Local News

August 27, 2011

Bigamy case ‘not prosecutable’

The district attorney says it’s not prosecutable.

Her attorney disagrees.

And in the middle is Amber Williams — whose last chance at seeing her husband, Mark Edward Williams of Rocky Face, charged with bigamy— appears to have disappeared.

“I feel like I’ve been deceived the whole time,” she said on Friday, only a couple of weeks after learning District Attorney Kermit McManus will not prosecute Mark Williams. Amber Williams had taken out a warrant against Mark Williams for bigamy in Murray County Magistrate Court in January.

Amber Tucker was a 16-year-old student at Murray County High School when she fell for Williams, a school resource officer. They married in May of 2006.

“I had people telling me, ‘Don’t mess with him, don’t mess with him,’ but to me he was perfect, (he) couldn’t do anything wrong,” she said of advice that was spurned during her 2003-2004 sophomore year. “We were seeing each other then, but when I found out he was married to Amy (Bivens) I quit seeing him. After they split up, we got back together. Because he, of course, is a smooth talker — he’ll make you believe anything he wants you to believe.”

But Amber Williams still didn’t know the whole story. Mark Williams had a total of four wives, ostensibly, before her, according to her research and McManus.

McManus acknowledged the circumstances are “a little bit convoluted.”

“He’s been married or he has been purported to be married five separate times,” McManus said. “We know that the first two ended in divorce ... the third wife was a lady named Amy Bivens that he married in January of 2003. When Mark Williams married Amy Bivens, she was still married to another man at that time and as far as we can tell she never obtained a divorce from that previous husband. We’re going to refer to her as ‘Wife No. 3’ ... what that means is that under Georgia law the marriage that Mark Williams subsequently had with Amy Bivens was invalid. She was incapable of entering into a marriage because she was previously married.”

That muddied the waters for his future wife, Amber.

“As far as we know that marriage (to Bivens) was invalid from the start so no divorce was necessary,” McManus continued. “Now, subsequent to marrying (Bivens) in 2003 he then married Sandra Putnam, she’s ‘Wife No. 4,’ on Aug. 24, 2005. ‘Wife No. 5’ is our prosecutrix in this case — the lady who took out the warrant — Amber Williams. He married her on May 27, 2006. At the time he married Amber, he was still married to Sandra Putnam. He married Amber in Sevierville, Tenn. ... so he did commit bigamy in the state of Tennessee. It’s our understanding that they moved and lived in Whitfield County subsequent to that marriage, so he lived in a ‘bigamous cohabitation’ — which is the language of the statute.”

But six months later, in November of 2006, Mark Williams divorced Sandra Putnam.

“So from Nov. 10, 2006, forward he was not living in a bigamous cohabitation because he divorced his previous wife,” said McManus. “The statute of limitations ran on prosecuting that case (until) four years later on Nov. 10, 2010. And so, Amber swore out the warrant on Mark Williams in January of 2011. We are prohibited from prosecuting him — and of course, it would have to be in Whitfield County, not Murray — (but) in either county, having to do with the statute of limitations having expired four years after he divorced Sandra Putnam. From that day forward he was not in a bigamous cohabitation. It’s complicated.”

And confusing to Amber Williams.

“He (McManus) just said my marriage to (Mark) wasn’t legal because of the marriage to Sandy, but I still have to get an annulment,” she said on Friday. “But he can’t prosecute him on Sandy because it’s been longer than four years since she got the divorce. ... Yet he doesn’t have to get an annulment, but I do.”

McManus maintained the case is “not prosecutable.” But Jim Fordham, the attorney for Amber Williams, disagrees.

“My recollection is that the time he married Amber he had a prior undissolved marriage, and subsequently he got a divorce,” said Fordham, who called bigamy cases “very unusual — you don’t hear about them at all.”

“But at the time he married Amber he was still married to another woman — so that’s bigamy, period — no matter if you subsequently dissolve the marriage,” he said. “So that’s my take on it. I can’t speak to the DA, I don’t practice criminal law so I’ll defer to him. But my take on it is that since he had a prior undissolved marriage at the time he married Amber, that’s bigamy. That’s what the statute says, so we don’t quite agree on that.”

He was asked if Amber Williams has any legal options.

“She has no recourse whatsoever, it’s entirely up to the DA on the criminal charge,” he said. “Now she may have some recourse civilly to sue him for damages or whatever. Whether he’s got anything to answer a judgment, I don’t know.”

Amber Williams was asked about filing a civil suit.

“We do have a plan of action, it’s something me and my attorney have discussed,” she replied. “We’ve not come to a conclusion exactly what we’re going to do at this point.”

She lamented that she’s “spent months and years getting this together and now it’s (the statute of limitations) run out.”

“I’m still getting my annulment,” she said. “I’m actually going to start volunteering with the battered women’s shelter, and there’s another organization I’ve volunteering with that I can’t really (disclose) at this point. I’m just going from day to day, and making sure he doesn’t come around.”

Mark Williams was charged by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office with simple battery and battery in February of 2008, according to a jail spokeswoman. McManus said his office charged Williams with battery (family violence), reckless conduct and simple battery (family violence) in that case.

“He pleaded guilty to the family violence battery and reckless conduct (charges) and received a 12-month sentence on each of those counts, which are misdemeanors,” McManus said in January. “They were to be served concurrently on probation ... (and he was to) complete the ‘batterers intervention program’ of the RESOLV project, and not have contact with the victim, directly or indirectly, in that case — which was Amber Williams.”

On Christmas Eve of 2009, Mark Williams was charged by the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office with terroristic threats under the Family Violence Act.

McManus was asked if Mark Williams could be charged with bigamy in Tennessee.

“I would guess that they couldn’t do anything either because of their statute of limitations, but I don’t know that,” he said. “Every time I talk about this case I have to look at my notes because it’s very convoluted.”

A phone number found for Mark Williams was not accepting calls on Friday.

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