Polygamist Cop Charged With Bigamy
 
 
Salt Lake City -- A polygamist police officer has been charged with bigamy and illegal sex with a 16-year-old girl, according to documents unsealed Monday by Utah's attorney general.

Rodney H. Holm, 36, has three wives and 21 children, according to prosecutors and his own attorney. One of the wives, a 16-year-old girl, is his legally recognized wife's younger sister.

She was wed to Holm in a spiritual ceremony in 1998, according to the court documents. The documents charge the legally recognized wife, Suzie Stubbs Holm, with aiding and abetting her husband's illicit relationship with the 16-year-old.

The charges were filed last week, but the attorney general asked that they be kept secret until Friday because prosecutors were trying to arrange a way for Holm to surrender.

The Salt Lake Tribune filed court papers demanding the documents be made public. They were released because the charges had already been reported in the media, the attorney general's office said.

Holm's name is on the birth certificates of two children that the girl conceived before she was 18, the court documents say. State law bans sexual relations involving 16- and 17-year-olds when their partner is 10 or more years older, unless the couple is legally married.

Holm also faces a felony charge of bigamy. He faces a total of four counts, each carrying up to five years in prison. He was not yet in custody, but he agreed to appear in a St. George courtroom Friday, said his attorney, Rod Parker.

Authorities said the girl has left Holm and lives in Arizona.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church, disavowed polygamy in 1890 and excommunicates those who practice plural marriage.

But the Holms belong to a separate group -- the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- whose members openly practice plural marriage. Rodney Holm is a police officer in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most of the church members live.

Parker, who also represents the Holms' church, said Holm's marriage to the victim did not involve coercion and the girl's parents consented. Though not legally married, they considered themselves to be wed according to their faith.

The case "represents a return to the religious persecution of the 1880s," Parker wrote in a statement distributed to the media.

"The attorney general proposes to take away both of those children's parents," he said. "They are guilty of nothing more than living their religion and teaching it to their families."

There are an estimated 30,000 polygamists living in the West today.

One outspoken Utah polygamist, Tom Green, is serving a sentence of five years to life for having sex with one of his spiritual wives when she was 13. He was also convicted of bigamy and failure to pay child support.

After that case, the attorney general's office said its investigators would be playing a bigger role in prosecuting crimes within polygamist communities in Utah.
 
The Associated Press
Originally published October 8, 2002
 
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