Truculence and disdain flowed from activist Ammon Bundy after he was ordered to pay more than $12 million as part of a defamation lawsuit that neither he nor his co-defendant fought in court.
The overall settlement in the case filed by St. Luke’s Hospital and other defendants totaled $52.5 million, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The report said Bundy, who received national attention after leading an armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge in 2016 for which he was later acquitted, was ordered to pay $6.2 million in compensatory damages and $6.15 million in punitive damages. Two groups affiliated with him — the People’s Rights Network and Ammon Bundy for Governor Committee — were ordered to pay $6.75 million in compensatory damages and $6.85 million in punitive damages.
Co-defendant Diego Rodriguez was ordered to pay $7 million in compensatory damages and $6.5 million in punitive damages with the Freedom Man Press and Freedom Man PAC, both affiliated with Rodriguez, were ordered to pay $6.55 million in compensatory damages and $6.5 million in punitive damages.“The Ada county courts are embarrassing,” Bundy texted the Idaho Capital Sun Monday after the decision was reached. “This recent verdict confirms everything I have been saying. I am glad I did not participate and legitimize this mockery of justices.”
The case grew out of a 2022 incident in which Rodriguez’s infant grandson went into the custody of the state Department of Health and Welfare last year after doctors at St. Luke’s believed the child was malnourished, according to KTVB-TV.
That led to massive protests by Bundy, Rodriguez and their supporters alleging kidnapping by the hospital. The protests, which temporarily shut down the hospitals targeted, then moved from the street to the internet.
During the trial, a security guard said staff at the hospital barricaded the doors to keep out protests. An emergency room doctor who said the child was extremely malnourished told the court she was harassed extensively and installed security cameras at her home for protection.
“Taking legal action is not something we take lightly. But standing up to the threats, bullying, intimidation, disruption and self-serving actions of the defendants was necessary,” St. Luke’s CEO Chris Roth said in a news release, according to the Statesman. “Inaction would have signaled that their menacing behavior was acceptable. Clearly, it is not, and the jury’s decision validates that fact.”
Attorney Erik Stidham had called for the jury to punish Bundy.
“My hope is that you will look at this and you will deter (Bundy) in a way that he hasn’t been deterred yet,” he said in his closing statements.
Stidham noted that the defendants in the suit did not appear in court,
“Where are they now that it is their time to be held accountable? They are hiding,” he said, according to the Idaho Capital Sun.
The Sun noted that in a July 10 letter addressed to Ada County District Court Judge Nancy Baskin and posted on the People’s Rights Network website said not bothering with a defense “would be the least time consuming and least expensive way to mitigate this lawsuit.”
Bundy texted the Sun Monday after the decision was reached criticizing the verdict.
“Massive institutions combined with the state, financially benefiting when they take a child is one of the worst combination a parent can imagine. Therefore, to counter, the cost of stealing a baby must be extremely high and good people must assure strong consequences when it happens,” Bundy wrote.
“People in a jury deciding how much St. Luke’s is going to take from those who exposed them is a mockery to justice,” he said.
Rodriguez called the lawsuit “frivolous” when he emailed his comments to the Sun.
“This entire lawsuit is a slap in the face to everyone who cares about freedom and the Constitution, as our constitutional right to Freedom of Speech and to just plain TELL THE TRUTH,” he said, alleging again that his grandson was “kidnapped”
Rodriguez said he would continue “to publish the truth” on his websites “no matter if the final judgment is for a billion or a gazillion dollars.”
Rodriguez told KTVB that he will appeal the verdict.
“Anybody with a brain or with 2 cents of basic understanding of justice knows that you can’t have an honest or legitimate trial when the defendant has not been allowed to bring evidence to the case. And when the judge has struck all of my answers from the record. And when the jury pool was tainted with employees who work for the Plaintiff. This case is teed up for a mistrial — to be thrown out by the appellate courts,” Rodriguez said.This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.