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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Mary Ann Kingston Files Lawsuit Against Family

Aired August 29, 2003 - 19:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting case to tell you about. A 22-year-old woman has filed suit against hundreds of family members in Utah for something that happened when she was 16. Mary Ann Kingston says her family forced her to become the 15th wife of her uncle, David Kingston. Her suit says the powerful Kingston family maintains a life-style of incest, polygamy and sexual abuse of minors.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANY ANN KINGSTON, VICTIM: The leaders of the Kingston organization are not above the law.

COOPER: In fact, her uncle and former husband David, just served almost four years in prison for felony incest and sex with a minor. Her father, John, spent 28 weeks in jail for felony child abuse.

Mary Ann fled the Kingston family at the age of 16 after she said she suffered physical and sexual abuse. She now has a job and a husband in a location she won't disclose. And now Mary Ann wants the Kingston clan itself, 242 family members with 97 businesses, to pay $110 million in damages for what she says happened not just to her, but other girls.

KINGSTON: I also hope that the people that we are bringing this lawsuit against will realize the harm that they have cause and continue to cause and that they will change their ways.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, still out there there are women who support polygamy including Mary and Linda who have asked us not to use the last names. Mary was in a polygamist marriage. Linda grew up in a polygamist household. They join us from Salt Lake City. Appreciate you joining us.

Mary I want to start off with you. You are in a polygamist marriage right now or you were in a polygamist marriage for three years. The other woman in the relationship left. What is the appeal or for you what was the appeal of a polygamist relationship?

MARY, POLYGAMIST: Well, first and foremost it was a religious belief for me and my commitment was a religious commitment.

COOPER: Had you grown up in a polygamist household?

MARY: No, I had not.

COOPER: So, you came to it sort of later in life. Was it a hard adjustment for you to make?

MARY: No, I was a teenager and started studying seriously into religious things and I was very serious minded and I came to the understanding when I was about 20 years old and it was a bit of an adjustment, yes. I did have emotions about it, but after I really came to see the beauty or how beautiful it could be, then I realized it was meant for me.

COOPER: No, Linda, you did grow up in a polygamist household. Your father had three wives including your mother. You were raised, there were a total of 35 children in all the different houses. Growing up, what was that experience like?

LINDA, GREW UP IN A POLYGAMIST HOUSEHOLD: I thought it was awesome. I always had friends to play with, someone to talk to, to be with. I always had an adult there to take care of my needs. It was an awesome experience for me.

COOPER: No doubt...

LINDA: Loving parents.

COOPER: No doubt, you have come across people who have disdain for the life that you have both led at times. What do you say to those people, Mary, to those who say look, there are medical reasons why an uncle should not be, you know, having relationship with his niece or that a polygamist relationships are not healthy?

MARY: Oh, I agree that an uncle shouldn't be marrying his niece and we don't even encourage minors to marry into polygamy. We believe it's an adult decision. It's a challenging way of life, and a decision that should be left to adults. We feel that abuse is prevalent in all parts of the society and that polygamy ought to be separated from abuse and taken and addressed separately.

COOPER: So, you're saying abuse is no more likely in a polygamist household than in a two parent house hold.

MARY: Well, it's not been my experience. Obviously it does occur and where it does occur it addressed, absolutely.

COOPER: Mary -- Linda, I suppose you second that?

LINDA: I second that. I -- I can't relate to the abuse because it never was in my experience.

COOPER: You know, I think a lot of people -- any sort of relationship is difficult, one on one, what is it like when you have to share a husband with other women? I mean, it's just -- what about jealousy? I mean Linda, was that ever an issue?

LINDA: Remember, I was raised in polygamy. I didn't see it.

COOPER: Along with your mom, amoung the people you call -- what did you call the other women in the household, your... LINDA: My other mother. We referred to them as aunt but they were our other mothers. What I saw between my mothers was love and support and helping each other. That's what I saw as a child.

COOPER: And Mary, you were in a polygamist relationship for three years. The other woman left the relationship. I suppose jealousy perhaps was an issue?

MARY: I think that we all have moments of jealousy. And we're human. So, yes, we have jealousy. I don't think that was the many reason for leaving. I mean, the relationship broke down and it was unfortunately.

COOPER: All right. Well Linda, Mary, I appreciate you joining us. It's a fascinating discussion and interesting topic. Thank you.

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