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.

Text Only
Local News
  • Little library 1 mlh.jpg Little Libraries, big goal

    Whitfield County just received a new library.
    And better yet, 26 more are on the way to the region.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Picture 3.jpg Rock solid

    A great number of things have come and gone since 1974.
    One that hasn’t: a small Dalton school founded by parents wanting a unique learning environment for their children.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vann House Day '14 6 mlh.jpg History comes alive at Vann House

    SPRING PLACE — In the early 1800s, the 1,000-acre plantation belonging to Cherokee Indian leader James Vann was a bustling place.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • Local officials agree with Deal

    Regarding news last week that approximately 30 unaccompanied minors from Central America, who had crossed the southern border into the United States, were sent without warning to Dalton last year and enrolled in Dalton Public Schools, Republican politicians representing portions of Murray and Whitfield Counties agree — state and local school officials deserved to know in advance, they say.

    July 26, 2014

  • Former chamber location 2 mlh.jpg Plan could cut flooding, stormwater damage in Dalton

    On a recent day, McClellan Creek flowed gently through Harlan Godfrey Civitan Park. But some park goers who live near the area say that even a mild rain can turn the creek into a torrent that eats away at their property.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Civil War anniversary: The Battle of Crow Valley, May 9-12, 1864

    The Atlanta Campaign began during the first two weeks of May 1864 in and around Dalton. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s strategy was to target two of his armies, about 80,000 men, against Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Dalton. Then, while Johnston’s attention was diverted by these forces, he would secretly send his third army, about 25,000 troops under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, in a flanking movement to the southwest through Snake Creek Gap. Sherman’s goal was to break Johnston’s railroad supply line some 15 miles south at Resaca and trap Johnston’s Confederates in Dalton.

    July 26, 2014

  • New church being  built mlh.jpg Church construction continues

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Avans.jpg Three arrested in arson plot to claim insurance money

    Three people have been arrested for their role in a fire at a Chatsworth home as part of an insurance scam to collect money, officials said.

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos

  • Investigation into MFG chemical accident continues

    An investigation is still ongoing after a MFG Chemical employee was injured earlier this month at a plant on Kimberly Park Drive.

    July 25, 2014

  • Judge sets $100,000 bond for Cohutta man accused of incest, molestation

    A Cohutta man charged with incest, aggravated sodomy and child molestation was granted a $100,000 bond over the prosecutor’s objection on Friday.

    July 25, 2014