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Militant Utah Polygamist Sentenced To Five Years in Jail, Fine Imposed

By Julie Cart
LOS ANGELES TIMES

DENVER

A Utah polygamist who all but dared prosecutors to arrest him was sentenced to five years in prison Friday on felony bigamy charges, while his five wives and some of his 30 children wept in the courtroom.

Tom Green, 53, also was ordered to pay $78,000 to the state in restitution for welfare payments to his 25 children under 18.

The case was the first prosecution of a polygamist in Utah in 50 years and has focused an uncommon spotlight on plural marriage in the state.

Green was silent as Judge Guy Burningham announced the sentence on four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport of a child. He was sentenced to five years on each count, but the judge ordered the sentences to be served concurrently. Prosecutor David Leavitt had asked for a 10-year sentence.

Green testified for an hour Friday and remained defiant about what he considers to be his religious beliefs. After asking his wives and seven of their children to stand in the courtroom, he pointed and said: “I am not ashamed of these people, and I’m not ashamed of my relationship with them.”

Each of his wives, whom he married as teen-agers, took the stand and asked for leniency. In letters to the judge, they pleaded with the court to consider the effect Green’s imprisonment would have on his family and its ability to take care of itself.

“Tom’s children are very close to him,” Linda Green wrote. “I believe they would suffer emotionally and mentally by his being taken away. I worry that our children will learn to disrespect government for generations to come because of having their father sent to prison for his religious beliefs.”

The courtroom in Provo was filled with a smattering of polygamists supporting Green and a small group of anti-polygamy activists. In his arguments, Leavitt spoke about the history of polygamy in Utah. Once a tenet of the Mormon religion, it was outlawed by the church in 1890.

Leavitt, who is the brother of Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and himself a descendant of polygamists, received death threats during the trial. After Friday’s hearing, he said that Green had not been singled out.