SALT LAKE CITY (The Blaze/AP) — Criminal charges will not be pursued against a polygamous family made famous by the reality TV show “Sister Wives,” a Utah prosecutor wrote Thursday in federal court filings.
The case against Kody Brown and his four wives — Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn — stars of the TLC show, has been closed, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman wrote in a motion seeking to have a lawsuit against his county dismissed.
Brown moved his wives and 16 children from Lehi, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, to the Las Vegas area in January 2011 after Utah authorities launched a bigamy investigation (bigamy is defined as ”the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another”)
The Browns then sued Utah County along with Utah’s governor and attorney general, claiming the state’s bigamy statute violates their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association.
A federal judge later dropped the state from the case but allowed it to continue against the county.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said he dismissed Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff because Shurtleff had assured the Browns they wouldn’t be prosecuted under his policy that consenting adult polygamists won’t be charged as long as they’re not committing other crimes.
However, Waddoups noted that the Browns had reason to believe they could still face prosecution in Utah County, and agreed it could have a chilling effect on their ability to practice their constitutional rights in the state.
Buhman wrote in his Thursday motion that his county, too, had adopted the same state policy and would not pursue bigamy cases unless there was evidence of a victim or fraud.
“The criminal case against the Browns is closed and no charges will be filed against them for bigamy unless new evidence is discovered which would comport with the office’s new policy,” Buhman wrote.
The Browns’ attorney Jonathan Turley said he was pleased that charges wouldn’t be filed but noted the family didn’t plan to drop the lawsuit, claiming state law remained “blatantly unconstitutional.” The Blaze first reported about the family’s plans to challenge the law in July 2011.
“I want to express our great relief for the Brown family that this long-standing threat has been finally lifted,” Turley said in a statement. “The family has spent years being publicly denounced as felons by prosecutors and had to move to Nevada to protect their family and children.”