By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
Far-right gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy, his campaign, and Diego Rodriguez did not appear in court Tuesday after failing to cooperate in a lawsuit filed by the state’s largest hospital system.
St. Luke’s Health System and its providers filed a lawsuit against Bundy and Rodriguez in May stating he and his supporters made false claims against the hospital and led protests that resulted in a temporary lockdown at one facility. The lockdown resulted in ambulances being diverted to other hospitals. It also alleges the defendants disparaged St. Luke’s, its CEO Chris Roth and a St. Luke’s physician and nurse practitioner.
Bundy has reportedly failed to cooperate with the legal proceedings and the plaintiffs continue to be unable to serve Rodriguez.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Lynn Norton on Tuesday granted St. Luke’s attorney Erik Stidham permission to serve Rodriguez his lawsuit by publication in newspapers.
This form of service is usually a last resort when a defendant cannot be located or is in hiding.
Stidham told the court he wanted to publish in both Idaho and Florida newspapers, as he believes Rodriguez may reside in Florida “in some form.”
The lawsuit stems from an incident in March when police took Rodriguez’s grandchild to the hospital in Meridian. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reportedly believed the child was in medical danger. When the child’s parents did not cooperate, DHW contacted police.
The child was returned to his parents’ care after hospitalization and less than a week in a foster home.
In a July 8 affidavit written by Stidham, Rodriguez is reportedly unresponsive to all legal correspondence and may be living outside of Idaho.
The affidavit states “I have no confidence that Mr. Rodriguez is being truthful in any of his statements, including statements he is residing outside of the United States.”
Rodriguez runs the Freedomman.org website and was active in Bundy’s gubernatorial campaign.
Other defendants named in the lawsuit include the Ammon Bundy for Governor political organization, the People’s Rights Network, Freedom Man Press LLC, and Freedom Man Political Action Network.
As of Tuesday, Rodriguez’s website still had posts about the grandchild and Rodriguez has publicly said he is aware of the litigation, according to Stidham.
Until all defendants are properly served, the court cannot issue sanctions or a default judgment. St. Luke’s will need to serve all parties again. Norton told Stidham the summons he issued didn’t meet current rules.
The lawsuit also claimed that Bundy and Rodriguez wrongfully collected donations claiming it would help pay for expenses for the child’s from “medical kidnapping.” The claim argues that they collected donations under false, misleading, unfair or unconscionable acts and practice.
The website used to collect donations wasn’t active as of Tuesday. But in May, it had collected more than $110,000 in donations.
This isn’t Bundy’s only ongoing legal matter.
In Bundy’s criminal case revolving around his alleged refusal to leave hospital grounds in March, he asked the court to dismiss the misdemeanor trespassing charge from last month. Magistrate Judge Michael Oths denied the request, disagreeing with Bundy’s argument that the statute was vague.
In April, Bundy was held in contempt for an unrelated trespassing charge. That stemmed from an initial conviction when he refused to leave the Lincoln Auditorium at the statehouse during a 2020 special session. He was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service as a sentence but tried to argue that the campaigning he’s done across the state should count as community service.
In that case, the judge disagreed and sentenced Bundy to 10 days in jail.