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Constitutional Law

County Prosecutor Won’t Charge ‘Sister Wives’ Family

Posted Jun 1, 2012 6:33 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Corrected: Members of the family portrayed in the Sister Wives reality TV show won’t face prosecution in Utah County, Utah.

In a motion to dismiss a challenge to the state’s bigamy law, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said his office has adopted a policy that it won’t prosecute consenting adults accused of bigamy unless there is violence, abuse or fraud. The Salt Lake Tribune, the Associated Press and KSL.com have stories.

George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley represents Kody Brown and his four "wives." In a blog post, Turley said he was not dropping the suit. His motion for summary judgment argues the law violates their rights under the First Amendment, the due process clause and the equal protection clause.

The motion notes that the Utah statute criminalizes cohabitation as well as bigamy. In the Brown family, there is only one recorded marriage. The other three women are “spiritual wives.”

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also has a policy against prosecuting consulting adult polygamists. He was dismissed as a defendant earlier this year. Buhman had previously threatened to prosecute the family.

Updated June 1 to correctly state that Turley is a law professor at George Washington University.

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