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‘Sister Wives' family under investigation following TV debut


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LEHI -- A polygamous Lehi family featured on a new TV series that debuted Sunday night has drawn the attention of local police.

Kody Brown and his wives are the subject of a TLC program called "Sister Wives". The show premiered with an hour-long special, the first installment of a seven-part "docu-series" about Kody Brown and his three (soon-to-be four) wives -- Meri, Janelle and Christine -- and their 13 children. The series began with Brown announcing plans to take on another wife, Robyn, and her three children.

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In a statement released Monday, Lehi police said they are now investigating the Brown family for bigamy, a third-degree felony.

"At the conclusion of the investigation, the evidence will be forwarded to the Utah County Attorney's Office for review and possible prosecution," according to Lehi Police Lt. Darren Paul.

KSL News spoke to the family last week on their promotional tour for the show. Kody Brown and his wives said they made the show knowing there could be legal consequences and decided it was a risk they were willing to take.

"That is a part of the risk assessment that we did. I mean, because yes, of course, that is a possibility," Meri Brown, Kody's Brown's first wife, said.

Producers of the show apparently feared the Browns could come under legal scrutiny. They contacted the Utah Attorney General's Office months before airing the program.

"They called us and said, ‘Hey, are you going to shut us down?'" said Scott Troxel, spokesman for the attorney general.

Troxel said the Utah Attorney General's Office doesn't have the resources to go after polygamists unless it suspects crimes such as child abuse or child trafficking.

"Right now, it's not in our hands, but we're not closing the door," he said.

Christine Brown, Kody Brown's third wife, told KSL, "We're not living this lifestyle out of disrespect for the law in any way. We're law-abiding citizens. We're doing this just out of our faith."

"We are not members of the LDS Church," she added. "They banned polygamy a long time ago, and we actually need to make that certain to protect the Church and to let people know that that's not part of their belief."

The Utah County Attorney's Office became aware of "Sister Wives" after receiving several phone calls Monday, said Tim Taylor, chief deputy county attorney.

"Obviously, we can't do anything until we get a case," he said before Lehi issued its statement announcing an investigation. "We haven't seen anything. I don't know if we will see anything."

Taylor said the county occasionally prosecutes people under its bigamy statute, though not necessarily polygamists.

"We'll take a look at any case that comes into our office to see if it has merit," he said.

In 2001, one of Utah's most high-profile polygamists, Tom Green, was convicted in Provo's 4th District Court of bigamy and failure to pay child support. He also was later found guilty of child rape.

Prior to his convictions, Green and his family talked openly about their lifestyle on international and national TV programs, including "The Jerry Springer Show," "Dateline" and "Judge Judy." Prosecutors said they didn't start investigating Green until seeing him on TV.

Meanwhile, TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg had no comment Monday night on the investigation.

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Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales and Dennis Romboy.

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