By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
A district judge on Tuesday sanctioned Idaho gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy and his campaign supporter Diego Rodriguez for failing to comply with a court order.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Lynn Norton granted the motion from attorneys of St. Luke’s Health System, who are suing Bundy, Rodriguez, and their followers.
The lawsuit filed in May claims the men and supporters made false statements 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.
St. Luke’s attorney Erik Stidham’s motion for civil sanction requested that the court order Bundy and Rodriguez to appear for a deposition to answer general questions, since they had not responded to the lawsuit.
Neither of the men have cooperated in the litigation and St. Luke’s attorney asked that they be sanctioned and ordered to cooperate. Bundy must sit for a deposition no later than Sept. 30. Rodriguez must sit for a deposition no later than Oct. 7.
Norton granted the motion and both men will sit for the deposition at their expense.
The lawsuit resulted after a protest outside the hospital in March that came when Rodriguez’s grandson was taken to the hospital by police in Meridian. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reportedly believed the child was in medical danger and when the child’s parents did not cooperate, DHW contacted police.
The child was returned to his parents in less than a week.
Rodriguez is accused of using his website, FreedomMan.org, to publish false or disparaging information about St. Luke’s and its staff. The blog still, as of Tuesday, has allegations up including that St. Luke’s “kills people” or “trafficks” children. The blog’s latest post regarding the child published Aug. 21, again making allegations against St. Luke’s staff.
During the 4 p.m. hearing, Stidham said Rodriguez filed a motion responding to the complaint “about an hour ago.” As of 5 p.m., that motion was not available to the public yet.
Judge Norton did not have digital access to the response yet Tuesday, but noted the address on Rodriguez’s response that Stidham had came from the same address he had been served at in Orlando, Florida.
“It’s not a service issue,” Norton said about Rodriguez’s lack of response.
St. Luke’s also filed a motion to request the men charged with criminal contempt, but because neither were not present in court to be potentially arraigned, the court did not address it.
Norton did not deny the motion for contempt, she just did not address it Tuesday.
No-shows in court
Neither Bundy nor Rodriguez appeared in court Tuesday.
Bundy’s campaign accounts state he has a planned town hall meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, Sept. 6, in Rupert. He’s running as an independent candidate on the November ballot.
Rodriguez was seen in a Sept. 2 video on Bundy’s YouTube channel. It’s unclear when or where the video was recorded.
Because neither of the men appeared in court nor did they file written responses, neither have publicly disputed the allegations made by St. Luke’s to the court.
Other legal problems
Bundy still faces a trial for the criminal trespassing charge connected to his refusal to leave the hospital. He pleaded not guilty to that charge and is set for trial in November.
St. Luke’s also takes issue with Bundy using the protest and the child’s hospitalization to collect more than $100,000 in donations, alleging it will be used for his campaign. The Freedom Man website took down its donation option on the website, but it’s unclear what the money previously donated will be directed to.
The Freedom Man Political Action Committee has not been active since 2020.