. She went into the woods to relieve herself, and when she came back out, another van containing Oler and his daughter, among others, had arrived.
Everyone except for one person climbed into the newly arrived van and headed to Cedar City, UT, and the next day, to Mesquite, NV, where Oler’s daughter was married in one of 18 FLDS wedding ceremonies.
Doyle took issue with that four-day window, alleging that there was no evidence of Oler’s daughter’s whereabouts in Canada and also raised the possibility that Oler and his daughter were potentially already in the United States visiting other FLDS communities collectively known as Short Creek when Jeffs called Oler with his directive.
In response, special prosecutor Peter Wilson said that evidence showed Oler’s daughter was born in the Creston Valley hospital and recorded in biannual attendance records from a Bountiful school up to February 2004.
Given that a witness identified Oler and his daughter on June 24th, 2004, in northern Idaho — four days after she was last seen in Bountiful — Wilson questioned Doyle’s suggestion that she may have already been in the United States in that four-day window when Jeffs called her father with his marrige orders.
“It makes much more sense that she lived in Canada all her life and travelled from Canada to that arranged rendezvous with other people we knew were also in Canada,” said Wilson, “instead of postulating that maybe Mr. Oler went south and maybe she went south, then they came back to Canada almost, then they drove back to Utah.”
“So I submit, that for you to find that something like that happened is just fanciful. Maybe it did — anything can happen. But if what Mr. Doyle suggests actually happened here, then it deserves its own chapter in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.”
Doyle’s closing arguments also attacked the credibility of the FLDS records seized by American law enforcement a decade ago at the Yearning for Zion ranch, a fundamentalist Mormon compound in Texas.
Some of the FLDS documentation did not match mainstream Mormon record-keeping practices, were incomplete and were uncertified, which is contrary to the religious doctrine.
“What is not known about these records and is still not known…is which person or persons prepared them, when were they prepared, what information led to their preparation and where that information came from,” said Doyle. “You have no evidence that helps you with that.”
He also took issue with one of the witnesses who gave a second statement to RCMP with additional information after the first child removal trial that resulted in convictions for two co-accused. Doyle alleged that the witness was coached by an RCMP investigator before going on-record with her second police statement.
Justice Martha Devlin has reserved her decision, but tentatively scheduled a ruling in Cranbrook Supreme Court for June 24, 2019.
Wilson summarized the evidence and rested the Crown’s case on Monday. Oler, who is self-represented, did not call any witnesses or make a case in his defence.
This is the second time Oler has been on trial for a child removal charge.
He was tried with two other co-accused, Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore, who were found guilty in 2017 and sentenced to 12 months and seven months, respectively, in jail.
Oler, however, was acquitted after the first trial judge concluded there was reasonable doubt that he ‘did anything’ in Canada for the purpose of removing his daughter from the country.