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ST. GEORGE (AP) -- A judge rejected a polygamist's request to get out of jail while he appeals his bigamy conviction to a higher court.
In denying Rodney Holm's request, 5th District Judge G. Rand Beacham dismissed arguments that Holm was being prosecuted for his religious beliefs.
Rod Parker, the defendant's lawyer, is appealing the conviction with the Utah Court of Appeals and said Friday he would file an appeal on this latest decision.
"I strongly disagree with what it said. I think (the motion) should have been approved, but I am not surprised it wasn't," Parker said.
Holm was convicted by a jury last August on felony charges of bigamy and unlawful sexual conduct and began serving a one-year sentence in the Washington County jail with work release privileges Oct. 13. He was ordered to serve 36 months of probation and 200 hours of community service after he serves the jail term.
The bigamy conviction stemmed from Holm's "spiritual" marriage to Ruth Stubbs when he was 32 and she was 16. Stubbs left Holm and sought to keep their two children, provoking a custody battle that triggered a bigamy investigation of Holm.
Holm has 23 other children with his legal wife, Stubbs' older sister, Suzie, and a second spiritual wife, Wendy. They are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which practices polygamy as a sacred duty that was abandoned more than a century ago by the mainstream Mormon church as a condition for Utah statehood.
In denying Holm's request for release from jail, Beacham said he found no substantial question of law or fact likely to result in a reversal of the jury's verdict.
"Over the course of this litigation, this court has repeatedly ruled that religion is irrelevant to prosecution of defendant," Beacham wrote in his ruling. "In America, religious belief is neither a criminal act nor a defense to criminal charges. American law distinguishes between religious beliefs and religiously-based criminal conduct, regardless of whether litigants, the news media or the general public understand that distinction."
Holm was a police officer in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Following his conviction Utah authorities revoked his certification as a peace officer.
Both towns and their residents have been the target of interest by the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona, who hope to open an office there to help women and others who want to leave the isolated communities.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)