SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah polygamous family whose reality TV show launched a criminal bigamy investigation has moved out of state.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, the Washington-based attorney who represents the family, Jonathan Turley, said Kody Brown has moved his family of four wives and 16 kids to Nevada to pursue new opportunities.
The family is featured on the TLC reality show "Sister Wives." The show first aired in the fall and triggered an investigation by Lehi police into allegations of bigamy.
"There were no pending charges against them in Utah," Turley wrote. "I see no legal reason why their family cannot live and continue to thrive in Nevada as they have in Utah."
Turley did not say why — or where in Nevada — the family had moved.
Brown is legally married to one woman, Meri Brown, but also calls three other women his spouses: Janelle, Christine and Robyn. The oldest of their children is 15.
The family practices polygamy as part of its religious beliefs.
Bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah, punishable by up to five years in state prison, but no criminal charges have been filed against the Browns. Under the law, a person can be found guilty of bigamy through cohabitation, not just legal marriage contracts.
Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhlman said Tuesday his office has not yet decided whether to charge the family.
Under the law, prosecutors have up to four years to bring charges. Buhlman said the clock stops if the Browns move away and starts again if they resumes residency here.
The family's move won't effect a decision about whether to bring charges, Buhlman said. Nor is the practice of polygamy for religious reasons a factor in the decision.
"If we receive a report from police that indicates that a crime has been committed in Utah County and there is evidence, we're generally going to do something about it," he said.
It's not clear what the Lehi police investigation found. A message left for police by The AP was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Utah has not prosecuted a polygamist for bigamy since 2001. Tom Green, who was married to five women and drew the attention of Utah authorities after promoting his lifestyle on national TV talk shows, was convicted on bigamy, criminal nonsupport and child rape charges. He spent six years in prison and was released in 2007.
Bigamy is also illegal in Nevada. It is punishable by a prison term of up to four years and a $5,000 fine.
Most of the estimated 38,000 polygamists across Utah and the Intermountain West keep their way of life a secret. When their TLC show debuted, the Browns said they knew there would be risks to going public, but felt that for "the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking."
In his e-mail, Turley said Utah prosecutors "showed commendable discretion and judgment in the case" and noted that state officials have previously said they would not pursue bigamy charges against polygamists unless there were evidence of collateral crimes such as child abuse.
Turley said the Brown family children are "highly successful" and have been raised in a loving household.
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