Polygamist family’s lawsuit alleges ‘secretive religious society and economic organization’
Attorneys wrangling over a $110 million lawsuit against Utah’s largest polygamist family must end their bickering if the case is ever to be resolved, a judge said Tuesday.
Mary Ann Kingston, 22, is suing 242 members of the Kingston polygamist family and more than 100 businesses operated by the group in and around the Salt Lake City area. Her complaint also names 1,000 “John Does.”
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The suit seeks damages from what Kingston and her lawyers called a “secretive religious society and economic organization” that teaches and promotes sexual abuse of young girls through illegal and underage marriages, incest and polygamy.
Kingston, who was not in court Tuesday, sued after she was forced to marry her uncle when she was 16 and beaten by her father for attempting to flee the relationship.
Her father, John Daniel Kingston, pleaded no contest to second-degree felony child abuse and was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail. Her uncle-husband, David Kingston, was recently released from prison after serving nearly four years for third-degree felony incest and unlawful sexual contact with a minor.
The lawsuit was filed August 1, 2003. Tuesday’s hearing was the first in the case and focused on how the case was advancing.
Carl Kingston is the only defendant who has been served legal notice, said Kingston attorney Mark Hansen. “From September to last week they made not a single attempt to serve any one other than Mr. Kingston,” he said, asking attorneys for Mary Ann Kingston to finish the process of serving all defendants so they know who they may be representing.
John Morris, an attorney for Mary Ann Kingston, said the process was speeding up, but after the hearing said that in some cases people serving the papers were having a difficult time delivering them.
“When the constable comes to the front door they’re turning off the lights and not opening the door,” he said.
In court, Morris asked for rules on dealing with the number of motions that could be filed in the case and trying to set up a rough time table for the proceedings. He requested a trial date in late 2005 or early 2006.
Judge William Barrett set a June deadline for all defendants to be served legal notice. He said those who weren’t served by the deadline should be dropped from the case. He also told the two sides to meet in the next 10 days and share any information needed to speed up the complex case, and scheduled a progress hearing for Sept. 13.
Barrett said he wanted both sides to quit casting aspersions in their filings.
“I know there’s some animosity. I know there’s some hard feelings. I’ve read some jabs and I don’t like it. If you want to go box somewhere, go do it,” Barrett said. “You’ve got to be civil and well get through this.”
After court, Carl Kingston, an attorney, said he didn’t want to comment.
“Our position is we’re going to try this in the court. They had a press conference,” he said, referring to the August news conference where Mary Ann Kingston announced her lawsuit.
“We’re going to do it another way,” Carl Kingston said.