A Texas Ranger who was part of a team that seized religious documents at a ranch in the U.S. took to the stand in the trial of two members of a polygamous sect south of Creston on Wednesday in Cranbrook.
Winston Blackmore and James Oler, both members of Bountiful, are on trial facing polygamy charges that were filed in August 2014 by a special prosecutor.
Ranger Nick Hanna and US law enforcement executed a search warrant on the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) ranch in Eldorado, Texas in April 2008. The raid was initially based on the report of a sexual assault, however, after investigators spent three days on the property, the warrant was expanded, according to Hanna.
During the Eldorado raid, Texas Rangers seized over 300 boxes of evidence, including marriage and priesthood records for members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the U.S. and Canada that were locked away inside a concrete vault.
Hanna described how tight security was at the YFZ ranch, as it was in a remote location and fenced around the perimeter at 12 feet high, while the main temple building was also fenced with a barrier taller than six feet.
Inside the temple, the temple annex was locked with thick oak doors, while the temple vault was encased with concrete that took a locksmith expert over 24 hours to defeat the mechanism.
“It was just a series of obstacles put in place by the FLDS to ensure the security of the documents [inside],” said Hanna.
Instead of going through the vault door, law enforcement ended up entering the vault by drilling through the side wall, with a Ranger gaining access through a small hole, where he seized documents in bank boxes kept in cabinet drawers.
Special prosecutor Peter Wilson entered 24 marriage records for Blackmore into evidence that were dated back to 1990 and up to 2008. Some records include marriages to two different women that are recorded to have occurred on the same day.
Wilson also entered four marriage records for Jim Oler to women between 1993 and 2004.
Wilson also cross-referenced a personal record for Oler against personal records for the women he married that were also seized by law enforcement.
On cross-examination, Blair Suffredine, the defence counsel for Blackmore, attacked the credibility of the personal and marriage records, noting that there was no way to tell who the original author of the records are.
Suffredine pointed out some of the records seized were not original copies as the documents have markings indicative of being sent to the YFZ ranch by fax machine.