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‘Sister Wives' family hires attorney

‘Sister Wives' family hires attorney

By Emiley Morgan | Posted - Oct. 7, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.



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PROVO -- The Utah County Attorney's Office is now sifting through evidence police have gathered on a polygamous Lehi family -- who are the subject of a new TV series -- and debating whether to file criminal charges.

In the meantime, the family has hired a well-known constitutional law professor and attorney to represent them.

Kody Brown and his four wives are the subject of a TLC program called "Sister Wives." They caught the eye of local police after the show debuted.

The day after the first episode aired Sept. 26, Lehi police issued a statement saying officers were investigating the family for bigamy, a third-degree felony.

Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman said his office was given the evidence from Lehi police Monday, after the department concluded its investigation. Buhman's office is currently screening the evidence in the case to determine what to do next.

"We're reviewing (the case) now," he said. "We can either not file charges, file charges or seek further investigation."

Buhman noted that while polygamy cases have been prosecuted in the state in the past, this was the first such case he could recall, at least within the last 10 to 15 years, that targeted a "traditional" polygamist family.

"We've done bigamy cases before, but normally it's people getting married to someone when they're already married, not traditional polygamy," he said. "We haven't done this type of bigamy case."

Attorney Jonathan Turley, who is a nationally-recognized scholar on constitutional law, announced the decision to represent the Brown family on his personal blog Wednesday. He said in the blog that his comments on the case "will be limited," however he wrote of his confidence that there would not be criminal charges in the case.

"We are confident that the authorities will find no such criminal conduct in this case and we intend to cooperate to the fullest in resolving any such questions from the state," he wrote. "I hope that the prosecutors will recognize that this would be bad criminal case making bad criminal law. It is, after all, a television show and there is no need to move the matter from the television guide to the criminal docket."

He points out that prior prosecution of polygamy cases involved accusations of child abuse and marriages to underage girls.

"Bigamy is a third-degree felony under Utah law punishable with up to five years in jail," Turley wrote. "The use of this statute to prosecute the Browns would be in my view unconstitutional. It would also end a long-standing policy to confine prosecutions to those who abuse children or commit such crimes as fraud."

"Sister Wives" is currently airing as a seven-part "docu-series" about Brown and his four wives -- Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn -- and their 16 children.

TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg confirmed Thursday that the family hired Turley -- not the network. She offered no additional comment on the decision.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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Emiley Morgan

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