This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I'm filling in for Lindsay Whitehurst this week and am writing about the "Sister Wives" family's latest court filing.
My article gives an overview of what the Browns had to say and the larger legal issues. Below are some more excerpts from Kody Brown's written statement entered into federal court. I emphasize this is only an excerpt, but this hits the highlights.
• In our plural family, only one couple, myself and Meri Brown, holds an official marriage license.
• I was a resident of Lehi, Utah, where I was civilly married to Plaintiff Meri Brown, and spiritually married to Plaintiffs Janelle Brown, Christine Brown, and Robyn Sullivan.
• My family are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist faith and plural marriage is central to our faith.
• In January 2011, I left Utah for fear that Utah law enforcement officials would break up my family and prosecute the adults under the state's criminal bigamy statute for maintaining a plural family.
• When we considered participation in the Sister Wives program on TLC, I had repeated contacts with state officials. In the course of those meetings I asked the defendants questions to determine if we be would subject to investigation or prosecution if we went public
• On at least three occasions in the year before Sister Wives aired, I spoke with Defendant Shurtleff and his press secretary about our plural family and our desire to go public.
• I told Defendant Shurtleffthat I was considering going public with the details and realities of our plural family.
• I asked Defendant Shurtleff if Shurtleff would pursue me criminally if I went public, and Defendant Shurtleff answered that he would not.
• At this February 2009 meeting, Defendant Shurtleff told me that Utah lacked the resources to prosecute polygamists and that I would not be prosecuted unless I was committing crimes such as marrying child brides, promoting incestuous relationships, or committing welfare or tax fraud.
• However, the day after the first episode aired, Lehi Police Department publicly announced that our family was under investigation under the bigamy statute and were subject to prosecution for our plural family structure.
• What followed were public statements from prosecutors reaffirming that the state viewed my family as felons and that we were committing criminal acts by living as a plural family.
• Deputy Utah County Attorney Julia Thomas stated that we were placed under investigation when prosecutors saw promotional trailers for Sister Wives airing on TV. Vince Horiuchi, Going Public 'Was a Risk Worth Taking,' Utah Polygamists Say, Salt Lake City Trib., Sept. 29,2010.
• Ms. Thomas also stated that we were breaking the law and effectively admitting to criminal acts every night. Id.
• These statements and the very public investigation have had an immediate, continuing, and negative impact on my family.
• We have had to prepare for the possibility that the adults could be taken from our family - leaving our children without support or parental guidance.
• Efforts of some of the adults to find employment was hampered by our being labeled as felons and guilty of open and admitted criminal acts.
• For example, the day after the investigation was announced, one of my largest sales accounts in my prior employment contacted my office manager in Orem and said "we can't have Kody be associated with us anymore and we need the account reassigned."
• I had developed this account over the course of three years and it was one of the top five accounts that I had maintained as a sales representative working for Young Electric Sign Company. This banking institution was very close to signing a new sale with me.
• I saw other sales drop after the public comments of the prosecutors and the criminal investigation into our plural family.
• The threat of prosecution and public statements had a profound impact on the family's health and lifestyle. The adults lost sleep and Robyn dropped dangerously in weight over the constant threat that our family could be destroyed at any time.
• The coercive effect on the entire family was so pronounced that any appearance of a police cruiser on our street became a matter of alarm - not knowing whether prosecutors had chosen this moment to break up our family and arrest some or all of the adults.
• I intend to continue to practice my religious faith, including polygamy, as does my entire family.
• We have, however, been curtailed in our speech and associations due to the threat of prosecution and continued public comments from prosecutors.
• We have been unable to fully participate in our religious community due to our separation from Utah and we curtailed some associations and religious activities to try to protect family and friends from similar treatment by state officials.
• Yet even after the move to Nevada, prosecutors have continued to stress that their investigation of our family is ongoing and that they reserved the right to prosecute the family.
• Our continued labeling as presumptive felons has proven a barrier in finding new positions for the adults in Nevada
• No family should have to live under a classification as criminals simply because the majority of citizens object to their private relationships or religious-based practices.