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Sam Penrod ReportingTrial has begun in St. George for a former police officer being prosecuted for polygamy. The case centers on whether the man broke the law by marrying a 16-year old girl who became his third wife.
The alleged victim ran away from the marriage two years ago and began cooperating with prosecutors. But after winning custody of her three children, the now 20-year old woman appears to want to have nothing to do with this trial that could send her former husband to prison.
Ruth Stubbs is at the center of the latest polygamy prosecution in Utah. The star witness for prosecutors, Stubb's marriage at age 16 to Rodney Holm in 1998 is the basis for the criminal charges, which sent shockwaves through Utah's largest group of polygamists.
During two hours on the witness stand, Stubbs seemed to cautiously answer prosecutors’ questions, appearing to avoid saying anything that could implicate her former husband. Still she testified the two married at the suggestion of then church prophet Rulon Jeffs and became pregnant within a month of the religious ceremony.
Prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office say this case comes down to protecting young girls from forced marriages. Specifically they allege that Holm was more than ten years older than the girl when he fathered her children, which constitutes unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
The bigamy charge involves Holm's marriage to the girl's older sister Suzie, along with another woman. Defense attorneys argue Holm was only following his religious beliefs and counsel from church leaders when he married the girl.
In a motion before the trial began, defense attorneys argued the recent U.S Supreme Court ruling striking down sodomy laws as an invasion of privacy could apply to Holm.
Unlike the Tom Green polygamy trial two years ago, where both sides argued their case in the court of public opinion, both prosecutors and defense attorneys in this case are keeping quiet, some taking back doors out of the courthouse to avoid reporters. The outcome of this trial will likely set the stage if there will be more polygamy prosecutions in Utah.
The trial is expected to go until Friday when the jury will decide if Rodney Holm should be convicted or cleared of the three felony counts against him.