FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — A judge has dismissed two defamation lawsuits brought against a woman, who, when she was 16, was beaten by her father when she fled a polygamous marriage to her uncle.
The lawsuits were filed by two Davis County couples from the Kingston clan after MaryAnn Kingston, now 22, filed a $110 million lawsuit against the clan, naming 242 members and 97 of the family businesses as defendants.
Her suit, which claims the clan fosters sexual abuse of young girls through illegal marriages, incest and polygamy, remains pending in 3rd District Court.
In 1998, she walked seven miles from a family ranch in Box Elder County to call police after her father beat her unconscious with a belt for her resistance to becoming his brother’s 15th wife. Her father, John Daniel Kingston, pleaded no contest to third-degree felony child abuse and was sentenced to 28 weeks in jail. Her uncle, David Ortell Kingston, was convicted of incest and unlawful sexual contact with a minor and served four years in prison.
After her suit was filed last year, the two Davis County couples claimed they were defamed by it and by accompanying public statements. Their suit named MaryAnn Kingston and her lawyers as defendants.
The suits were filed by Nevin and Denise Pratt and F. Mark and Suzanne Hansen.
Second District Judge Michael Allphin ruled Tuesday that MaryAnn Kingston and her lawyers did not defame the Pratts because statements made at the news conference were so general and regarding a group so large that no individual member of the group of defendants could claim any harm.
Allphin also said that statements in a pending court proceeding are protected by the judicial-privilege doctrine.
The judge dismissed the Hansen lawsuit for failing to meet a filing deadline.
MaryAnn Kingston’s attorneys, John Morris, Bill Mark and Doug White, issued a statement saying the lawsuits had been “nothing more than a desperate attempt by the Kingston organization itself to lash out and harass MaryAnn for having sued its members.”
Two other Kingston clan members, Stephen and Ted Kingston, filed similar defamation suits against Mary Ann Kingston in federal court. Those cases are pending.
The Kingston clan, also known as the Latter-Day Church of Christ and “The Order,” is believed to have 1,200 members and a $150 million business empire with holdings in six Western states.
Marriages of half-sisters, first cousins, nieces and aunts are part of their religious beliefs.