'Sister Wives' Triggers Bigamy Investigation -- What Did They Expect?

Kim Conte

sister wivesTell me you didn't see this coming.

Unless you've been living in a pop culture black hole, you know that the reality show about a polygamous family, Sister Wives, recently premiered on TLC.

But bigamy is illegal in the United States. So, now Utah police are investigating Kody Brown and his four wives for bigamy -- which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Should I ask the question that's likely on everyone's mind? Why did these adults -- who have 17 children between the five of them -- take such a big risk by airing their life on TV?

It's not like this is the first time that a polygamous family has gone on TV and subsequently suffered the consequences: In 2001, Tom Green paraded his five wives on the national TV talk show circuit and was later convicted on bigamy, criminal nonsupport, and child rape charges.

It should be noted, however, that even though bigamy is illegal, it's typically not prosecuted unless there are allegations of abuse, sexual assault, and fraud (as in the case of Green). Otherwise, police say that in an effort to direct resources toward fighting more serious crimes, they ordinarily don't pursue cases of bigamy between consenting adults.

Perhaps this is why Kody Brown and his family decided to risk prosecution and go on TV. They released the following statement in response to news of the investigation:

"We are disappointed in the announcement of an investigation, but when we decided to do this show, we knew there would be risks ... but for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking."

But for what gain exactly? We can only imagine that he means the money his family is receiving for the show and publicity is important for the kids. Anything else would be truly selfish on the part of the adults -- especially if they're put behind bars.

Oh, and for all those who are clamoring to point out that Brown is legally married to only one wife and has common law contracts with the other three, it should be noted that a person can be found guilty of bigamy simply through cohabitation.

In this case, the future doesn't look so certain for the Browns.

What do you think about the Sister Wives investigation?


Image via Discovery

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