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Charges considered against polygamist who admitted to underage marriages

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Posted at 4:12 PM, Mar 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-19 22:17:57-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Attorney General's Office confirmed to FOX 13 it has begun screening criminal charges against a polygamist who admitted in a deposition to taking teenaged girls as brides.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said his office began screening a case Wednesday involving Winston Blackmore, a one-time leader in the Fundamentalist LDS Church. It came after a report by FOX 13 on Monday that Blackmore admitted under oath in a deposition to marrying underage girls.

Blackmore, who lives in Canada, came to Utah to give a deposition in former child-bride Elissa Wall's multi-million dollar personal injury lawsuit against Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church. She is suing, accusing Jeffs of forcing her to marry her cousin when she was 14.

Blackmore apparently did not have an attorney present for his questioning. He told attorneys for Wall that he married a girl when she was 15. He also acknowledged marrying other girls who were under 18.

Some of those marriages took place in Utah, raising the interest of Reyes.

"There is always a possibility when child abuse is involved, or alleged child abuse, that criminal charges could be filed," he told FOX 13 on Wednesday. "It is something our office takes extremely seriously. That's why we have made it a priority to screen."

Efforts to reach Blackmore for comment have so far been unsuccessful.

As part of the screening, the Utah Attorney General's Office will examine whether there is a statute of limitations for potential sex crimes. In the deposition, Blackmore stated that the marriages took place in the late '90s and early 2000s. He also insisted he had the consent of the girls' parents.

At the time, Utah's marriage age was 14 with parental consent. In 2005, the Utah State Legislature changed it to 16. In 2003, the legislature made any polygamous marriage involving anyone under 18 a felony of child bigamy.

UPDATE: Late Wednesday, the Utah Attorney General's Office told FOX 13 it had decided to put more resources into investigating the statements Blackmore made under oath.