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Felony bigamy conviction upheld

Come listen to the tale of Tammy Taylor and Curtis Cole. Cole married Taylor in 1995. Somewhere along the way, the romance must have faded.

In 2005, Cole went through a marriage ceremony with Donna Vincent without first divorcing Taylor. Cole claimed on his marriage license application that he had never been married.

Cole claimed it was “legally impossible” for him to be convicted of bigamy under Va. Code § 18.2-362. He reasoned that because his marriage to Vincent was void under the statute, he did not “marry another person” as prohibited by the statutory language.

Cole missed the point, according to Judge D. Arthur Kelsey’s published opinion in Cole v. Commonwealth. Tracing Virginia’s law back to the bigamy statute of King James I, Kelsey said that statute’s phrase “do at any time marry” has historically been understood to mean the a “second marriage is merely void, and yet it maketh the offender a felon.”

The fact that the later marriage was void did not preclude criminal prosecution for bigamy, Kelsey said. He also rejected Cole’s constitutional arguments, including the claim that his two-year sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
By Deborah Elkins

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