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Polygamous Police Officer Convicted on Sex Charges

Utah man is guilty of bigamy, other counts involving his underage 'spiritual' wife.

August 15, 2003|From Associated Press

ST. GEORGE, Utah — A police officer and member of a polygamous church was convicted Thursday of having sex with an underage girl whom he took as a third wife.

Jurors decided that Rodney Holm broke Utah law banning sexual relations involving 16- and 17-year-olds when their partner is 10 or more years older, unless the couple is married.

Holm, 37, was accused of having sex with Ruth Stubbs when she was 16. He was 32 when he allegedly took Stubbs as a "spiritual" wife, which is not a legally recognized union.

Holm has 21 children with his three wives and is an officer in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where many residents are members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Holm, who faces up to five years in prison on each count, refused to comment outside the courthouse. A sentencing date was not set.

Ruth Stubbs did not attend the court session. Her sister, Pennie Petersen, said the ruling should send a message to polygamists.

"Hopefully, they'll think before they marry one of these babies off," Petersen said.

Holm and his defenders have argued that Utah is selectively prosecuting polygamists for their beliefs. Utah Assistant Atty. Gen. Kristine Knowlton, though, said Holm was being prosecuted "for the acts he committed, not for his religious beliefs."

Polygamy, part of the early beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was abandoned more than a century ago when the territory sought statehood. The Utah Constitution bans it and the Mormon church now excommunicates those who advocate it, but it is believed that tens of thousands in Utah continue the practice.

Jurors took just two hours to reach guilty verdicts against Holm on one count of bigamy and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct.

In closing arguments Thursday, Holm's defense attorney, Rod Parker, urged jurors to consider Holm's "cultural heritage" and the jurors' own likely family histories.

"If the federal government hadn't forced it to do so, the LDS church would not have given up this practice," Parker said.

Parker also said the prosecution failed to prove that two of three children Stubbs had with Holm were conceived in Utah, which the state used to help build its claim. Without such proof, the Utah court has no jurisdiction, Parker said.

Knowlton said birth certificates confirm the children were born in Utah.

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