Mar 22, 2016

Utah mother files lawsuit against 'Escaping Polygamy,' alleges film crew trespassed


March 22, 2016
By NATE CARLISLE
The Salt Lake Tribune

A member of the polygamous Kingston group has sued the makers of the television show "Escaping Polygamy" over an episode where the stars of the show tried to help her daughter move out of her Utah home.
Susan Nelson says the production company RIVR Media inflicted emotional distress when it offered her daughter $5,000 per episode to appear on "Escaping Polygamy." Nelson also accuses a film crew of trespassing when it entered her home in Taylorsville in 2014.
RIVR Media and A&E Networks are the lone defendants named in the lawsuit. A&E Networks airs "Escaping Polygamy" on the LMN channel.
Neither RIVR Media nor the network immediately returned phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday. Nelson's lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Salt Lake City, does not specify a dollar amount sought.
Dan Baczynski, the attorney for Nelson, said on Tuesday that the daughter, who was a young adult at the time, was pressured into leaving her family.
"This is a young girl. They tell her she has the opportunity to be on TV," Baczynski said. "What young girl wouldn't say yes to that?"
"Escaping Polygamy" follows Jessica Christensen and Shanell DeRieuxas they work to help young people wanting to leave, or who have recently left, polygamous sects. Christensen and DeRieux are former members of the Kingston Group, also known as the Davis County Cooperative Society and the Latter Day Church of Christ. Christensen, DeRieux and a film crew were on hand last month beside reporters as they watched federal agents in South Salt Lake raid offices of businesses associated with the sect. No charges have been filed in that case.
Nelson's daughter was living with her in Taylorsville, and RIVR Media wanted the daughter to appear on the show "as an individual who has been convinced to leave her home," the lawsuit says.
On Dec. 13, 2014, the daughter told Nelson "that although she did not want to move out, [the daughter] had already committed to RIVR Media that she would move in with some friends so she could participate in the television filming," according to the complaint.
The daughter "disclosed to Susan that RIVR Media was pressuring her to move out of her home."
Nelson was worried about the particular friends with whom the daughter planned to live and that they were involved in something illegal. Nelson, the lawsuit says, invited some other family members to her home to discuss alternative living arrangements for the daughter.
The family was at the home when the daughter's friends, as well as DeRieux and Christensen, arrived. The lawsuit accuses them of "reaching through a doggie door at the rear of the home" to unlock a door and enter the house. One uninvited male then put his arm around the daughter's waist to remove her from the room, the lawsuit says.
When the daughter said she didn't want to leave without some possessions, the male began to drag her, the lawsuit says. Meanwhile, Nelson claims, a cameraman from RIVR Media entered through the back door and began filming. Nelson was able to get the uninvited guests to leave the house, but they remained on the property filming through the windows, the lawsuit also says.
Nelson says DeRieux, Christensen and the film crew entered the house again while waiting for police.
A Unified Police Department office arrived, the lawsuit says, and opened a door to allow the daughter and her friends to retrieve some of her property. The film crew entered with her.
The episode was aired the following July and portrayed Nelson as physically preventing the daughter from leaving, and had DeRieux and Christensen saying the home smelled of rotten vegetables, the lawsuit says. Besides trespassing and inflicting emotional harm, Nelson accuses the defendants of defamation.
Twitter: @natecarlisle
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