updated 7/26/2005 6:57:54 PM ET 2005-07-26T22:57:54

A 22-year-old man faces criminal charges in Nebraska for having sex with an underage 13-year-old girl, although he legally married her in Kansas after she became pregnant.

The man’s lawyer said the couple, with their families’ support, “made a responsible decision to try to cope with the problem.”

Matthew Koso, 22, was charged Monday with first-degree sexual assault, punishable by up to 50 years in prison. He was released on $7,500 bail pending an Aug. 17 preliminary hearing.

After the girl became pregnant, her mother gave permission in May for Koso to take the young woman to Kansas, which allows minors to get married with parental consent. The girl is now 14 and seven months pregnant.

“The idea ... is repugnant to me,” said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. “These people made the decision to send their ... 14-year-old daughter to Kansas to marry a pedophile.”

Kansas law labeled ‘ridiculous’
He said the marriage is valid, thanks to the “ridiculous” Kansas law, “but it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to stand by while a grown man ... has a relationship with a 13-year-old — now 14-year-old — girl.”

Bruning, who has said he will seek a second term in 2006, has aggressively prosecuted sex crimes against children since he was elected in 2002

The couple were married in May by a judge in Hiawatha, Kan., just across the state line from Falls City.

Nebraska allows people as young as 17 to marry if they have parental consent.

Kansas law, however, sets no minimum marriage age, although case law sets the minimum age at 14 for boys and 12 for girls. The marriage must be approved by both parents or guardian, or by a district court judge, said Whitney Watson, spokesman for Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. A judge also must approve if only one parent approves.

Koso’s lawyer, Willis Yoesel, said the girl’s mother and Koso’s parents approved of the marriage. He said the girl’s father has not lived with the family for some time.

‘The families are all united’
“It seems to me like they, as much as they could, made a responsible decision to try to cope with the problem,” Yoesel said.

“The families are all united in this effort,” Yoesel said. “I don’t know who is complaining. ... What benefit is there to anybody in the prosecution of this young man?”

There was no comment from Koso, who does not have a listed telephone number.

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