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Green Guilty On All Counts

Jury takes less than three hours to reach verdict

Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 2001
http://www.sltrib.com/05192001/utah/98610.htm Off-site Link


PROVO -- Avowed polygamist Tom Green -- the subject of Utah's first polygamy trial in nearly five decades -- was convicted late Friday of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport.

Green sat stone-faced while the sobs of several of his children broke the silence of the courtroom. The 8-person jury reached the verdict in less than three hours. Green, who remains free on bail, faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 27.

"It's an honor to go to prison for my beliefs, but I hope I don't go to prison," Green said. "The [jury] was swayed by emotion and not by evidence."

Three of Green's wives and one of his children took the stand in the five-day trial that garnered worldwide news-media attention and pitted the gregarious Green against Juab County Attorney David Leavitt, himself a descendant of polygamists.

Green argued throughout the trial he was not currently married to any of the women and therefore not guilty of bigamy. A judge last year ruled, however, that Green was legally married to Linda Kunz. Leavitt alleged that Green then cohabited with four other women, making him guilty of bigamy.

Late Friday, the lawyers on both sides spent a half hour each grappling over the weeklong testimony. Green's lawyer, John Bucher, said his client was only charged because he became an embarrassment to the state by parading his lifestyle on television.

Leavitt has said he did not know Green existed until he saw him bragging on "Dateline NBC" about his living arrangements. But he said the outspoken polygamist was charged solely because he broke the law.

"The reality is that the state of Utah makes criminal taking more than one wife because it hurts people," Leavitt said, telling jurors that Green took three of his wives when they were only 14.

Earlier in the trial, Green described his family as a beehive -- where everyone works together to get the work done at the family's west desert complex. Leavitt mocked the description to the jury.

Green "says their family is like a beehive," Leavitt scoffed. "I have no doubt the women are industrious little queen bees, but there's a drone in the beehive and it's sitting at the defense table."

Bucher asked jurors to treat Green like a human being when deciding his fate. Addressing the criminal nonsupport charges, Bucher said any man with multiple wives and 25 children would have difficulty providing for his family.

Green testified his family was briefly forced to seek state assistance after a tragic fire took the life of one son and destroyed the family home in 1997.

The last effort at arresting and charging polygamists in Utah occurred in 1953 when federal agents raided the polygamous enclave at Short Creek on the Utah-Arizona border.

The raid backfired amid reports of screaming children and wives being pulled from fathers and husbands.

Polygamy was practiced for several decades during the 1800s by Mormon pioneers. In 1890, the church abandoned the practice and six years later Utah became a state on the condition that polygamy be expressly prohibited in the state's Constitution.

Modern-day polygamists -- like Green, himself a former church missionary -- are excommunicated for entering into plural marriages. Still, there are an estimated 30,000 polygamists living in Utah. Leavitt and his older brother, Gov. Mike Leavitt, have polygamous ancestors.

thomas green, polygamy