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Secret societies are accountable

The conviction of David Ortell Kingston on charges of incest and unlawful sexual activity should send a resounding message to people living in secretive, isolated societies:

-- Criminal activity will be prosecuted.-- There is a way out for teenage girls trapped in lifestyles they did not choose.

The Kingston case unfolded when a 16-year-old girl reported to authorities that her father had driven her to a Box Elder County ranch and beaten her with his fists and a belt as punishment for spending the previous night at a party with friends outside the polygamist community. He has pleaded no contest to related charges and is awaiting sentencing.

In the course of the investigation, the girl then told authorities that she had been "married" to her father's brother, David Ortell Kingston. The two had engaged in sexual activity at her uncle's behest, she said.

The girl wanted out. She wanted to attend high school.

Since then, the girl has been living in state-supervised foster care. When the verdict was handed down Thursday afternoon, the girl was precisely where she wanted to be: in school.

Perhaps more young women will realize they have choices.

Doubtless, there has been a change in the Utah landscape regarding polygamy. Consequences of the practice, which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discontinued more than a century ago, have been part of the public debate for more than a year.

Anti-polygamist groups, headed by women who were formerly polygamist wives, have brought the issue to the forefront through media interviews and press conferences, lobbying the Legislature and making their presence known at various criminal proceedings.

Women who once had little say in their lives have become a voice for a movement.

The verdict in the Kingston trial was, perhaps, the dawning of a new era regarding secret societies.

They are not beyond the reach of the law.

For young men and women born into these cultures, there are options.