Judge limits questioning by defense in JZ Knight suit

jpawloski@theolympian.comFebruary 2, 2013 

An attorney for a former student of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment is barred from asking the school’s leader, JZ Knight, about alleged practices such as encouraging students to drink a liquid containing lye that, according to the former student’s affidavit, is supposed to “accelerate our individual enlightenment.”

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor ruled Friday in anticipation of Knight’s videotaped deposition that will be part of a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by JZK Inc. against former student Virginia Coverdale.

Tabor ruled that during Knight’s deposition, Coverdale’s attorney, Shawn Newman, can ask Knight only questions that are directly relevant to the lawsuit. The suit seeks damages in response to Coverdale’s release of videos showing Knight making derogatory comments about Mexicans, Catholics and others last year.

Reposting of the videos by a local conservative think tank, the Freedom Foundation, prompted Republicans to call for Democratic candidates to give back campaign contributions they had received from Knight prior to the Nov. 6 election.

The suit also seeks a permanent injunction barring Coverdale from releasing any other unauthorized materials belonging to the school. The school alleges the materials are protected by a contract Coverdale signed upon enrollment.

A restraining order barring any such release of protected materials is in place pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

In court filings, attorneys for the Ramtha school accused Coverdale of attempting to authorize lines of questioning during Knight’s deposition with the intent to “embarrass and harass” Knight.

In more than 100 pages of court filings, Newman has made counterclaims against the school, alleging fraud and defamation against Coverdale.

Affidavits in Newman’s filings allege that the school encouraged former students to participate in financial schemes and to take part in a wine ceremony that left participants drunk. The affidavits also allege that students were encouraged to drink a liquid containing lye and seawater that allegedly made some sick.

Although Tabor ordered that Newman can’t ask Knight about the ex-students’ allegations, he left open the possibility that she might be subject to questioning on those matters later.

One of the school’s attorneys, Jeffrey Grant, said outside court Friday that Knight’s “deposition has to be focused on what the lawsuit is about.” Mike Wright, a staff member at the school who was in court Friday, said “none of the allegations in that affidavit are relevant to this case” and added that the “wild claims” in the affidavit are false. Wright added that former students can make all sorts of allegations in their affidavits, but “it doesn’t make them true.”

Knight, who claims to channel Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior, has given a sworn declaration that is part of the court file. Knight founded Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment near Yelm in 1988 to teach others about her beliefs. The school says it has tens of thousands of followers.

In Knight’s declaration, she gives reasons for objecting to answering questions beyond the scope of Ramtha’s suit against Coverdale.

“As the founder of RSE and the channel of Ramtha, I have been the subject of strongly held opinions, and at times, wild speculation,” reads Knight’s deposition. “I am most concerned that I will be asked questions that are intended to harass and embarrass me. … I believe that my deposition should be limited to 1) the allegations in the complaint 2) Ms. Coverdale’s contacts with JZK Inc. or the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, or 3) topics which were answered in response to Ms. Coverdale’s written discovery requests — and then only to the extent that I have information upon which I can answer such questions.”

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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