Polygamist Sentenced to Five Years

The Associated Press/August 25, 2001
By C.G. Wallace

Provo, Utah -- Convicted polygamist Tom Green was led to prison to serve a five-year term after saying he has no regrets or apologies for a lifestyle in which he fathered 30 children with his five wives.

Green testified for about an hour at his sentencing Friday - at one point asking his wives and seven children in court to stand up. Pointing to them, he said: "I am not ashamed of these people, and I'm not ashamed of my relationship with them."

Each of his wives also took the stand. All cried and asked the judge for leniency.

Green, 53, was convicted in May on four counts of bigamy and one count of failure to pay child support in what is Utah's biggest polygamy case in nearly 50 years.

On Friday, he brought up polygamy's legacy in Mormon culture, telling Judge Guy Burningham that the judge and his eldest daughter share a common polygamist ancestor who was jailed for his beliefs.

Mormon pioneers brought polygamy to Utah in the 1840s, but 50 years later The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced the practice in a bid to gain statehood for the territory. Utah's Constitution specifically outlaws plural marriage.

Burningham said Green's unapologetic attitude left him with few options. He sentenced him to five years on each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. Green also was ordered to repay $78,000 to the state for welfare checks fraudulently collected by his family.

Green said nothing to his family as he was taken from court, simply blowing them a kiss.

Afterward, the wives stood together in front of television cameras and said they would remain a family and wait for Green to be free.

Defense attorney John Bucher said he would appeal the conviction.

Polygamy is an open secret in Utah and elsewhere in the West, where there are about 30,000 people practicing plural marriage. But Green practically dared prosecutors to go after him by appearing on TV talk shows such as Sally Jessy Raphael's and Queen Latifah's to discuss his "original Mormonism."

Prosecutor David Leavitt disputed claims that Green was being prosecuted because he talked to the media about his lifestyle.

"Tom Green is being punished because his free speech revealed his crimes," Leavitt said.

The judge, before handing down the sentence, made a long statement about freedom of religion, saying that although people are entitled to their beliefs, their actions must abide by the law.

During a weeklong trial, the prosecutor attempted to portray Green as a man driven by an outsized ego to marry teen-age girls.

The defense argued that Green may not be the most likable man but that he didn't commit bigamy because he was legally married to only one woman at a time.

Green is still awaiting trial on child rape charges in connection with his 1986 marriage to Linda Kunz. Prosecutors said Kunz was 13 when she conceived a child with Green. She now is pregnant with her seventh child.

Green has argued that the statute of limitations has run out and that the charge should be dropped.

In an unusual offshoot from the trial, two brothers from Hawaii who described themselves as ambassadors from the kingdom of God on a mission to help the Greens, were arrested for an alleged bomb threat.

Leavitt said no explosives were found, but there was evidence of a federal crime and the FBI was investigating.

Green's attorney, John Bucher, said the men had showed up in the middle of the night at the family's trailer compound last weekend and announced they had had a divine revelation that they were to "take over the family in Green's absence."

"It was an implied threat," Bucher said. The Greens and Leavitt have both received threats since the case began.

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