A new trial is underway for a former leader of a polygamous community near Creston charged with removing his underage daughter from Canada to marry an American man in 2004.
James Marion Oler, a fundamentalist Mormon leader associated with Bountiful, was previously acquitted of the same charge following a trial in 2017, however, the acquittal was successfully overturned by Crown prosecutors in the B.C. Court of Appeal.
The appeal court awarded a new trial, which began in Cranbrook Supreme Court on Monday in front of Justice Martha Devlin.
Special prosecutor Peter Wilson and Micah Rankin are leading the case for the Crown, while Oler is self-represented. However, Joe Doyle, who served as a friend of the court to ensure a fair trial during the first proceedings, has returned to serve in the same role.
Witnesses called include Nick Hanna, a Texas Ranger who was part of an investigative team that seized documents and evidence from the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) ranch over six days in April 2008.
The compound, near Eldorado, Texas, consisted of members associated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), an off-shoot of the mainstream Mormon faith that practices polygamy.
Hanna testified on the nature of the evidence collected by investigators in the compound’s temple vault and temple annex vault that included items such as marriage and priesthood records, photo albums, computers, and thumb drives.
Texas rangers executed a search warrant at the YFZ ranch on the evening of April 3, 2008, with Hanna as one of the investigators who served as evidence custodian.
A temple vault that took a locksmith 24 continuous hours to crack was eventually opened, while a vault inside a nearby temple annex was accessed by drilling through the concrete side.
Among the records seized included a record of marriage between Oler’s daughter, whose identity is protected by a publicatoin ban, and James Leroy Johnson.
Crown expects to call other witnesses such as experts in mainstream Mormon and fundamentalist Mormon doctrine, as well as RCMP investigators who assisted American police authorities.
William Jessop, the former bishop of prominent FLDS communities on the border of Arizona and Utah collectively known as Short Creek, will testify in the coming days.
David Allred, an American citizen considered to be a part of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs’ inner circle, was expected to participate in the proceedings, however, Crown said Allred recently announced he had changed his mind and would not testify.
Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore were prosecuted on the same offence alongside Oler, however, they were found guilty and sentenced to 12 months and seven months, respectively, in jail.
In an unrelated matter, Oler was also convicted of polygmay alongside Winston Blackmore last year and sentenced to three months house arrest — a sentence he has already completed, but remains on probation.