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DRAPER - Polygamist Tom Green - who once toured the television talk-show circuit touting his illegal lifestyle - claimed during a Thursday parole hearing that he now understands the error of his ways.

Green put it this way in a recent letter to Utah Board of Pardons and Parole: "What in the hell was I thinking?"

The father of 32 children is serving up to life in prison for "marrying" and having sex with first wife, Linda Kunz, when he was 37 years old and she was 13.

Green, now 56, is also serving zero-to-five-year prison terms for four counts of bigamy - for cohabitating with four women other than Kunz at his west desert homestead - and one count of criminal nonsupport for failing to reimburse the state for welfare paid to his family.

Green has served two years in prison, plus one year in jail while awaiting prosecution. Parole guidelines suggest Green should serve six years and three months before he is released.

It will be four to six weeks before the five-member parole board decides to release Green on parole, release him without supervision, or keep him in prison.

Parole board Chairman Michael Sibbett tested Green's purported change of heart by asking what Green would tell his own 13- and 14-year-old daughters if one of them wanted to marry a man 25 years her senior.

"I would tell them they were not [to do it], as far as I could prevent it," Green answered. "And the man would have to seek some help [therapy]."

"Do you really believe that?" Sibbett asked.

"Yes," Green said.

"That's a significant change," Sibbett noted.

"It is," Green said.

"Where does that change come from?" Sibbett asked.

"From the great opportunity I've had in the last two years to do a lot of thinking and reflecting," replied Green, who wept quietly during the 40-minute hearing. "It has been a very eye-opening experience and a wake-up call."

Green said his family is paying the price for the choices he made.

"We shouldn't delude ourselves with vain crusades or fancy ourselves victims or persecuted minorities to justify the things we've just made up our minds to do," Green said.

Sibbett later told news reporters: "He sees the error he made 18 years ago."

As the victim in the child rape case, Linda Kunz, now 32 and the mother of seven children, was allowed to speak at the hearing.

"I forgive him his mistakes and wrong choices," she told Sibbett. "And I still love him very much. I very much need his help with my [magazine subscription] business, so I can be a mother to my children."

Green now has four wives; one former wife left him. He said he plans to live with Kunz at her Springville home, if released.

Sibbett said later, "I don't know who else besides the kids [and Kunz] are in the house. If he is in a marriage relationship with more than one woman, that would be a violation of state law and his parole."

Green has also promised, in a letter, to care for his children and pay his outstanding $34,420 child support bill, Sibbett said.

Sibbett added Green has completed numerous self-improvement classes and therapy courses and works as a clerk in the prison greenhouse. He is on a waiting list for sex-offender therapy.

Sibbett noted Green came to the attention of prosecutors by appearing on "Dateline," "Jerry Springer" and "Judge Judy," as well as French, British and Japanese television programs.

At the end of the hearing, prison officers allowed Green to turn and smile at the more than 30 family members who filled the parole hearing room at the Utah State Prison. Kunz declined to comment afterward.