A James Island man moved out of state after his marriage fell apart, returned home years later, then married someone new, according to his lawyer.
The only problem, authorities said, is that 31-year-old Michael Lee never divorced his first wife.
They arrested him late last year on a bigamy charge.
Lee was scheduled to plead guilty to the charge Wednesday, but instead requested a jury trial. His attorney, Mark Peper, said Lee disagrees that he knowingly was married to two women simultaneously.
“His position is that he was kicked out of the house by his first wife and moved to Tennessee. He was under strict orders from her, ‘Don’t call me. I’m getting a divorce,’?” Peper said. “When he moved back to Charleston three years later, he believed he was divorced.”
Bigamy falls under “offenses against morality and decency” in the S.C. Code of Laws. It carries a punishment of six months to five years in prison or six months in jail and a fine of at least $500.
Lee’s second wife, 31-year-old Rachel Ann King, reported her husband to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office in October. Her statement to investigators said the couple met in May 2010 and married that December.
King returned from a business trip in May 2011 to find that Lee had moved out, her statement said. She began working with an attorney to annul her marriage but, in the meantime, she received a phone call from Julie Ann Poling, who said she had married Lee — and never divorced him.
King’s statement said her husband thought that, through some court error, he never legally married Poling. Peper said his client knew that he and Poling celebrated their marriage ceremonially, but not that they had filed the proper paperwork to make it legally binding.
Reached by phone, King said an October family court hearing annulled her marriage to Lee.
“I was able to prove in court he was married when he married me,” she said. She referred further questions to her attorney, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Lee should stand trial in several months.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ allysonjbird.