Friday, March 9, 2012

Advice for bigamists

Bigamists should not use Facebook.  Or at the very least, bigamists should not friend their wives on Facebook.  That is the lesson that Alan O'Neill, a Pierce County, Washington corrections officer is allegedly learning the hard way.  Because of Facebook, Officer O'Neil is accused of committing bigamy.

According to a report in the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune, in 2001 Officer O'Neill (whose last name at the time was Fulk) married a woman the paper refers to as "Wife No. 1."  In 2009, Officer O'Neill stopped living with Wife 1 but neither he nor she filed for divorce.  Although the paper doesn't mention it I assume that it was during the 2001-2009 period that Officer O'Neill and Wife No. 1 became Facbook friends.

According to charging documents cited by the paper, in December 2009, Officer O'Neill changed his last name from Fulk to O'Neill.  Later that month he allegedly married a woman the paper identifies as "Wife No. 2."  Although the paper doesn't mention it Officer O'Neill apparently was Facebook friends with Wife No. 2.

It would be an interesting case of life imitating art if Wife No. 1 discovered Wife No. 2 because she was reenacting the final scene of "The Social Network."  Unfortunately, that is not how Wife No. 1 discovered Wife No. 2.  Instead, Facebook's "people you may know" feature suggested that the two women should be friends because they were both friends with Officer O'Neill. 

Apparently, Wife No. 2's Facebook profile photo was of her and Officer O'Neill standing next to a wedding cake.  Wife No. 1 saw this and called her mother-in-law.  The paper quotes court records as saying that an hour later Officer O'Neil arrived at Wife No. 1's apartment where he allegedly admitted that he and Wife No. 1 were still married in response to being asked if they were divorced.  Officer O'Neill allegedly told Wife No. 1 not to tell anybody about the dual marriages and said he would fix the problem.

It will not surprise anyone familiar with William Congreve to learn that Wife No. 1 did not do as Officer O'Neill suggested.  Instead, Wife No. 1 alerted the authorities and now Officer O'Neill is on unpaid administrative leave as he awaits a March 22, hearing date to answer the charge of felony bigamy.

The paper quotes the attorney prosecuting Officer O'Neill as saying “It’s not the crime of the century, but it is a crime.”  This, of course, could presumably be said of every crime but one.  In any event, Officer O'Neill's troubles are a reminder that when one stops a romantic relationship with someone, one should probably not keep them as Facebook friends.


  1. Hmm. Some thoughts.

    1) Are we required to refer to prison guards with the "Officer" honorific now?

    2) You say only one crime referred to as the "crime of the century." Well, that's only true in hindsight. For example, there's only one "crime of the century" for the 20th century. But this century is still young. We could have a crime of the century for now but which later becomes superseded. E.g., perhaps the Lindberg baby kidnaping really was the crime of the century when it happened, but arguably went ahead and outdid it. (Or maybe I'm thinking of the "trial of the century"...)

    3) On bigamy: why is this illegal? Can the bigamy law survive in the 9th Circuit after Perry v. Brown?

  2. Some Answers:
    1) We are not required to do so but we aren't prevented from doing so either.

    2) Fair point. Although, I am not sure what crime outdoes the Lindbergh baby case in the 20th century. Charles Lindbergh was one of the most famous people in the world when his child was murdered.

    3) I will look into this and, perhaps, report back soon.

  3. Sorry, there was an editing error: I meant to say "OJ" arguably went ahead and outdid the Lindbergh case. I think those are your two candidates.


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