Polygamist Wants Separation of Rape, Bigamy Charges

Salt Lake Tribune, May 3, 2000
By Greg Burton

NEPHI -- An attorney for polygamist Thomas Green says charges against his client have been unfairly combined and could prejudice a jury if allowed to proceed together to trial.

Attorney John Bucher filed a request Tuesday in Nephi's 4th District Court to separate four counts of bigamy from one count of rape of a child and one count of failure to pay child support, issuing the first of many likely legal challenges to Juab County prosecutor David Leavitt's landmark case against one of Utah's most visible polygamists.

The various charges stem from different alleged criminal episodes, Bucher argued in court papers, which Utah law forbids combining because, for instance, jurors hearing evidence of the rape may be more inclined to convict on the bigamy charges.

Leavitt appears ready to contest Bucher's request.

"It is my belief that child sex abuse, criminal non-support and bigamy are the triple crown of the practice of polygamy," Leavitt, who is Gov. Mike Leavitt's brother, told The Salt Lake Tribune before the hearing. "Those who argue they are not, are wrong. In most cases, you don't discover the child sex abuse until you go after the bigamy."

Green, his five wives and many of his 29 children packed a Juab County courtroom Tuesday. The hearing provided glimpses of Leavitt's upcoming hurdles.

Besides asking 4th District Judge Lynn W. Davis to separate the cases, Bucher filed a request to compel Leavitt to provide details of his allegations, including the child rape victim's name and the date and place where Leavitt believes the crime took place. Leavitt has not explained why he has not been more specific.

And Leavitt, who for months has failed to persuade Green's "wives" and one ex-wife to testify against him, notified Davis he plans to file a motion "relating to the validity of a marriage."

It is key to Leavitt's case that the court recognize one of Green's unions as an ongoing legal marriage, despite the fact he is either divorced from or has never been legally married to each of his partners.

Winning a conviction under Utah's bigamy law -- the act of marrying one person while still being married to another -- requires evidence of at least one legal marriage.

But Green has staggered his court-sanctioned marriages. Over the years, he officially has been married and divorced from three of his current "wives," and unofficially -- without a marriage license -- wed the other two.

Leavitt attempted to establish one of Green's unions as a legal marriage before charges were filed. In an unsuccessful March petition, Leavitt alleged Green and Linda Kunz married in 1986 when Kunz was 14.

The two divorced in 1989, but Leavitt maintains the two continued to live as husband and wife and "each has cohabitated with the other . . . in the sharing of a common abode that each party considers his or her principal domicile . . . that they have participated in a relatively permanent sexual relationship akin to that generally existing between husband and wife."

The court declined to address the issue then, citing the lack of pending charges.

On Tuesday, Leavitt agreed to accept, for now, a $150,000 property bond for the Green's Juab County homestead, called Greenhaven, allowing Green to remain free pending trial.

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