Tom Green, who spent six years in prison in Utah after being convicted of polygamy and child rape in a case that garnered widespread attention, died on Sunday. He was 72.
His death was announced by his family, who did not say where he died or what the cause was.
Before his trial in 2001, Mr. Green appeared frequently with five wives on national television shows including “Jerry Springer” and “Dateline NBC,” arguing that his lifestyle was a constitutional right.
The appearances proved to be his undoing: He caught the attention of David O. Leavitt, a county prosecutor in Utah (and the brother of the state’s governor, Michael O. Leavitt). In a rare use of a state law, Mr. Leavitt charged Mr. Green with bigamy.
In court papers, Mr. Leavitt, a Mormon, contended that Mr. Green had been able to elude prosecution by marrying without state sanction. “Green has intentionally made very complex his legal relationships to his wives,” he wrote. But, he added, “Green’s scheme is a very public challenge to our marriage laws.”
Mr. Green was convicted on four counts of bigamy and one charge of criminal nonsupport for failure to take care of nine of his children. In 2002 he was convicted of child rape for having sex with his first wife when she was 13 and he was in his 30s.
He was the first man in more than 50 years to be prosecuted in Utah for having multiple wives.
Mr. Green maintained that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs and singled out because he had embarrassed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Early members of that faith, widely known as the Mormon Church, practiced polygamy in the 1800s at the instruction of its founder, Joseph Smith. But the church disavowed polygamy in 1890 and today condemns the practice. Utah outlawed polygamy in 1896 as a condition of being granted statehood.
A handful of splinter groups still practice plural marriage. The most well-known is a community on the Utah-Arizona border known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which used to be run by Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered his brides.
Mr. Green said he didn’t belong to any organized polygamous group. His beliefs, he said, were “original Mormonism.”
In 2020, Utah lowered the punishment for polygamy in some cases, making it an infraction instead of a felony punishable by a prison term except where coercion, fraud or abuse are involved.
Mr. Green was released from prison in 2007 and stayed out of the spotlight while living in the Salt Lake City area until his death.
Before being sent to prison, Mr. Green, who ran a telemarketing business, had lived with his wives in a trailer compound in the Utah desert near the Nevada border.
According to his family, he is survived by three wives, 34 children and 54 grandchildren.
The New York Times contributed reporting.
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