Polygamist family worried, upset after appeals court ruling

Polygamist family worried, upset after appeals court ruling (KUTV)

(KUTV) In the small Juab County town of Rocky Ridge live Brady Williams, his five wives, and their roughly two dozen children.

"My oldest daughter is 22 and my youngest daughter is one," said Williams.

The longtime polygamist said their way of life is honorable and shouldn't be illegal.

But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says, it is.

The Brown family of TV's "Sister Wives" had sued, after officials in Utah threatened to prosecute them. A federal judge ruled in their favor in 2013. But Monday, the appeals court reversed that, saying because prosecutors never filed any charges, there's no case.

That leaves Utah's law criminalizing polygamy on the books.

"Sounds very nice to say, oh yes, they are all consenting adults, but when you get into the weeds and bushes and poker around, consent is a very complicated issue," said Parker Douglas, a prosecutor in the Utah Attorney General's Office.

Still, prosecutors insist law-abiding polygamists will be left alone.

"There is a prosecutorial practice throughout the state not to prosecute bigamy cases unless there are other ancillary harms," Douglas said. "Domestic abuse, child abuse, fraud of some kind."

If that's so, Williams questions why the law even exists in the first place.

"Prosecute fraud, prosecute fraud abuse to the full extent of the law," said Williams. "But don't isolate one minority population and say, oh, and for you, we're going to make it even worse."

Williams said the court's decision brings back fear to polygamist families that they could be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, the Brown family says they'll appeal the appeals court's decision. Williams will be watching.

"I hope that justice really can prevail and that we won't be discriminated against," he said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a statement praising the ruling. He said the laws on polygamy could change, but until then, his office will defend the laws as they are.

Follow Daniel Woodruff on Twitter @danielmwoodruff for breaking news, updates and more.

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