Kingston Gets Maximum Term, Lecture on Incest

The Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 1999
By Ray Rivera

David Ortell Kingston's lifestyle, unique even by polygamist standards, was an undercurrent in his trial -- implied but seldom mentioned.

In his sentencing, it was the driving force.

Kingston, convicted of having sex with his 16-year-old niece who was also his 15th wife, was ordered to serve two consecutive terms of 0 to 5 years in Utah State Prison. He also was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay the girl's counseling expenses.

Imposing the maximum penalty, 3rd District Judge David S. Young raised the issue of polygamy but particularly condemned the incestuous practices of the Kingston clan.

"You have been taught in some way that relationships with nieces as plural wives are acceptable, and that's flat-out not true," Young said.

But the judge also implied the defendant was a product of his environment. Kingston, a 33-year-old accountant, grew up in the 1,000-member clan, officially known as the Latter Day Church of Christ, and is the younger brother of its leader, Paul Kingston.

The group, headquartered in the Salt Lake Valley, is the most secretive and affluent of Utah's half-dozen organized polygamous sects, controlling an estimated $150 million business empire reaching into several Western states.

An investigation by The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this year revealed several instances of Kingston leaders marrying half sisters, first cousins, nieces and aunts as part of their religious beliefs.

"Mr. Kingston has been a victim of some misguided family instruction and teaching," the judge said, adding later: "But your family is wrong . . . [and] you have lacked the judgment to recognize that mistaken illegal doctrine that you have followed."

The penalties were much more severe than the 6 months in jail and 2 years in a counseling program and halfway house suggested by his defense attorneys.

The sentence was also a stark contrast to the penalty imposed on his brother, John Daniel Kingston, who is the girl's father. John Daniel, 43, pleaded no contest to child abuse in May and was sentenced to 7 months in Box Elder County jail for severely beating his daughter when she attempted to flee her arranged marriage to her uncle.

Polygamy was never mentioned in John Daniel's court proceedings in front of 1st District Judge Ben Hadfield, nor were the girl's claims that her father arranged her marriage and performed the secret rites. But the lifestyle played heavily into David Ortell's sentencing because of its effect on rehabilitation and treatment, Young said.

"It's a very closed society that he lives in, and if he is out in the community . . . he is going to continue to engage in that lifestyle and continue to commit illegal acts," Young said.

The girl, now 17 and living in foster care, stunned investigators and fueled a media frenzy when she told of the price she paid for attempting to escape a life of polygamy and incest. Polygamy was outlawed by the Utah Constitution and abandoned by the Mormon Church a century ago but has only been sporadically prosecuted since the 1950s. Today, there are an estimated 30,000 adherents scattered throughout the West, mostly in Utah.

Most polygamous groups say they forbid incest, and refute claims by detractors who say it is widespread. The Kingstons are the only group that incorporates incest into its religion.

Former members say they hope Friday's sentence is the beginning of the end of the Kingstons' church and polygamy as a whole.

"Their whole structure is beginning to quake, it's like a low-level earthquake," said Rowenna Erickson, a former Kingston bride and the group's most vocal adversary.

"I want an end to [polygamy], and I see an end in sight."

Jurors rendered a split decision on June 3 after a three-day trial, finding Kingston guilty of one count of incest and one of unlawful sexual contact with a minor. He was acquitted of two other sex counts.

The girl, known as M.K. in court documents, testified she was pulled from junior high school and was forced to marry her uncle on Nov. 15, 1997. The newlyweds spent their wedding night at a Park City hotel, the girl said, but they did not have sex. She said she had sexual intercourse with her uncle on four occasions between January and May 1998. Kingston would show up carrying a suitcase, they would have perfunctory sex, and he would leave the next day, she said.

Kingston, who maintains his innocence, pleaded for lenience Friday.

"I do have a large family with young children who need their father," Kingston said. "I don't know what my family and children will do without me to help them."

Kingston's attorney Susanne Gustin-Furgis urged the judge not to follow the sentencing recommendations of Adult Probation and Parole, which she said was influenced by the enormous publicity accompanying the case.

"There's been a lot of political pressure in this case for AP&P, and everyone involved, to exact the maximum punishment," she said.

She also said Kingston did not deserve prison because he had no prior record and he does not fall under the category of a traditional sex offender. Kingston was driven by religious -- not sexual -- impulses, she said. Assuming "Mr. Kingston is a polygamist, as has been alleged, this is really a religious practice," she said. "It's not a compulsion and so therefore he can be treated more easily than someone who has these entrenched fantasies and compulsions and drives."

Prosecutor Dane Nolan said Kingston should not be seen as a victim.

"He chose to engage in this lifestyle, and he chose to engage in this conduct," Nolan said.

He also noted the dangers of Kingston's incestuous practice.

"If a child is conceived in that relationship, it faces a greater risk of being born with birth defects, mental retardation, et cetera," he said.

Kingston has hired a different attorney to handle his appeal.

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