A former underage "wife" who was severely beaten after trying to escape the polygamous Kingston clan has struck back with a $110 million civil lawsuit against 242 family members and 97 businesses.
Mary Ann Kingston, now 22, has sued members of the Kingston family and targeted assets of family-owned firms.
Her lawyers contend these individuals either directly contributed to the court-documented physical and sexual abuse she suffered a few years ago or knew of the situation and did nothing to prevent or report it.
"She hopes to see civil justice punish the people who harmed her," said attorney Douglas White. He added that Mary Ann Kingston also wanted to see an end to the "psychological, emotional and sexual exploitation of young girls" that she maintains permeates the philosophy of the "Order," as the Kingston organization is known.
Carl Kingston, an attorney who often represents Kingston family members, was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Mary Ann Kingston's lawsuit cites businesses, a cooperative, a church and other entities.
Among businesses named in the suit: the Little Red House Montessori, East Side Market, Fountain of Youth Health and Athletic Club, Arrow Real Estate, Family Stores Tru Value, AAA Alarm Security, Mountain Coin Machine, Statewide Bail Bonds and Valley Coal.
The suit contends that Mary Ann Kingston, the daughter of Daniel Kingston, a leader of the clan, and his second wife, Susan Nelson, was "groomed from childhood to become a very young and illegal polygamist wife." Despite her own dreams and aspirations, her father told her at age 13 to plan for such a marriage, pulled her from school after ninth grade and put her to work in an Order business, the suit said.
"Upon reaching the age of 16 and after a rushed wedding, the nightmare of sexual abuse began," the suit said, with the abuser being Mary Ann Kingston's uncle, David Kingston, who was then 33 and had 14 other wives.
When Mary Ann Kingston fled to her mother's home, the mother called Daniel Kingston, who took Mary Ann Kingston to an Order-owned ranch and whipped her with a leather belt — she counted 28 times — until she was unconscious, the suit said. She escaped and called 911. Her father was convicted of child physical abuse and spent time in jail; her uncle was convicted of incest and unlawful sexual conduct and was sentenced to prison.
Since then, Mary Ann Kingston has left the Order, has married and lives at an undisclosed location where her lawyers say they are "addressing" the issue of her physical safety. "She is trying to move forward with her life. She's strong," attorney John Morris said. "She has challenges, more so than probably the rest of us."
Morris divided the claims in the suit into three categories: the first against those who directly acted or knew of the physical and sexual abuse, the second against the Order that he alleges operates as one financial unit, and a final group of claims for punitive damages.
The lawsuit depicts a secretive organization in which only a handful of people control the "self-sufficient economic empire," while those who are required to work for the many family-owned businesses get monthly statements of their "units" instead of paychecks.
The suit said an individual's personal expenses are deducted from his or her "unit accounts," including food, clothing, housing and other approved expenses such as tithing to the "Latter-day Church of Christ."
The organization is not associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The lawsuit states that Kingston clan members believe certain families within the Order carry the blood of prophets in their veins, including Jesus Christ, and that children are taught incest is a "preferred practice to preserve a pure family bloodline originating from Jesus Christ."
Mary Ann Kingston, reading from a statement in her lawyers' office, said:
"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 even though they tell us they are, that they can be punished for what they do to us, and that we can escape and seek recovery for the harm that was done to us.
"I also hope that the people that we are bringing this lawsuit against will realize the harm they have caused and continue to cause and that they will change their ways," she said.
The suit was filed Aug. 1, but her attorneys chose not to speak out publicly until Kingston family members could be served. The suit also asks for lost income due to Mary Ann Kingston's impaired earning capacity, the cost of psychological treatment, the value of such things as loss of reputation, pain, distress and mental anguish, attorneys fees and other costs.