British Columbia

Former B.C. polygamous leader sentenced to 12 months jail for taking girl to U.S. to be married

A former leader in a religious sect that has practised polygamy in Bountiful, B.C., has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for removing a 15-year-old girl from the community to be married to a man in the United States.

James Oler was convicted of removing a child from Canada in May

James Oler leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook, B.C., on July 24, 2017. (Todd Korol/REUTERS)

A former leader in a religious sect that has practised polygamy in Bountiful, B.C., has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for removing a 15-year-old girl from the community to be married to a man in the United States.

James Oler was found guilty in May of taking the girl to the U.S. in 2004 so that she could marry an older member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Oler was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook on Thursday morning. He was also handed 18 months probation.

In delivering her decision to find Oler guilty this spring, Justice Martha Devlin said there was "no room for doubt'' that Oler knew the underage girl would be subject to sexual contact.

The May ruling marked the end of lengthy court process. A judge acquitted Oler in 2017, not convinced the religious leader did anything within Canada's borders to arrange the girl's transfer.

But the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the decision and ordered a new trial, saying that proof of wrongdoing in Canada was not necessary.

James Oler arrives at the B.C. Supreme Court in Cranbrook, B.C., on July 24, 2017. (Todd Korol/REUTERS)

The marriage and priesthood records kept by the church had been seized by U.S. law enforcement when a search warrant was executed in Texas in 2008.

One priesthood record describes a phone call made by Warren Jeffs, the church's prophet and president, to Oler on June 23, 2004, ordering him to bring the child to the United States to be married.

The court heard the girl's marriage was documented by the records kept by Jeffs.

With files from the Canadian Press

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