More Polygamy Criminal Cases to Come?

More Polygamy Criminal Cases to Come?

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With the Pioneer Day arrest of a member of a polygamous clan accused of marrying his cousin, Utah's Attorney General is hinting at more cases to come.

Jeremy Kingston was arrested Thursday on a charge of incest stemming from his 1995 arranged marriage to LuAnn Kingston in Salt Lake County.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on Friday said this polygamy prosecution was meant to "send a message to these dictators."

"We have several active investigations ongoing," Shurtleff's spokesman, Paul Murphy, said. "The concern is we keep hearing of evidence that young girls are being forced to marry against their will within many of these closed communities."

Jeremy Kingston, 32, is charged in Salt Lake County's 3rd District Court with one count of third-degree felony incest.

Kingston spent just under three hours in jail before posting $50,000 bail. Besides being LuAnn Kingston's husband, Jeremy Kingston is also both her cousin and her nephew.

"My first reaction was, wow, they got him. I didn't think it would be so soon," LuAnn Kingston, now 23, said Friday. "I'm glad."

Police had been looking for Jeremy Kingston since May when the incest charge was first filed. A tip led officers to Kingston attending the gathering of as many as 800 Kingston family members celebrating Pioneer Day in Bountiful.

Kingston accompanied officers with no resistance, while several family members videotaped the arrest, Shurtleff said.

Shurtleff said each time his office files a case against someone in a polygamous group, the state makes progress in its effort to thwart the practice of marrying underage girls.

His office is also intent on investigating other kinds of crime that have been often associated with polygamous groups, including welfare fraud, tax evasion and other forms of child abuse.

"If we get this conviction, which I think we can get it, the word will get out," he said. "This is not just a passing thing for us, this isn't just a flash in the pan," said Shurtleff. "We're deadly serious."

Shurtleff said investigators will see if other criminal charges against Jeremy Kingston are appropriate.

However, the statute of limitations may have expired for some types of offenses. There is no statute of limitations on incest, he said. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in jail.

The Kingston polygamous clan, called the Latter-Day Church of Christ, includes an estimated 1,200 members or more living along the Wasatch Front. The group has amassed a $150-million business empire, running companies in South Salt Lake, Bountiful, Sandy and elsewhere along the Wasatch Front.

Pioneer Day commemorates the arrival of Mormon pioneer settlers to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The pioneers brought polygamy with them. But as residents sought statehood, the Mormon church renounced the practice.

The church now excommunicates those who advocate polygamy.

LuAnn Kingston, who left the Kingston clan in 2000, said she hopes other women living within polygamous groups can see that another life is possible.

"I know that there are a lot of women that have thought about (leaving)," said LuAnn Kingston, who is now working toward a college degree. "I hope that what I'm doing is helping. I hope I'm showing that you can actually leave and make something of yourself."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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