Leavitt adds new polygamy offense to crime books

Associated Press/April 1, 2003

Salt Lake City -- Gov. Mike Leavitt quietly signed into law a tougher criminal sanction for men who take young girls as their polygamist wives.

House Bill 307 created the new crime of child bigamy - marrying a second wife who is under the age of 18. The second-degree felony is punishable by one to 15 years in prison.

The penalty for ordinary bigamy is zero to five years.

Without any fanfare he reserves for other bill signings, Leavitt gave his approval March 14.

The marrying of teenage girls is common among some of Utah's isolated polygamist communities, said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. His office drafted the legislation.

''It's going to be a great tool for us,'' Shurtleff said as the Legislature gave the measure final approval March 5.

State law makes it a third-degree felony for adults to have sex with someone age 16 or 17 if they are at least 10 years older than the teen.

The crime of rape of a child, a first-degree felony, occurs when anyone has sex with a child under 14.

The state has two others laws in place to punish underage polygamist marriages.

Parents can be charged with a third-degree felony if they allow a minor to enter into a marriage prohibited by law. Another law makes it a third-degree felony for anyone who performs an illegal marriage for a minor. Third-degree felonies are punishable by zero to five years in prison.

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