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Prosecutor vs. Polygamist

Tom Green is a polygamist. "Men are designed by nature to love more than one woman," he says. But he has a problem. In Utah, where he lives, polygamy is a felony, and Green faces up to 25 years in jail.

48 Hours Correspondent Troy Roberts reports on this complex case.

"I've made commitments before God to be the husband to these wives and the father of these children," Green says. "And whatever penalties I may incur from doing that, I'll incur."

County prosecutor David Leavitt wants to bring charges but it is an incredibly difficult crime to prove, he says.

The crime in Utah is actually called bigamy: being married and living with another person at the same time. This spring, after months of investigation, Leavitt filed formal charges against Green: four counts of bigamy, one count of failure to pay child support and another one of taking a wife before she was legally of age, technically child rape. If Green is convicted of just the bigamy charges he could spend the next 20 years in prison.

To get around the law, Green is legally single. Although they live together as one family, Green has married - and then divorced - each of his wives. "In my heart, I'm very committed; I'm very married," he says.

Green is married to Linda, Carrie and Hannah, who are sisters, and another set of sisters, Shirley and Leanne. All married Tom Green when they were 14 or 15.

"Tom is a very exceptional man when it come to taking care of all us women," Leanne Green says. "Emotionally, physically, materially, everything. Not every man can do this."

Says Tom Green: "[The relationship] is very successful. It's easier with five."

A Web of Support
Tapestry of Polygamy helps women and children leaving polygamous communities behind.
Tom Green lives with his five wives and their 25 children in a collection of trailers cobbled together in the western Utah desert. They get by on odd jobs and public assistance. Tom Green says the arrangement works very well. "The association I have with my wives and children is really a pretty good chunk of heaven on earth," he says.

Unlike other polygamists, the Green family has not been secretive about its lifestyle. Leavitt, in fact, saw Tom Green on television admitting tbeing a polygamist. Some say this kind of behavior forced the hands of authorities.

Prosecutor David Leavitt isn't sure he can gather enough evidence against Tom Green.
But to prosecute, Leavitt needs more than a videotape. He needs one of Tom Green's wives to testify against him.

When 48 Hours first broadcast this program, Leavitt had offered immunity to some of the wives so they'd cooperate, but they refused.

Then a few weeks ago, the prosecutor served the wives with subpoenas. No matter, all five of them still say they will never testify against their husband.

"A woman should be able to marry the man she loves whether he has another wife or not," Linda Green says. "It shouldn't be against the law." She is willing to go to prison in defense of her lifestyle, she says.

Tom Green's children know how much is at stake. "Why should our father go to jail?" asks one of his daughters. "I mean, what's it like when you're little, having no father?" Leavitt himself is unsure what would happen to the Green children if he went to jail.

Last week, the judge ordered Tom Green to stand trial on charges of child rape and failure to pay child support. But he put off deciding whether to try him on bigamy charges.

For his part, Tom Green admits that he is not fearless about his future. "I'm afraid of not being here for my family when they need me."

Produced by David Kohn;

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