The Scarlet Letter, 2006

Think getting punished for adultery went out with Hester Prynne?Not in Florida.

click to enlarge "I DON'T PRINT IT ON MY BUSINESS CARDS": Convicted adulterer Marty King outside a Department of Corrections facility in Bradenton. - Max Linsky
Max Linsky
"I DON'T PRINT IT ON MY BUSINESS CARDS": Convicted adulterer Marty King outside a Department of Corrections facility in Bradenton.

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Marty King pulled around back of a nondescript strip mall in Bradenton and parked his silver Hyundai next to the Department of Corrections office. Wearing a striped button-down shirt and sporting a new haircut, King was headed for a meeting with his probation officer.

A faded picture of Jeb Bush hung on one wall of the cramped waiting room; a printout tacked on another reminded folks that October is "Domestic Violence Awareness Month." King, 38, sat down in a worn red chair to fill out a form. Who was currently living in his house? Had he consumed any alcoholic beverages? Broken the law?

Today's appointment included a drug test. "Because that's how adulterers get down, I guess," he joked before stepping into the bathroom where a probation officer was waiting to watch him pee in a cup. "What am I gonna be taking — Viagra?"

Yes, Marty King is a convicted adulterer, judged guilty of something most Floridians — even most lawyers — don't know is illegal. King's public defender, Lori Husskison, became a minor celebrity around her office after she discovered it on the books. "Everybody was shocked," she says. "Nobody even knew it was a crime."

Few people openly favor cheating on the spouse, but many would disagree with the need for a law against adultery. The government shouldn't be in the bedroom, the thinking goes, no matter whose bedroom you're in. And legal decisions both nationally and in Florida over the last three decades have backed up the privacy argument (see sidebar).

But Marty King is glad philandering is still a crime. Otherwise, he could have found himself convicted of something worse: bigamy.

Nearly four years before he stepped into that bathroom, King and his bride, Lisa Sandacz, arrived at Coquina Beach around 4:30 p.m., just as a sunny November Saturday turned overcast. Both had been married once before; they didn't want a big wedding, didn't even want to arrange a small one. A wedding planner they'd found online had taken care of the minister, photographer and location. All Marty and Lisa had to do was show up, get hitched and start their new life.

Marty, 6 foot 3 inches and wide in the middle, wore an untucked white button-down shirt. Lisa was feeling queasy; dressed in a flowing, loose-fitting gown, she was already beginning to show. Since getting pregnant nearly two months before, afternoon sickness had become part of her daily routine. As she stood in the sand with her right hand clasped in Marty's left, Lisa felt herself turning green.

"I take you, Marty King, to be my lawfully wedded husband," she vowed in front of the 11 people, mostly family, that had been invited. "For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part."

After the quick service the couple took a photo-op walk down the beach, posing for more pictures with the Gulf lapping in the background. A modest reception awaited at Lisa's mom's place, along with a marble cake — half-vanilla, half-chocolate — to symbolize the newlyweds' union.

Marty walked off the beach happy that Saturday in 2002. He'd found the partner he'd share his life with, and she was carrying the child he'd always wanted. It was perfect.

Except for this: By marrying Lisa, he had just committed a felony.

Marty King's saga is a mash-up of an All My Children plotline and a creative episode of Law & Order. To understand the last four years of King's life — how he went from that wedding on the beach to an arrest for bigamy the following year to an adultery conviction this past July — you first have to know a bit about the sequence of events that started the whole mess.

King grew up around the Midwest, spending the most time in Omaha, Neb. A nine-year military veteran, including two on active duty, he went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 1997. From there he went to graduate school in mass communications at the university's Omaha campus, but he failed to get his diploma. "All I need to do is finish my thesis," he says.

Unfinished business, you will find, is a recurring theme in this story.

The most glaring example, for our purposes here, is Marty King's failure to finish his first marriage to a woman named Kris Cardenas. As with most divorces, who-did-what-to-whom-when depends on whom you're talking to.

This much is clear: On Sept. 14, 2000, King married Cardenas in Omaha. Their marriage fell apart, and by April 2002, after skipping town without telling his wife or his friends where he'd gone, King was in Sarasota staying with Sandacz, whom he knew from speech tournaments in college. The two married seven months later while King was still legally wedded to Cardenas.

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