Polygamist John Daniel Kingston says he knows all his children, but in court Friday he could name only nine of the 13 he fathered with one wife.
When prompted to name the children from just three of his wives, Kingston struggled and at one point asked the judge, "I think I named them all, didn't I?"
"I'm really nervous," said Kingston, who is believed to have 14 wives. "I know my children."
Kingston was in 3rd District Court Friday with one of his wives, Heidi Foster, for the second day of a termination of parental rights hearing. The state is seeking to remove two of Kingston's teenage daughters from their home after accusations of physical abuse and neglect.
Upon further questioning about children from other wives, defense attorney Daniel Irvin sat on the stand with Kingston and instructed him to refrain from answering, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Kingston testified that he has instructed all of his children to not call him "father," outside of the home.
"We do tell our children there are certain people out there that are trying to hurt our family," Kingston said. But although the children cannot refer to him as their father outside of the home, Kingston said, "We're very close."
A former member of "The Order," the polygamous clan Kingston belongs to, told the court that only the first wife in a polygamist situation will take the name of the husband. Jeremy Tucker, who left the group in 2001, said the other wives take on false last names so they can receive state aid and avoid criminal prosecution in polygamy cases.
"The reason is so the children's father wouldn't be traced as easily," Tucker said.
Kingston landed in court after allegedly threatening to beat two of his teenage daughters, ages 15 and 13, for having their ears pierced.
According to the testimony from the 13-year-old girl, Kingston once grabbed one of his sons by the hair and slapped the boy for scratching the family's van. When asked what happened to the boy's face, the girl responded, "(It) got bruised for a while."
If the judge rules that Kingston abused and neglected the two girls, the eight other Foster children could be taken from the home as siblings-at-risk.
In a side issue Friday, an angry Judge Andrew Valdez ordered a paralegal for the defense team to leave the courtroom because of a conflict of interest. Laura Fuller, who had been named in prior court testimony as one of Kingston's wives, had told the judge she was not in any way related to Kingston.
"I was informed she was a law clerk," Valdez said. "Now it turns out she may . . . have a child and be the wife of John Daniel Kingston."
Heidi Foster's defense attorney, Mark Hansen, said he had no knowledge of Laura Fuller's relationship with Kingston.
Valdez said he was concerned that nobody from the defense team disclosed Fuller's relationship with Kingston prior to court proceedings.
For two days of court hearings, Fuller sat behind the defense table and handed paperwork to both Hansen and Daniel Irvin, who is representing John Daniel Kingston.
"I feel that's a huge conflict of interest when the mother of John Daniel Kingston's children is helping you in this case. I'm very, very dismayed," Valdez told Hansen. "It is very, very concerning to me because I have four officers of the court here and to have one stand up and say, 'I know nothing,' is disconcerting to me."
The Kingstons are members of the Latter-day Church of God, which reportedly has some 1,200 members and professes polygamy as one of its beliefs. The family also operates a $150 million business empire in six Western states.
The 15-year-old girl in the current case has made attempts to flee her home in the past. She ran away in November 2001 after allegedly telling officials she was being prepared for marriage to a 21-year-old man, said DCFS spokeswoman Carol Sisco.
Kingston pleaded no contest to third-degree felony charges for the 1998 beating of then-16-year-old Mary Ann Kingston, who ran away after refusing to become the 15th wife of an uncle. The father served 28 weeks in the Box Elder County Jail in that instance.
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