Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

Summary: An investigation leading to the arrest of an alleged bigamist all began with a few wedding photos on Facebook.

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Police in Michigan have arrested 34-year-old Richard Leon Barton Jr. on charges of polygamy, thanks to incriminating wedding photos on Facebook. The man unfriended his first wife on the social network before marrying his second wife, but unsurprisingly that wasn't enough, according to Mlive.

In 2004, Barton reportedly married a Rhode Island woman, whom he'd met about a year earlier online. Not long after their wedding, Barton mysteriously removed his new bride from his Facebook account, and then vanished from her life altogether (he simply did not return home from work one day). Prior to his disappearance, the two discussed getting a divorce by letter and later by phone, but neither ever filed the requisite paperwork.

Out of curiosity, the abandoned woman decided to do some stalking on Facebook, where she soon discovered photos from Barton's second wedding in July 2010 on the pages of his friends and family. The Rhode Island woman contacted police, who arrested the alleged bigamist.

It turns out Barton originally disappeared because he'd been arrested for violating his parole (in 2000 he was convicted of home invasion and in 2001 for uttering and publishing) by leaving Rhode Island, and was sent back to jail. He was released in October 2009, and eventually moved to Grand Rapids, where he met his second wife, whom he told he was divorced.

Muskegon District Court arraigned Barton and charged him with polygamy, which has a maximum penalty of four years in the state of Michigan. He could receive a heavier sentence because he has a criminal record. If he ends up back in jail, he'll have plenty of time to think about changing his Facebook privacy settings, and how to convince his friends and family to do the same.

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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32 comments
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  • Where the hell is the crime?

    Not to defend the scumbag, but where is the crime? The marriage was technically terminated do to abandonment and at no point do I see anything that says that he scammed either woman. <br><br>He wasn't living a double life (he was in jail) and after so many years it is very likely he thought he was legally divorced but never got the documents.

    Now one thing I don't understand about the story (which makes it very suspicious) is if he "disappeared" in 2004, how the hell was his wife a "friend" in his Facebook account?
    wackoae
    • You don't have to be a friend...

      @wackoae
      if a user doesn't have any privacy settings turned on. She probably did a search for his name and found his Facebook account. The crime is that it's illegal to be married to more than one person at a time in this country.
      jasonp@...
      • Making bigamy a criminal offense is just ridiculous...

        @jasonp@... IT is one of those areas where we legislate morality... The government has no reason to legislate what goes on in the private lives of people or in their bedroom.

        I am not saying that I support plural marriage, but what I am saying it isn't anyone's business either, but like the other user said, He basically abandoned the one wife, for the other, not like he was playing them both along...
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

        @Snooki_smoosh_smoosh@... Nobody's business? I think that it was the first wife's business as she was still married to him and she was the one that reported him.
        balsover
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @wackoae
      I agree with you 100%. There is no crime here, except maybe the violation of parole.

      As to that last point, was he a Harvard student at the time?
      hoaxoner
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @wackoae
      "Technically terminated do [sic] to abandonment"? Is there a state where abandoning one's spouse terminates the marriage? I've certainly never heard of that.

      In most (all) states, in order to end a marriage, there is a little-known legal process called "divorce". A divorce should usually happen between two marriages, or else someone might be called a bigamist, which is what happened here.

      Nobody cares, typically, about bigamy unless someone is a jerk about it. Which this guy kinda was.
      Katydidknot
    • No termination due to abandonment

      @wackoae <br>I'm a lawyer. A marriage doesn't terminate by abandonment. The only way to have a marriage "naturally" terminate is for one of the people to die. Abandonment is <b><i>grounds</i></b> for divorce, but it doesn't terminate the marriage.
      Rick_R
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @wackoae
      You nailed it, Facebook wasn't even public until 2006. Sommmeoooone's lying.
      jefferyshall
  • I love stupid criminal stories

    Usually it's a story about a burglar stuck in a chimney. This is a fresh take on dumbassery.
    MC_z
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @MC_z Thanks for the laugh. I really like that snigglet, "dumbassery". May I use it...alot? : )
      psquared007
  • Being put away for four years for having more than one wife....

    could be considered a "vacation", couldn't it?
    Userama
  • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

    I think polygamy should be permitted, provided no other laws (abuse, etc.) are being broken.

    However, I would describe this more as a straightforward case of fraud. It appears the wives did not know of each other. A person show know what they are getting into. And a spouse's explicit consent should be required if the fundamentals of the relationship are changing that significantly.
    rgcustomer@...
  • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

    The guy goes to jail for like 6 years and she never visits him - once? Sounds like she thought they were divorced as well.
    Arpotu
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @Arpotu - You must have missed this part:
      "Not long after their wedding, Barton mysteriously removed his new bride from his Facebook account, and then vanished from her life altogether (he simply did not return home from work one day)."
      Also, being married has legal implications and responsibilities. Just as one example, if he had died without making a will, his first wife would inherit, since he was never divorced. Assuming there was anything to inherit, of course.
      BreadintheBone
  • Arresting someone just to arrest them

    This really looks like a case of "Oh, he's been in the criminal justice system before. We don't like him much, lets get him for bigamy this time."<br><br>I mean seriously, it wasn't like he removed one wife from his Facebook page them a few days later married a different one. There was years in between here. I could see him having simply forgotten that he hadn't gotten a divorce. After all, having to spend time in jail is a pretty big life change and is rather distracting.<br><br>What did she think she could accomplish by calling the police on him anyway? Seems like a revenge move, a way to use the legal system to punish someone for a personal dispute. Would she have wanted to continue the marriage if she hadn't discovered he was married, or would she have found some other pretext to call the police on him?<br><br>This is dumb.
    Omnifarious
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @Omnifarious Sadly, that is exactly the way our justice system works in this country. There is a lot of money that changes hands for every criminal in the system and they seem to love repeat offenders. Careers depend on the system having criminals.
      raydillon417
    • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

      @Omnifarious, what's dumb here is your apparent belief that marriage is such a trivial thing that a) people can forget they are married and b) they should be allowed to get married as many times as they please. Actually marriage is about the most powerful contract you can enter, and what was 'accomplished' here was saving the deceived bride (whom I notice you care nothing about) from a liar and probably an untold amount of grief and debts. It's none of your business as to why the real wife hasn't petitioned for divorce and it doesn't make her the villain in this piece.
      crimsonrosella
      • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

        @crimsonrosella - Apparently, marriage was pretty trivial to her. How could she have not discovered he was in jail? All she would've had to do was go to the police and file a missing person's report. That's 5-6 years of someone being completely missing from your life where you don't even make a basic attempt to look for them.<br><br>And marriage isn't trivial. But after 4-5 years in jail I'm going to be a little hazy on whether or not I actually got divorced from someone who I had been talking about it with before I went to jail, especially if they never visited me while I was there.<br><br>I don't think there's any villain here but a stupid system. I suspect both he and she are not particularly pleasant people. The system has given her a tool, and hasn't given him one. And she's using it. The tool shouldn't have been there in the first place.
        Omnifarious
      • your right it is a contract, so at most he breached a

        @crimsonrosella... a contract, but does that mean we have to pay his support costs while he spends the next 4+ years in prison? Keep in mind that it costs a lot of money to maintain a prisoner. One of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • RE: Facebook wedding photos result in polygamy arrest

    What on earth is "uttering and publishing" (for which this guy was convicted in 2001)? Yikes!
    geddawfmylawn