In October 1997,
Harold and Stella happily moved back to Sparks, Nevada, from California
where they had been for a few years. Ahh, the land of all night coffee
Nearly at the same time, Stella was interviewed by the TV program, "Hard Copy," concerning her (and Harold's) experiences of membership in the Fellowship of Friends.
This was not something new for her, having been interviewed a few years before by "Inside Edition." Geraldo Rivera's program (memory says it was called "And Now It Can Be Told") had contacted Stella, although did not follow through for an interview. There were others, now passed out of memory!
None of the programs recorded ever were to see the light of day; none were aired.
Now, the "Hard Copy" interviewer, and people at their office, had assured Stella that the program would be aired. One person said, "Not to worry, 'Hard Copy' is owned by Paramount, you know the big mountain with the stars semi circle over it, so no problem!"
Well, there was a problem because during the interview, I suggested they NOT go to FOF and try to get an interview with anybody there (knowing they would say "no comment" and slam the door, most likely). Naturally, these kinds of shows do things like that anyway, as they can show they tried and the brief segment with door slamming (or the like) makes for good tv, right?
Not only that: the visit also tips off the outfit that something is going to go public about them! Eeek, we can't have THAT! So very suddenly a lawsuit was filed in San Francisco, California, called a "slappsuit" for defamation and libel (slapp = strategic lawsuits against public participation - in other words, "shut up, you can't go around saying things like that about us!").
(You can read about slappsuits if you're interested at: http://www.sirius.com/~casp/wilcox1.html There is an ongoing effort in California to stop the ability to file slapp suits, as --one reason-- they abridge freedom of speech.)
Before the paperwork actually was served on Stella and her co-defendant, Hard Copy folks received a letter from FOF lawyer Abraham Goldman telling of the lawsuit and reminding Hard Copy of the first thing that happens: defendants are incurring legal fees. (Oh, and we did eventually!)
That did it. The program would not be aired, sorry.
The lawsuit filed in
October 1997 continued laboriously for more than a year through
discovery processes where the plaintiff asks for dozens of documents,
and several court appearances by our helpful lawyers thanks to the suit
being filed in San Francisco while we lived in Nevada. (At time of
filing, FOF thought we lived in Berkeley, CA, hence some delay in
receiving the summons. They were asking in excess of $25,000 from each
defendant in "damages.")
To see first page of filed lawsuit, click here.
Suffice to say that as the case moved closer to the trial part, more delays, and finally the FOF agreed to drop the case. (We sorta figured they would because if the case went to trial, they could not win it. The defense against libel and defamation is proving the truth of the allegations, and that could be done. We did not recover legal fees from them, however, and that was okay as it was "over.")
Almost simultaneously, FOF filed lawsuits against several newspapers, Margaret Singer (prof. UC Berkeley, cult expert), and others. Most cases were dismissed by the presiding judges. None ever came to trial.
You can see the dismissal of the suit against the Los angeles Times (for their large article published Nov. 1997) here (consisting of 3 pages shown).
After viewing the three pages, a link will bring you back to this page at the top. Note on the three pages, FOF was ordered to pay out more than $28,000 in legal fees to reimburse defendants in that lawsuit.
Members usually are
unaware of the "lawsuit budget" of their teaching payments, and probably
would not complain if they did know.
To all visitors:
Stella Wirk passed away on December 29, 2001. This site is being maintained by her friends in the hope that it will continue to provide the guidance that it has in the past. There is a Stella Wirk memorial site here: http://web.archive.org/web/20021129030627/http://stella.wirk.org/.
For further information on the ideas or opinions expressed here, please contact: Info@fofriends.www.50megs.com