Family files new defamation lawsuit against polygamy victim and anti-polygamy group

Three members of an Idaho family have filed a new defamation lawsuit against Mary Ann Kingston Nichols, her attorneys and an anti-polygamy group.

Dan Brown, Ken Brown and John Brown, representing the Ray Brown estate, say they were falsely described as individuals who had harmed Nichols in a lawsuit and press conference in August 2003.

The Browns filed their lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Utah. They have an identical suit pending in Idaho, which the defendants are seeking to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

Also named in the Browns’ defamation lawsuit are attorneys Doug White, John D. Morris and William Mark; Lu Ann Cooper, Nichols’ aunt; Rowenna Erickson, and an advocacy group she co-founded, Tapestry Against Polygamy.

Nichols’ lawsuit, which is still open in 3rd District Court, seeks $110 million in damages due to a forced polygamous marriage in 1998 to her uncle at age 16 and a subsequent beating from her father when she tried to leave the relationship.

David Ortell Kingston, the uncle, served a four-year prison sentence after being convicted of incest and unlawful sexual activity. John Daniel Kingston, Nichols’ father, served 28 weeks after pleading no contest to child abuse.

Nichols threw a wide net with her civil lawsuit, however.

She named 242 individuals, including the Browns, as members of the Davis County Cooperative Society and part of the “Kingston organization.” She said those listed shared responsibility for her sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

During a subsequent press conference, Nichols’ attorneys said there was evidence to support inclusion of “each specific person” listed.

Nichols’ complaint and press conference were widely reported, according to the Browns’ lawsuit, and damaged their reputations.

They also claim one of Nichols’ attorneys contacted Carl E. Kingston, who represents most of the defendants, and offered to call off the press conference for a sum exceeding $1 million.

Carl E. Kingston refused and the press conference proceeded the next day.

“That’s false,” said John D. Morris, the attorney who is alleged to have made the offer.

The Browns were dropped from Nichols’ lawsuit in 2004 but her attorneys continued to send summonses to them, the lawsuit alleges, in an attempt to turn them against their co-defendants and get money from them.

The Browns’ lawsuit is the fourth defamation claim brought against Nichols, her attorneys and the other parties.

“It is no surprise,” Morris said, since the Browns’ lawsuit in Idaho is likely to be dismissed soon.

The Utah Supreme Court ruled in May that a Bountiful couple who were named in the lawsuit could pursue a defamation case, overturning a lower court’s decision to throw out their claim.

The justices said that statements made during the press conference did not warrant protections of a judicial proceeding.

They also said a group defamation rule barring claims did not apply because Nichols’ lawsuit listed individuals by name.

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This post was last updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 3:14 PM, Central European Time (CET)