Woman sues polygamist clan for abuse

Friday, August 29, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY -- A woman who escaped from a polygamist clan at age 16 after being physically and sexually abused has sued the influential family, seeking more than $110 million in damages.

The lawsuit by Mary Ann Kingston names 242 family members and 97 businesses operated by the Kingston clan in and around the Salt Lake Valley.

The lawsuit alleges the clan, also said to be known as the "Order," is a "secretive religious society and economic organization" that promotes sexual abuse of girls through illegal and underage marriages, incest and polygamy.

Kingston, now 22, was born into the family and was told by her father, John Daniel Kingston, one of the clan's leading figures, that she would become his brother's 15th wife when she turned 16, according to the suit filed in state court Aug. 1.

She was eventually married to the brother, David Kingston, and was later beaten by her father for attempting to flee. Her father pleaded no contest to felony child abuse and was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail.

David Kingston was recently released from prison after serving nearly four years for felony incest and unlawful sexual contact with a minor.

A message left with the law offices of one of the family's attorneys, Carl Kingston, who is also named as a defendant, was not returned Thursday.

The Kingston clan, also known as the Latter Day Church of Christ, is believed to have more than 1,000 members and a $150 million business empire that reaches into surrounding states. Marriages involving close relatives such as first cousins are part of its religious beliefs, according to the lawsuit.

The clan is not part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which practiced polygamy widely until the 1890s, when church leaders renounced it as a condition for Utah statehood. Polygamists are now excommunicated from the Mormon church.

According to the suit, members of the clan are usually required to work for one of its businesses, ranging from pawn shops to construction companies.

Mary Ann Kingston now lives outside the group, has a job and is married. She declined to answer questions Thursday, and her attorneys would not say where she lives.

"I am pursuing this lawsuit with the hope that other young girls and boys in the same position that I was in will see that the leaders of the Kingston organization are not above the law," she said in a statement.

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