SOTT.net announces that attorney Walter Hansell and trial counsel Stephen Kaus will lead its defense against an Oregon company that has filed suit for defamation.
SOTT.net - March 27, 2008
(PRNewsChannel) / San Francisco, Calif. - In the crosshairs of an attack by a self-proclaimed Spiritual Master that seriously threatens freedom of speech on the Internet, SOTT.net today announced that attorney Walter Hansell and trial counsel Stephen Kaus will be leading its defense against an Oregon company that has filed suit for defamation.
Hansell and Kaus are partners in Cooper, White & Cooper LLP, a San Francisco law firm that has defended free speech and communications for decades.
Quantum Future Group (QFG - a California non-profit), SOTT.net, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, founder of SOTT.net, and Quantum Future School, a loose confederation of international individuals who meet on the internet to discuss many topics, are being sued in a U.S. District Court by Oregon-based Higher Balance Institute (HBI) led by owner Eric Pepin. Pepin's business is seeking approximately $4.5 million in damages for opinions that were reported about him and HBI by individuals on the Signs Of The Times (SOTT.net) Web forum. The discussion on the SOTT.net forum was based on newspaper reports concerning Eric Pepin's previous indictment and trial on child sexual molestation and abuse charges. According to news reports, Pepin was acquitted after lurid testimony against him.
"HBI's lawsuit is a frontal assault on free speech, and on the free global flow of information and opinion on the Internet. It is a blunt force attack on the discussion of sincere opinions among people sharing common interests," said Hansell.
While QFG has no ownership interest in the SOTT.net Web site, it stands behind the right of people everywhere to express themselves freely and openly, particularly in the interest of the public's right to know about products and services and those who promote them.
"When a business and merchandiser of meditation products led by a self-styled 'Master' sues a nonprofit corporation and an individual in an attempt to stifle a community forum of people sharing vital public news and opinions, something stinks. Fortunately United States laws provide tools to repel such an attack: the shield of the Constitution," said Knight-Jadczyk.
"An assault on a public forum is an assault on rights of people worldwide. If we don't resist, who will?" she continued.
SOTT.net is requesting that all those with an interest in safeguarding freedom of speech on the Internet make an effort to ensure that this information reaches the widest audience possible. SOTT.net also needs your help in raising the necessary funds to defend free speech on behalf of everyone. ...
Web Site Defendant Moves to Dismiss Defamation Suit Under Anti-SLAPP Statute
QFG and SOTT.net defend Internet First Amendment rights.
SOTT.net - May 02, 2008
(PRNewsChannel) / Portland, Oregon - Quantum Future Group, Inc. ("QFG"), the only defendant that has been served in an Internet defamation suit brought by New-Age guru Eric Pepin's sales company, has forcefully challenged the merits of the case and has asked an Oregon federal judge for a dismissal and attorneys fees.
The case concerns postings on a forum hosted by SOTT.net (Signs of the Times), an Internet site devoted to news and analysis in various fields, including analyzing and exposing cults. Citing Oregon's anti-SLAPP ("Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation") statute, QFG contends that the statements about Pepin and his company, Higher Balance Institute, LLC ("HBI") are constitutionally protected. Because HBI cannot show that it probably will prevail, QFG argues, the case must be dismissed before QFG or the other defendants must spend large amounts to defend themselves.
"Without exception," the motion states, "the statements are all constitutionally protected expressions of opinion rather than verifiable assertions of fact. HBI cannot meet its burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the statements are false, let alone that Defendants knew that they were false or had serious doubts as to their truth."
The statements cited in QFG's complaint question Pepin's meditation techniques and comment on Pepin's 2007 trial on multiple sexual charges involving a 17-year-old male acolyte. The statements at issue include a November 7, 2007 comment that "It's really starting to look like this Eric Pepin and his Higher Balance Institute may be merely COINTELPRO and a front for pedophilia" and a November 4, 2007 comment by an anonymous poster that something "fishy" was going on at HBI.
QFG's motions state that the forum posts are opinion based on stated facts published on a mainstream news source and are constitutionally protected. The motion also argues that the operator of an Internet forum cannot be liable for the posts of third parties under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 ("CDA") and questions Oregon's jurisdiction over QFG, a California non-profit corporation whose primary place of business is in France.
"These are exactly the sort of statements that the First Amendment and recent statutes protect as free speech," said QFG attorney Stephen Kaus, who prepared the papers with his colleagues Walter Hansell and Merrit Jones. "People are entitled to believe in gurus such as Pepin and buy their books and courses for hundreds of dollars or more, but people are also entitled to point out their view that the techniques of telepathy and development of a sixth eye promoted by Pepin are nonsense."
Much of the dispute concerns Pepin's trial on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor. Pepin was acquitted in a court trial because the judge did not feel the charges had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. According to the article in the Oregonian, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Steven L. Price stated that it was, " 'probable that the conduct alleged in all counts occurred,' but he wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt" and "called the leader of a metaphysical Internet sales company manipulative and controlling and his testimony unbelievable, even as he acquitted him today of charges that he had sex with an underage boy."
SOTT.NET posters point out that being found "not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" is not the same thing as being found "innocent of all charges."
The sexual charges aside, the SOTT.NET forum topic on Pepin and HBI has been the site of a lively debate on whether he is an exploiter, ever since a visitor posted an inquiry about them in 2006. Several Pepin devotees have posted fervent praise, while others have denounced him as a power-lusting cult leader who takes advantage of gullible followers.
SOTT.NET contends that it is the public's right to examine the claims of any company selling a product or service to the public and to form their own opinion as to whether it is "snake-oil" sold by con-artists or not and that those opinions may be made public for the safety of consumers.
In a previous press release, atty Walter Hansell noted: "HBI's lawsuit is a frontal assault on free speech, and on the free global flow of information and opinion on the Internet. It is a blunt force attack on the discussion of sincere opinions among people sharing common interests."
Following the filing of the motions to dismiss on April 25th, Walter Hansell of Cooper, White & Cooper said: "The intent of this suit by HBI is to stifle free speech, but luckily the anti SLAPP statute allows us to nip the matter in the bud before the cost is out of hand."
About Signs of The Times:
SOTT.net is an independent alternative news and analysis outlet that seeks to shine a spotlight on significant events and trends that affect the entire world. SOTT.net helps bring clarity out of a sea of media spin. The site is funded entirely by donations from individuals and groups that seek to support its work. For more information visit http://www.sott.net
About Quantum Future Group:
Quantum Future Group (QFG) supports activities that bring together people to engage in and to promote the study of scientific ideas and research in all scientific and socio-cultural fields that further the deepest understanding of our world and our place within it without regard to nationality or ethnicity. QFG seeks to increase the understanding of humankind by humankind, as a whole, by sponsoring research into all the parts to see how they fit together. QFG supports documented research that is made freely and widely available to all humanity. For more information visit:http://quantumfuturegroup.org
About Cooper, White & Cooper LLP:
Cooper, White & Cooper LLP, based in San Francisco, is longtime defender of free speech and communications. For more information visit http://www.cwclaw.com/
Contact: Joseph Quinn
Email: : firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: : +33 563 048231
Web site: www.sott.net
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