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More FLDS underage marriages alleged in Canada

Published February 25, 2011 7:04 pm

Polygamy • Canadian police are investigating 8 cases of alleged underage marriage.
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More allegations of underage marriages within the polygamous sect led by Warren S. Jeffs have surfaced in a Canadian court.

Five Canadian girls aged 16 and 17 and a sixth who was 18 were allegedly taken over the U.S. border to be married to men in the sect in 2004 and 2006, according to an affidavit filed Thursday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. James Oler, the bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints settlement in Canada, allegedly transported two of the girls.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating eight alleged underage-marriage cases, a spokeswoman confirmed. In addition to the court documents filed Thursday, police are also looking into evidence filed last week alleging three girls, ages 12 and 13, were taken south from the FLDS Bountiful compound in British Columbia to be married to Jeffs in 2004 and 2005.

The affidavits are part of a Canadian court proceeding weighing whether the country's law banning polygamy is constitutional. The evidence comes from Texas, where authorities carried out a massive raid on the group's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado almost three years ago.

Thursday's affidavit cites dictations given by Jeffs chronicling his daily activities. Texas officials passed the dictations along to lawyers in the British Columbia Attorney General's Office, who quoted the documents in the briefing.

In a dictation from March 2, 2004, Jeffs talked about several marriages, including one of his own, the documents state. He noted that Oler brought two girls to Jeffs to be sealed in marriage to two different men. They are believed to have been 17 years old. Another girl, thought to be 16, was also married that day to a Bountiful man. Oler was also present for that wedding.

A second group marriage allegedly took place April 26, 2006, when two 17-year-old girls and an 18-year-old were wed. Prosecutors are still searching for records of whom they married.

Jeffs was arrested in August 2006, about a year after he was charged with arranging an underage marriage in Arizona. Jeffs' Arizona defense attorney Michael Piccarreta again expressed skepticism about the evidence. Because the raid was triggered by a hoax call from a woman pretending to be a 16-year-old girl, he said the evidence was "illegally seized."

"I'm always skeptical of anything that goes through the filter of Texas because they have shown such religious intolerance and harshness to the FLDS people," Piccarreta said.

Lawyers for the sect are in the process of appealing the search warrant in a Texas court, but the evidence seized in the raid has been used to convict seven men on bigamy and sexual assault charges. Five others, including Jeffs, 55, are awaiting trial.