Wedding Service

Nebraska Supreme Court Rules Man Was Married Twice, Upholds Bigamy Conviction |


In 1920, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that if bigamy was allowed it would “disturb the peace of families and undermine the decency and good order of society.”

The court upheld the conviction of a Lincoln man on Friday for taking a second wife, upholding his 30-day prison sentence for bigamy.

Charlie Johnson, now 40, had argued that he believed his first marriage, in 2015, was invalid because while he obtained a marriage license in Nebraska, the wedding ceremony took place in Texas . So Johnson’s attorney, Matthew Kosmicki, maintained his client was free to marry another woman in 2018.

The Supreme Court was not convinced, ruling that Johnson had not shown that Texas law would have invalidated the ceremony.

In 2015, Johnson obtained a marriage license in Lancaster County with Shelley Petersen. The license has been signed and notarized. About a week later, on July 4, Johnson’s sister, an ordained minister, performed a wedding ceremony for the couple in Texas.

The minister gave the couple a “souvenir marriage certificate,” but did not sign or return the Nebraska marriage license.

Peterson, the bride, called the Lancaster County clerk’s office at least 10 times, according to court documents, to ask if the marriage license had been returned so she could change some motor vehicle licenses.

Meanwhile, during this time, Johnson, the groom, asked a clerk how to “prevent the marriage from coming true.”

The clerk told her that the marriage was already valid, which led to the issuance of a new marriage license. It was signed by the couple, notarized and then signed by the minister who performed the wedding ceremony. The license was filed by the clerk’s office in January 2017, indicating that the couple had married two years earlier.

But around May 2018, Peterson moved out. Among the evidence submitted in the case were text messages the couple exchanged as they identified themselves as husband and wife.

Six months after Peterson left, Johnson applied for a marriage license with Natalie Forney. The couple married on November 15, 2018.

The dual marriage licenses came to light the following year after the first wife attempted to file her income taxes as a “Joint Filing Bride” with Johnson. The IRS had rejected his filing, informing him that Johnson had previously filed income taxes as a joint filing with Forney. This led to a police investigation, bigamy charges were filed, and county and district court judges rulings that Johnson was guilty of bigamy.

State law, according to Friday’s ruling, allows a person to remarry if a spouse has died or been absent for at least five years, or if she “reasonably believed” that she was eligible to marry. remarry.

But the Supreme Court ruled that this did not apply to Johnson because, during oral argument, his lawyer conceded that the marriage to the first wife was not void.

While the first marriage could have been “voidable,” the court ruled that Johnson had taken no action to seek an annulment in order to make it invalid or to obtain a divorce.