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Ross v. Jenkins

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 23, 2018

KENDRA ROSS, Plaintiff,
ROYALL JENKINS, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Kendra Ross seeks default judgment against defendants Royall Jenkins, The Value Creators, Inc. (f/k/a The United Nation of Islam, Inc.), The Value Creators LLC, and The Value Creators, Inc. Doc. 23. The court held a hearing on plaintiff's motion on February 2, 2018. Plaintiff testified at the hearing and presented other evidence. Plaintiff's licensed clinical social worker also testified at the hearing. Plaintiff asked the court to enter a default judgment against defendants on all her claims. Plaintiff also made a damages request at the hearing, asking the court to award her damages for restitution, emotional distress, punitive damages, liquidated damages, treble damages under RICO, and damages for conversion. Finally, plaintiff asked for reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Doc. 34.

         After carefully considering the evidence adduced at the February 2, 2018 hearing and plaintiff's submissions, the court grants plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 23) against all defendants and her Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 34). The court awards plaintiff $453, 517.20 in restitution damages, $2, 920, 000 in emotional distress damages, $3, 373, 517.20 in punitive damages, $282, 677.50 as liquidated damages, $907, 034.40 for trebled damages under RICO, and $1, 800 as conversion damages. The court also awards plaintiff $117, 184.34 for reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

         I. Procedural Background

         On September 15, 2017, plaintiff Kendra Ross filed a Complaint against Royall Jenkins, The Value Creators, Inc. (f/k/a The United Nation of Islam, Inc.), The Value Creators LLC, and The Value Creators, Inc. Doc. 1. The Complaint asserts 16[1] federal and state law claims. The federal claims include violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589, 1590, and 1595, for human trafficking and forced labor; the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., for unpaid wages; and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961. The state law claims consist of three categories: (1) violations of human trafficking laws; (2) violations of minimum wage laws; and (3) violations of Kansas tort and quasi-contract law. Plaintiff asserts that defendants violated Kansas, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio human trafficking laws. Plaintiff also claims that defendants violated minimum wages laws for those same states. Finally, plaintiff alleges that plaintiff violated Kansas laws for conversion, unjust enrichment, and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

         Plaintiff served the Complaint on defendant Royall Jenkins on September 21 and 25, 2017. See Docs. 9 & 10. Plaintiff served the Complaint on defendants The Value Creators, Inc. (f/k/a The United Nation of Islam, Inc.), The Value Creators LLC, and The Value Creators, Inc. (collectively, “The Value Creators”) on September 18 and 20, 2017. See Docs. 11-13, 15-17.

         Defendant Royall Jenkins filed a Motion for a Writ of Certiorari on October 11, 2017. Doc. 18. Magistrate Judge Teresa J. James denied defendant's motion, and noted that defendant's motion did not meet the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to qualify as a timely Answer or other response. The other defendants have not appeared.

         On October 23, 2017, plaintiff filed an Application for Clerks Entry of Default against all defendants (Doc. 20). The following day, the Clerk entered default against all defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) (Doc. 22).

         Plaintiff now asks the court to enter a default judgment against all defendants under Rule 55(b)(2), awarding her damages and attorneys' fees.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 provides a two-step process for securing a default judgment. First, Rule 55(a) allows the Clerk to enter a default against a party who “has failed to plead or otherwise defend” a lawsuit. Second, after the Clerk enters default, plaintiff may request the Clerk to enter judgment if the amount sought is “a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). But when, as here, a plaintiff's claim is not for a sum certain or a sum made certain by calculation, plaintiff must apply to the court for a default judgment under Rule 55(b)(2). When considering a motion for default judgment, the court may hold a hearing if “it needs to (A) conduct an accounting; (B) determine the amount of damages; (C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or (D) investigate any other matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).

         “Once the default is established, defendant has no further standing to contest the factual allegations of plaintiff's claim for relief.” Mathiason v. Aquinas Home Health Care, Inc., 187 F.Supp.3d 1269, 1274 (D. Kan. 2016) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the Complaint. Id. This does not extend, however, to allegations about the amount of damages. Id.

         But, even after default, “‘it remains for the court to consider whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law.'” Bixler v. Foster, 596 F.3d 751, 762 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting 10A Charles A. Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2688, at 63 (3d ed. 1998)). When deciding whether to enter a default judgment, a district court enjoys broad discretion. Mathiason, 187 F.Supp.3d at 1274.

         A default judgment also does not establish the amount of damages. Id. at 1274-75. Instead, “[p]laintiff must establish that the amount requested is reasonable under the circumstances.” Id. at 1275 (citing DeMarsh v. Tornado Innovations, LP, No. 08-2588-JWL, 2009 WL 3720180, at *2 (D. Kan. Nov. 4, 2009)). A court may award damages “‘only if the record adequately reflects the basis for [the] award via a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts.'” DeMarsh, 2009 WL 3720180, at *2 (quoting Adolph Coors Co. v. Movement Against Racism & the Klan, 777 F.2d 1538, 1544 (11th Cir. 1985) (further citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         III. Findings of Fact

         A. Defendant Royall Jenkins

         Before 1978, Royall Jenkins was a member of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad. Dr. Louis Farrakhan assumed leadership of the Nation of Islam when Elijah Muhammad died in 1978. Mr. Jenkins asserts that, around the time of Elijah Muhammad's death, angels and/or scientists abducted him, escorted him through the galaxy in a spaceship, and informed him he was “The Supreme Being.” During his abduction, Mr. Jenkins asserts, these beings instructed him how to govern Earth.

         When he “returned to Earth” in 1978, Mr. Jenkins split from Nation of Islam and informally organized the United Nation of Islam (“UNOI”) as a radical alternative to Dr. Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. Since that time, Mr. Jenkins has ordered his UNOI followers to refer to him as “Allah on Earth, ” “Allah in Person, ” or “The Supreme Being.”

         Sometime around 1996, Mr. Jenkins founded “Heaven”-a UNOI model community in an economically-disadvantaged neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. Jenkins later established additional UNOI communities in other places across the United States, including: Atlanta, Georgia; Dayton, Ohio; Newark, New Jersey; Harlem, New York; Temple Hills, Maryland; Mobile, Alabama; and Cincinnati, Ohio. The Value Creators now own the personal, real, and intellectual property used by these communities in the nation-wide trafficking scheme at issue in this case.

         Mr. Jenkins has a large immediate family scattered around the United States. He has had at least 13 wives, and has fathered about 20 children (collectively, the “Royall Family”). Mr. Jenkins calls some of his wives “concubines.” Royall Family members reside in different locations across the United States.

         Mr. Jenkins has owned several houses on one street in Kansas City, Kansas, where his wives, children, and grandchildren have resided. Also, Mr. Jenkins has owned a house called the “House of Peace” in Kansas City, Kansas. The “House of Peace” is in a secret location, only accessible by Mr. Jenkins and a few select people.

         Mr. Jenkins holds ownership interests in several businesses, including all three business entities collectively referred to as The Value Creators. Mr. Jenkins and the rest of the Royall Family directly have benefitted financially from the revenues of these businesses, in large part because the businesses employ trafficked laborers who are not paid any wages for the work they perform. They also have derived financial benefits from the trafficked laborers who are paid no wages for providing around-the-clock child care and housekeeping work to the Royall Family.

         While plaintiff was a member of the UNOI community, Mr. Jenkins was the business and spiritual leader of UNOI and head of the Royall Family. He personally made all the decisions about the trafficked laborers which benefitted UNOI, the Royall Family, and Mr. Jenkins himself.

         B. UNOI

         1. Organization

         UNOI operated as the corporate entity for Mr. Jenkins's cult while trafficking plaintiff. UNOI employed a hierarchical chain of command, starting with Local Secretaries at the bottom; the National Secretary, Officers, Captains, Lieutenants, and the National Lieutenant in the middle; and Mr. Jenkins at the top. Everyone in the chain of command ultimately reported to Mr. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins approved almost everything, if not everything, that happened in “his Nation.”

         UNOI divided its membership into two groups: (1) “part-time” followers, who have a life or job outside of UNOI community; and (2) “full-time” followers, who work for UNOI, live in homes owned and operated by UNOI, and interact only with other UNOI followers. UNOI afforded “full-time” followers a more respected status and fully included them in all activities. UNOI leaders put followers on “part-time” status as a form of punishment. UNOI subjected “part-time” followers to full-body searches before permitting them to enter UNOI meetings. Individuals who UNOI demoted to “part-time” status could regain “full-time” status by various demonstrations of penance, including formal apologies expressing shame and contrition to UNOI leaders.

         UNOI employed a strict discipline system that Mr. Jenkins primarily developed, approved, and enforced. Under this system, individuals could receive “Class A” discipline for severe misconduct (e.g., talking back to superiors or using an incorrect tone). Followers subjected to “Class A” discipline were not permitted to speak freely to anyone and, instead, had to ask permission of the individual to whom they wished to speak. The punishment period could range from 15 days to indefinitely. Also, followers subjected to “Class A” discipline often were forced to fast.

         Individuals could receive “Class B” punishment for moderately severe misconduct (e.g., playing too much, not cleaning one's bedroom, failing a home inspection). Followers subjected to “Class B” discipline endured public censure during meetings. Also, they often were forced to fast.

         Individuals could receive “Class C” punishment after Class A or Class B punishment as a parole mechanism. Individuals who received “Class C” punishment were observed more closely for UNOI violations for about 30 days.

         Individuals could receive “Class F” punishment for extremely severe misconduct (e.g., being overweight, child molestation). UNOI banished followers subjected to “Class F” discipline.

         2. UNOI Doctrine

         UNOI doctrine primarily focused on the supremacy of Mr. Jenkins as God on Earth. UNOI disciples thus considered Mr. Jenkins's teachings as prophetical. Mr. Jenkins's teachings emphasized and prioritized the differences between the races and genders. Mr. Jenkins claims that the “Black Man” is superior to the “White Man, ” and that the “Black Man” created the “Black Woman” as a natural pleasure. Mr. Jenkins also teaches that women are inferior to men and, to escape eternal damnation, women should completely submit to men.

         These basic teachings mandated a regimented and controlled family organizational structure within UNOI. UNOI required female members to attend regular women's meetings, where women learned how to be “good housewives” and how to “submit” to their husbands. UNOI required male members to attend regular men's meetings, where they learned how to lead and direct their wives and children. Mr. Jenkins is the primary author of the educational materials for both the women and men's gender role meetings.

         UNOI monitored women's body weights closely. UNOI weighs women every Sunday before services. If a “full-time” female member was over an “ideal” weight, UNOI required her to fast. If a “part-time” female member was over an “ideal” weight, UNOI required her to pay a fee. Women were forced to meet with a psychic “doctor” to discuss their nutritional needs and diet.

         UNOI controlled the language that members were permitted to use. For example, members were not permitted to say, “Bless You, ” “Please, ” or any words that began with the letter “P.” UNOI instructed members to say “however” instead of “but, ” and to say “share with” instead of “told.”

         UNOI employed an extensive system for courtship and marriage. Under this system, men submitted “bids” on women to Mr. Jenkins through his chain of command in the organization. UNOI's chain of command either approved or rejected these bids as they moved up to Mr. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins ultimately approved or rejected the bids already approved by his lower deputies. Mr. Jenkins's reasons for rejecting bids were often as simple as the individuals were “not meant for each other.” There were no minimum age limits or restrictions for marriage among UNOI members.

         Once approved, the men engaged the women in three distinct stages of courtship. First, men were instructed to send an email to UNOI leadership with a list of women they wished to court. The leaders then would forward that email to a psychic doctor who, he claimed, knew which members were compatible with each other. Then, the psychic doctor would notify UNOI's leadership of his decisions about compatibility. After a man selected a woman from this list, they would start “interviewing” (i.e., dating). At first, couples only could talk on the phone and in person. Then, they were permitted to have physical contact with one another, but no sexual contact.

         The entire courtship process typically lasted five months. If the union was permitted by UNOI leadership, the final step in this process was marriage. UNOI members married without securing government-issued marriage licenses.

         3. Education of Children and Adolescents within UNOI

         Mr. Jenkins authored the central literature for UNOI, including the children's education curriculum. This literature included some original teachings from Elijah Mohammed and some literature authored by Mr. Jenkins.

         UNOI did not send its children and adolescent members to public school. Instead, it required their attendance in UNOI's own education system. Mr. Jenkins's teachings asserted that public school systems are corrupt. UNOI's education system did not include properly certified teachers or teaching curriculum. If individuals excelled in a subject area, UNOI would appoint them as teachers in that subject. UNOI's education system included courses about Mr. Jenkins's literature, science, and math. Mr. Jenkins's teachings permeated all subjects in the children's education curriculum. Courses often ended abruptly, and did not follow a schedule or syllabus. During UNOI classes, young students were shown horror films such as “The Omen” and “Crazy as Hell.”

         UNOI ran a school called the “University of the Art and Logistics of Civilization.” UNOI required all “full-time” members to attend this “University.” Many other UNOI members attended classes by listening to Mr. Jenkins's recordings or conference calls led by other cult leaders in the living room of the home where they lived.

         The disciplinary system at UNOI schools involved paddling children for infractions, even accidental ones. For example, if a child accidentally touched one of Mr. Jenkins's children or grandchildren, they were beaten.

         4. Working in UNOI

         UNOI forced its members to work in various businesses it owned, e.g., restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, gas stations, a sewing factory, and a construction company. Specifically, UNOI ran a business called “Food for Life Supreme.” The Value Creators currently owns and operates Food for Life Supreme, with locations in Atlanta, Georgia; Newark, New Jersey; Harlem, New York; Temple Hills, Maryland; Dayton, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Mobile, Alabama; and Kansas City, Kansas. UNOI members worked at UNOI businesses but UNOI never paid them for the work they performed.

         Many members, including plaintiff, worked every day of the week without breaks. Many members worked at UNOI business and schools for eight-hour shifts during the day and then were expected to perform additional work-cooking, cleaning, childcare-when they returned to the home where they lived. Several teenage members lived with UNOI heads of household, and the heads of household would dictate their labor responsibilities for the home.

         UNOI controlled where and when members went to the supermarket and which groceries they could buy. UNOI maintained a list of approved grocery stores and approved items for members to buy. Members were required to submit a grocery list for approval during communal shopping runs. Many UNOI members, including plaintiff, received food stamps from the federal government. All “full-time” members had to surrender their Electronic Benefit Transfer (“EBT”) cards to UNOI leaders, and UNOI rationed funds from those cards by household, controlling members' budget allowance from the federal government. Members did not receive a ration that was equivalent to the ration provided to them individually through the EBT cards.

         5. Health Care for Members of UNOI

         UNOI did not provide its members with any health insurance. UNOI also did not allow its members to receive medical care offered by individuals outside of UNOI. Instead, UNOI limited its members to medical care provided by an individual named Dr. Marvin MacIntosh. He treated all medical issues (e.g., obstetrics, gynecology, minor emergency medicine, and pediatrics) experienced by UNOI members.

         6. The Value Creators

         Around September 2011, Mr. Jenkins began changing his teaching on key doctrines such as death and free will. Mr. Jenkins said UNOI would “be tested” and that he individually was “going through a testing period.” At the same time, UNOI's chain of command began to dissipate, and Mr. Jenkins moved to Arizona, which he called “the land of peace.” Following this “testing period, ” Mr. Jenkins and other leaders organized The Value Creators entities.

         In April 2015, Mr. Jenkins and others established The Value Creators as a successor in interest to UNOI. The Value Creators is effectively UNOI but using a different name, and it includes all the same (or similar) businesses and members. The Value Creators essentially maintains the same doctrines, chain of command structure, “employment” practices, educational mandates, and health care directives the UNOI employed.

         C. Plaintiff Kendra Ross

         In 1991, Plaintiff Kendra Ross was born in Memphis, Tennessee. At the age of two, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia with her mother. Shortly after settling in Atlanta, the local UNOI temple leader introduced plaintiff's mother to UNOI. Plaintiff's mother, and therefore plaintiff, joined UNOI around that time.

         From age two until age 11, plaintiff and her mother were “part-time” members of UNOI, meaning they participated in UNOI but lived outside the organization. When she was nine years old, plaintiff began cooking and packaging food for UNOI fundraisers. UNOI received the proceeds from these fundraisers. Plaintiff received no compensation for this work. Plaintiff attended public school in the Atlanta area through the fifth grade.

         1. Kansas City, Kansas

         In 2002, at the age of eleven, plaintiff and her mother moved to Kansas City, Kansas. There, they were elevated to “full-time” status members of UNOI. Around that time, UNOI commanded plaintiff's mother to remove plaintiff from public school and to send her to a UNOI-run school. Plaintiff's mother obeyed the command.

         At that time, a UNOI Secretary forced plaintiff to work at a UNOI-run bakery and restaurant for a few hours before school and a full eight-hour shift after school. UNOI also forced plaintiff to sell baked goods and work at catering events for UNOI. After working in the bakery, plaintiff worked in a UNOI home, performing such work as cooking and cleaning, and providing childcare.

         The next year, Mr. Jenkins ordered that plaintiff be removed from her mother's home, and directed that she go live in a UNOI women's household. This household consisted of a few women with young girls, other girls around plaintiff's age, and plaintiff's sister. During this time, UNOI forced plaintiff to maintain a strict diet of rice, beans, fruit, and salad. So, plaintiff became severely malnourished. Plaintiff was not permitted to see a licensed doctor or otherwise receive medical attention for her malnourishment.

         From the age of 11 through the age of 14, plaintiff worked about 8, 320 hours at the bakery, and about 2, 080 hours as a maid. The prevailing wages at that time for Kansas City were $11 per hour for bakery services and $9 per hour for cleaning services. But UNOI did not compensate plaintiff for any of this work.

         At the age of 15, UNOI removed plaintiff from UNOI-run school so she could work at a UNOI-owned and operated diner and teach younger UNOI students. At the diner, she prepared and cooked food. UNOI never permitted plaintiff to attend any school, UNOI-sponsored or otherwise, after age 15. Plaintiff worked about 2, 600 hours at the diner in 2006 and 2007. The prevailing wages at that time for a diner cook in Kansas City were $12 per hour. UNOI never compensated plaintiff for any of this work.

         During a UNOI celebration, Ayesha Mohammad, one of Mr. Jenkins's wives, publicly called plaintiff and others to gather on a stage and announced where each of the individuals would be shipped to work. Plaintiff did not have any prior notice of this forced relocation. Plaintiff moved to Atlanta within two days of that announcement.

         2. Atlanta, Georgia

         When UNOI moved plaintiff to Atlanta, Georgia, plaintiff's mother and sister were placed on “part-time” status and were living together. Plaintiff's mother did not know that plaintiff would be moving to Atlanta.

         While in Atlanta, plaintiff was forced to work full-time in a restaurant owned and operated by UNOI without any pay. Her work consisted of preparing food for the restaurant and baking pies, cakes, and other pastries.

         While working at the restaurant in Atlanta, plaintiff severely cut her finger. She was not given any medical attention except for two band-aids to stop the bleeding.

         While in Atlanta, plaintiff lived in one of Mr. Jenkins's family homes. The residents of the home included one of Mr. Jenkins's wives, one of his concubines, the husband and son of the concubine's sister, another couple, and about 12 other minors. After plaintiff returned home from the restaurant, UNOI forced her to prepare food, cook, and clean for this household of about 15-18 people.

         Plaintiff lived in Atlanta for four or five months. During the five months she was there, plaintiff worked about 1, 320 hours as a cook at the restaurant, and about 308 hours as a house cook and maid. The prevailing wages at that time in Atlanta were $12 per hour for restaurant cooking services and $10 per hour for maid services. UNOI did not compensate plaintiff for any of this work.

         UNOI sent plaintiff back to Kansas because, according to UNOI officials, she did not have the “proper attitude.”

         3. Back to Kansas City, Kansas

         In Kansas City, plaintiff lived in a UNOI home with a few younger women, men, and couples. The caretaker of the home physically and emotionally abused plaintiff. Although she reported several injuries, UNOI did not permit her to see a licensed medical professional.

         Also during this time, plaintiff worked at a diner making meals for 25 single UNOI men. And she provided childcare for the children in the home. Plaintiff typically would arrive at the diner at 8:00 a.m. and work until 5:00 p.m., seven days a week. She also waited tables, but was not permitted to keep her tips. When she returned home, plaintiff cleaned, cooked, and served everyone until 8:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. each night.

         Mayesha Jenkins, the granddaughter of Royall Jenkins, called plaintiff while she was living in Kansas to tell her that she was moving to Newark, New Jersey. UNOI moved plaintiff to New Jersey a few days after she received this phone call.

         During her time in Kansas City, plaintiff worked about 6, 552 hours at the diner, and about 2, 184 hours as a maid. The prevailing wages at that time in Kansas City were $12 per hour for her services at the diner and $10 per hour for her housemaid and childcare services. UNOI never compensated plaintiff for any of this work.

         4. New ...

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