Utah police investigate family on polygamy TV show
SALT LAKE CITY |
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The new reality TV show "Sister Wives," featuring a real-life advertising salesman and four women he calls his spouses, has sparked a criminal bigamy investigation by police in Utah, officials said on Tuesday.
The show, following the lives of Kody Brown, 41, the four women and their 16 children, premiered on the TLC cable channel on Sunday, catching the attention of authorities in the Utah town of Lehi just south of Salt Lake City, where the family lives together in a large house.
"We looked into it, and we have detectives working on this case now," Lehi police Lt. Darren Paul told Reuters.
No arrests have been made, but the investigation findings will be turned over to the local district attorney's office for review, he said.
The Brown family released a statement on Tuesday saying they were "disappointed" but were aware of the risks of doing the reality show.
"But for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking," the statement said.
Brown is legally married to just one of the women, but counts three others as "sister wives," a term in polygamist sects that refers to a husband's multiple marital partners.
Plural marriage, an early tenant of the Mormon faith and once common in Utah, was renounced by the church more than a century ago and outlawed, as it already was in the rest of the country, as Utah was seeking statehood.
But polygamy persists in secluded communities scattered mostly around the West, especially among followers of a Mormon splinter group called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the FLDS.
FLDS spiritual leader Warren Jeffs was serving time in a Utah prison for arranging child bride marriages, but that conviction was recently overturned. He remains in jail awaiting prosecution on other charges.
Plural marriage was long largely overlooked by Utah authorities until 2001, when polygamist Tom Green went on national television to espouse his lifestyle.
He ultimately was convicted of bigamy for being married to five women simultaneously and of child rape in connection with his 1986 marriage to a 13-year-old girl, and served several years in prison.
Paul Murphy, a state attorney general's office spokesman, called the Green case "the tipping point" in law enforcement's crackdown on polygamy.
Murphy said Brown contacted the attorney general's office before "Sister Wives" aired because he wanted to inquire about the legal ramifications, and was told essentially: "It is against the law, but it's up to local law enforcement."
(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jerry Norton)
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