SALT LAKE CITY — Ten plaintiffs are suing the polygamous Kingston Group and its leaders, alleging they coerce girls into teenage marriages, facilitate sex abuse and steal wages from followers assigned to work at sect-controlled businesses.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state court in Salt Lake City, contends the deeds meet Utah’s definition of human trafficking.
The Kingston Group’s hierarchy structure, in which men oversee men who oversee women and children called the Law of One Above Another, is described in the lawsuit as a means for men to have sex with girls they marry in spiritual ceremonies.
Births are used to keep mothers dependent on the sect for support.
The plaintiffs, eight women, one man and a minor describe their upbringings in Kingston Group and the offenses they suffered in over 109 pages.
The women describe being groomed from an early age to marry and begin procreating at an age before most have graduated high school.
In one example from the lawsuit, a plaintiff said she was 16 when in 2019 she “secretly and unlawfully” married her adult cousin.
The plaintiff said Paul Eldon Kingston, the top man in the sect, gave a speech at the ceremony. She resisted having sex with her new husband and says he raped her.
The lead plaintiff is Amanda Grant, who was formerly one of the stars of the television show "Escaping Polygamy."
Grant described how her biological father was not listed on her birth certificate as she was born to one of his plural wives and did not want to be exposed to criminal or civil liabilities.
In the lawsuit, Grant described when she was molested by an older half brother that her parents did not cooperate with authorities when the Utah Division of Child and Family Services had received the report. She later attested her parents attempted to have her marry as a teen.
When she left the group, she did so without the thousands of dollar she had earned working for sect businesses that had been deposited in a Kingston-controlled bank.
Grant and other plaintiffs declined interview requests with FOX 13 News along with their attorney Roger Hoole, who had represented people leaving Utah's polygamous groups for years.
A spokesperson for an incorporated entity associated with the Kingston Group called the Davis County Cooperative Society reached out via text, saying that while the group had not yet reviewed the full lawsuit, what they did read appears "frivolous and unfounded."
“We expect that none of the claims will prevail in court,” Johnson wrote.
One of Johnson’s daughters is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Marriage and labor practices are longstanding complaints former members of the group, also known as the Order, have raised. The dissidents contend children in the Order must choose between labor and early marriage or being alienated from their families and denied the spiritual salvation they are taught to aspire to.