Nebraska Supreme Court equation: 2 marriage licenses = bigamy

Dec. 10, 2021, 4:45 p.m. ·

Supreme Court Opinion on Bigamy
A segment of the Nebraska Supreme Court opinion in State V Johnson.

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It’s a crime to be married to more than one person in Nebraska. It’s called bigamy. Such cases are rare. It’s even more unusual to have one make it all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Charlie R. Johnson had his name on two different marriage licenses naming two different wives. Charlie went all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming only one was the real deal.

In 2015 Johnson and Shelley Petersen arrived at the Lancaster County Courthouse, attended a marriage workshop, paid the fees, and signed the marriage license. The clerk notarized it. On July 4th, the newlyweds traveled to Texas for a wedding ceremony where the groom’s sister presided.

By 2018 the couple no longer lived together, but only three months later, Charlie R. Johnson returned to the clerk’s office to fill out a new marriage certificate with Natalie Forney.

That came as a surprise to his first wife, Peterson. She found out from the Internal Revenue Service after attempting to file a joint tax return with her spouse. She went to the police.

Johnson pleaded not guilty. He claimed while he signed the license, it hadn’t been officially filed with the clerk at the time of the ceremony. He argued it’s as if the marriage never happened. However, the evidence presented at the original trial showed Johnson also signed a replacement marriage license a year later.

The District Court judge didn’t buy it.

Neither did the Nebraska Supreme Court in the opinion posted Friday.

Charlie R. Johnson was guilty of bigamy.

Read the full Nebraska Supreme Court opinion HERE.