Court Validates Bigamist Preacher’s Marriage

     (CN) – Reversing an annulment, an Illinois appeals court found that a bigamist preacher did not commit fraud in dissolving a prior marriage between religious and civil wedding ceremonies.
     Courage Igene presented himself as “Pastor Joshua” to a woman named Takeisha when they met in Houston in July 2006, according to the ruling.
     When the couple tried to marry in Atlanta nine months later, they were unable to a obtaine marriage license in time for religious ceremony because Igene had purportedly misplaced his identification documents.
     Unbeknownst to Takeisha, however, Igene was actually a bigamist. He had married three women in 2005, dissolving the first marriage after four months and the second just a few months before he met Takeisha.
     Igene did not dissolve the third marriage, involving a woman named Alissa Willis, until after his “honeymoon” with Takeisha, on July 5, 2007.
     Two weeks later, Takeisha and Igene received a marriage license in Dallas and were married there in a civil ceremony that same month.
     Takeisha allegedly became suspicious of her husband’s marital history during his immigration interview.
     Though an officer from the Department of Homeland Security asked Nigerian-born Igene if had disclosed his previous marriages to Takeisha, Igene told Takeisha that the marriage records were the result of identity theft.
     After Takeisha left Igene in 2011 and retained a lawyer, she discovered the string of 2005 marriages.
     A circuit court in Cook County, Ill., granted Takeisha’s petition in 2013 to invalidate the couple’s marriage on the basis of fraud, but the First District Illinois Court of Appeals reversed this summer.
     Writing on behalf of a three-judge panel in Chicago, Judge Shelvin Louise Marie Hall explained that the couple were not actually married until July when Igene was single.
     Igene’s marriage to Willis at the time of the religious ceremony with Takeisha, and the absence of a marriage license, meant that the event did not result in a valid marriage, the court found.
     “Courts in most jurisdictions have determined that the concealment of a prior marriage which has been dissolved by the death of, or divorce from, a spouse does not amount to fraud going to the essentials of the marriage contract, even when there have been multiple divorces,” Hall wrote.
     Igene also “made no representations regarding the number of his previous marriages,” according to the ruling.
     “There were no representations made by respondent on which petitioner could rely,” Hall added.
     On remand, the trial court must consider Igene’s counterpetition to dissolve the marriage.
     The June 26 ruling includes a footnote stating that “no children were born of” Igene’s bigamous marriages.

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