Their reality series, Sister Wives, premiered in September 2010, but until then, only family members, close friends and a few co-workers knew about the Brown family's alternative lifestyle. Now, millions of people are paying attention...including the local police department.
Since the first episode aired, police in their home state of Utah have launched an investigation into this polygamist family. If they are charged and convicted of felony bigamy, Kody could face a maximum of 15 to 20 years in prison. His wives could face up to five years.
According to Utah's bigamy statute, "A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person." This law applies to people who obtain multiple marriage licenses, as well as people who are legally married to only one person while also engaging in other marriage-like relationships.
"It's scary," Kody says. "I didn't [expect it]."
Kody says he has a marriage license with Meri, but he wasn't expecting the state to accept or recognize his other relationships. "We weren't looking for the state to do that," he says. "This is strictly a family unit, [and] we didn't feel like we needed that."
Janelle also points out that she and her sister wives were never forced into plural marriage. "We've all chosen this life," she says. "We are free to choose it."