Ammon Bundy won’t respond to lawsuit, so St. Luke’s takes more legal action

Bundy, Diego Rodriguez and their organizations are being sued by St. Luke’s and health care providers

By: - June 29, 2022 4:25 am
Photo of court document that includes a portrait of Ammon Bundy and Diego Rodriguez and quotes from their statements

The latest court filings include quoted statements by Ammon Bundy, left, and Diego Rodriguez. One court filing includes a photo of the defendants giving thumbs up.

Ammon Bundy and associate Diego Rodriguez are not following legal processes in a lawsuit that stems from a child protection case, according to new court filings.

Bundy ignored a court order, and Rodriguez is nowhere to be found, according to motions and affidavits filed this month by St. Luke’s Health System and its fellow plaintiffs — St. Luke’s CEO Chris Roth, the health system’s Boise hospital, and two health care providers.

The lawsuit filed in May accused the men and their closely linked political organizations — People’s Rights Network and Freedom Man PAC — of defamation and harassment.

Rodriguez’s grandson was hospitalized in March at St. Luke’s with severe malnourishment, and was taken into child protection.

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Rodriguez, Bundy and their followers urged people to protests at St. Luke’s, doxxed health care providers associated with the boy’s medical care and, according to the lawsuit, disrupted operations at the Boise hospital.

The hospital at one point went on lockdown for an hour and was unable to accept patients in ambulances.

Bundy, Rodriguez and their organizations launched “a knowingly dishonest and baseless smear campaign,” the lawsuit said. The men made false claims, including that St. Luke’s “engaged in widespread kidnapping, trafficking, and killing of Idaho children.”

St. Luke’s on Friday asked an Ada County court to impose sanctions on Bundy because he refuses to respond to the lawsuit or provide information, “despite acknowledging to the public that he is aware of the lawsuit and stating in interviews that he plans to ‘expose’ the hospital,” one of the documents said.

Bundy “continues to make false and defamatory statements” and refuses to comply with court orders to hand over documents, St. Luke’s argued.

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Indeed, court files show nothing submitted by Bundy or Rodriguez in their defense. There is no record of Bundy following the court’s order to give St. Luke’s documents they could use as evidence. (Bundy and Rodriguez can also demand documents from St. Luke’s but don’t appear to have made an attempt as of Tuesday.)

The attorney for St. Luke’s had requested documentation about Bundy’s People’s Rights Network and Rodriguez’s Freedom Man PAC, including: who manages or holds ownership interest in their websites; the legal structure and people in charge of both organizations; and the identities of people who wrote or posted the allegedly defamatory statements. They had until June 17 to respond.

The health system and its fellow plaintiffs asked the judge to impose sanctions on Bundy for flouting his legal obligations.

Instead of responding to the lawsuit in court, Bundy has spoken about it while campaigning for governor. He said in an interview that the lawsuit is “an opportunity to further expose (the hospital and other plaintiffs) because they are pretty wicked,” the motion said.

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They asked the judge to order Bundy to sit for a deposition where he would have to respond to their questions about the website and who controls People’s Rights Network, and to order him to pay the costs of the deposition.

“Bundy has demonstrated a pattern of ignoring court orders,” it said, citing the jail sentence Bundy received after trying to claim hours he spent on his gubernatorial campaign as community service, against a judge’s instructions.

That history “demonstrates that lesser sanctions than requested would not be effective,” the motion said. Bundy’s “obstructionist and deceptive behaviors (have caused St. Luke’s) to waste time and money,” it said.

“Because Bundy’s actions demonstrate an indifference to the judicial process and a disregard for the harm he is causing others, and because Bundy’s failure to obey the court’s order is not substantially justified … (St. Luke’s and its fellow plaintiffs) are entitled to their reasonable expenses, including attorney fees,” the motion for sanctions said.

According to Idaho’s rules for civil lawsuits, the judge could consider Bundy’s conduct to be contempt of court, could skip the trial process and simply rule in favor of St. Luke’s and the other plaintiffs, or could impose other kinds of sanctions.

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Bundy was served with the lawsuit on May 12. But Rodriguez has managed to avoid being formally served with the lawsuit since mid-May.

The person hired to find and deliver the lawsuit and summons tried to serve Rodriguez at three different addresses over a two-day period. At each address, a person opened the door but said they didn’t know Rodriguez, or a neighbor said they didn’t know “if anyone lived in that apartment,” the summons record said. The server went to one of Bundy’s campaign events in Meridian a week later, on May 21, but couldn’t find Rodriguez there, either.

Finally, he sent the summons by certified mail to addresses in Boise and Orlando, Florida.

Earlier this month, the attorney for St. Luke’s asked to have Rodriguez served via publication in a newspaper.

“It appears that Mr. Rodriguez may no longer reside in Idaho,” Holland & Hart attorney Erik F. Stidham wrote in an affidavit.

“Further, I have learned that there appears to be a significant tax lien against Mr. Rodriguez put in place by the State of Idaho,” Stidham wrote. “The existence of the tax lien creates concern that Mr. Rodriguez has left the state to avoid legal proceedings in the State of Idaho.”

The Idaho State Tax Commission filed a lien in November against Rodriguez for $138,392 of unpaid taxes, according to a search of tax liens by the Idaho Capital Sun.

The affidavit notes that Rodriguez publicly commented on the lawsuit and, after reading it, continued to make allegations similar to those described in the St. Luke’s complaint.

“Despite being aware of the lawsuit, Mr. Rodriguez has made no effort to contact me or my firm,” Stidham wrote.

A hearing is scheduled for July 12 in Ada County on the motions to sanction Bundy, and to serve Rodriguez with the lawsuit by publishing a notice in a newspaper.

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.

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