Facebook, the wildly popular social networking website, offers an automated service that matches users to other users it thinks the person might know. It looks at shared friends and interests and occasionally notifies a user that it has one or more friend suggestions. For a corrections officer in Seattle, this feature caused some trouble, as it matched up his new wife with the woman he married a decade ago but never divorced. Alan L. O'Neill now faces a charge of bigamy, which could get him up to a year in jail.
O'Neill, formerly known as Alan Fulk, married his first wife on April 16, 2001. The two lived together for a number of years, but they separated in 2009. Although they have lived separately ever since, they apparently never obtained a divorce. He has reportedly worked as a Pierce County, Washington corrections officer for about five years.
In 2011, O'Neill petitioned to change his last name from Fulk to O'Neill. A judge approved the name change, and shortly afterwards, on December 19, 2011, he married his second wife.
In early 2012, O'Neill's first wife was using Facebook when she received a recommendation that she become "friends" with the second wife. The two knew each other. According to the Associated Press, O'Neill's first wife was arrested in 2010 because of an "altercation" with O'Neill's then-future second wife. When the first wife viewed the other woman's Facebook page, she found pictures of her and O'Neill, dated a few weeks earlier, dressed for a wedding and cutting a wedding cake.
She reportedly called O'Neill's mother immediately after finding the pictures. The mother apparently told O'Neill, who showed up at the first wife's apartment within an hour. When asked, O'Neill confirmed that they were still married, but that he would "fix it." He asked her not to tell anyone about the two marriages. Instead, she contacted law enforcement, who searched court records to determine O'Neill's marital status. Prosecutors charged him with one count of bigamy on March 8.
All U.S. states prohibit multiple marriages through both their family and criminal codes, but states vary in how they treat the criminal side of the issue. Under just about any state's system of family law, a marriage that a person enters into while still married to someone else is void. Some states impose criminal penalties on a person who knowingly marries more than one person, while others punish both parties to a second marriage.