Polygamist fails to regain visiting rights, for now

Associated Press/January 25, 2005
By Leon D'Souza

Salt Lake City -- Polygamist John Daniel Kingston failed to convince a juvenile court judge on Tuesday to again allow him supervised visits with nine of the children he has with one woman.

But visits may be allowed later if state-appointed therapists agree that Kingston's presence does not cause severe anxiety in the children.

''Let's ask the clinicians,'' said 3rd District Court Juvenile Judge Andrew Valdez. ''If they say it's OK, I'll consider it.''

Valdez said he was not persuaded by defense attorney Daniel Irvin's argument that the state Department of Child and Family Services was prejudiced against his client.

''I'm tired of hearing that. It's a rerun and I just don't buy it,'' a visibly frustrated Valdez said, interrupting Irvin's cross-examination of the DCFS social worker whose negative report resulted in the suspension of visits.

The Office of the Guardian Ad Litem, an independent agency that represents children in court, has been given 30 days to present Valdez with therapists' written evaluations of the children's conditions. Irvin also has asked that a physical and mental evaluation of the children be included in the therapists' report.

No court date was set.

Tuesday's hearing was a continuation of proceedings to determine whether Kingston should be allowed visiting rights to the nine children.

Valdez in November removed the visitation rights for Kingston, 49, after reports that the children were acting out and experiencing severe anxiety around the time of their father's scheduled visits.

Eight of the 11 children he fathered with Heidi Mattingly have been in state custody since October; the judge left an infant with the mother and two teenage girls were removed from the home last June.

Valdez noted that Kingston had only recently shown an interest in the 11 children that state officials say are among at least 108 children Kingston fathered with 14 wives.

''The focus is on reuniting the children with their mother,'' Valdez said. ''Mr. Kingston is entitled to some access if it's in the interest of the children.''

Valdez earlier ruled Mattingly, 33, must undergo more counseling if she wants to get her children back.

Meanwhile, in a case that has been notorious for its complexity, Guardian Ad Litem Kristen Brewer said Kingston has not made court-ordered child support payments for December or January.

Valdez ordered Kingston in August to pay $3,100 a month - $2,700 in child support and $400 toward Mattingly's rent - until Kingston furnished more detailed financial information.

Kingston's attorney, who earlier filed a notice of inability to pay, called the payments ''physically impossible'' for his client.

Valdez threatened to hold Kingston in contempt. ''The kids deserve a decent life and maybe your client needs to find a new job or career,'' Valdez said.

Kingston is an employee of A-1 Disposal, a solid waste disposal company based in Salt Lake City.

Valdez referred the matter to the state's Office of Recovery Services, and ordered Kingston to provide financial records. State officials believe that Kingston lied on his financial records and did not report all his income.

The family landed in court after Kingston allegedly threatened two of his teenage daughters for piercing their ears. The girls, ages 13 and 16, told police they were afraid of their father, who they said threatened to rip out their earrings.

In an investigation, Kingston's 13-year-old daughter told police her father beat her, her mother and her siblings and forced the children to eat rotten food he dug out of the garbage.

The two girls were removed from the home in June, when a judge found the girls had been abused and neglected by Kingston and Mattingly failed to protect them. One remains in foster care, and the other has been permanently placed with an aunt.

The Kingstons are members of the Latter-day Church of God, or ''The Order,'' which reportedly has about 1,200 members and practices polygamy as part of its religious beliefs.

The group operates an estimated $150 million business empire in six Western states with companies that include pawn shops, restaurant-supply stores, dairies and mines.

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