Attorneys for JZ Knight want former student to pay $715,000 in attorney's fees

Staff writerJuly 9, 2013 

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A worker clears leaves at the JZ Knight School of Enlightenment west of Yelm. (TONY OVERMAN/Staff photographer)

TONY OVERMAN — The Olympian Buy Photo

Attorneys for Ramtha's School of Enlightenment want a judge to award them over $715,000 they allege it cost them to enforce a contract prohibiting the release of proprietary materials belonging to the school.

RSE sought, and obtained, a permanent restraining order barring the release of such materials after videos circulated on the Internet last year depicting RSE's leader, J.Z. Knight, making derogatory comments about Roman Catholics, Mexicans and others. RSE's attorneys alleged former student Virginia Coverdale was responsible for the initial posting of the videos. Knight was filmed making the derogatory comments while channeling Ramtha, a 35,000 year-old warrior.

Coverdale said Tuesday that she does not have the $715,000 sought by RSE's attorneys. She also said she believes Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor's ruling that she broke her contract with RSE will be overturned on appeal. A hearing is scheduled for July 19 in Thurston County Superior Court, where a judge will consider RSE's motion for an award of attorney's fees and costs.

"JZK Inc. cannot get blood from a stone, but as they try this will be in the higher's courts hands where we are confident the ruling will be overturned," Coverdale said Tuesday.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent last year, RSE's attorneys notified Coverdale that she would have to pay attorneys fees, pursuant to the contract she signed upon entering the school in 2007, unless she stopped disseminating the materials, according to their motion for an award of fees and costs. "This letter was ignored," reads the motion.

"This lawsuit would not have happened had Coverdale simply honored JZK Inc.'s request and complied with the Conditions of Participation ("CoP") that she had twice signed," the motion continues. "Coverdale would have remained free to continue criticizing Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (RSE), reporting code violations, alleging corruption and operating her 'cult recovery' web forum."

A motion for reconsideration filed by Coverdale's attorney Breckan Scott alleges that Coverdale did not breach the contract she signed with the school.

Tabor made a temporary restraining order barring the release of the videos permanent in an oral ruling June 28. Tabor said the contract signed by Coverdale was sufficient to protect such disclosures. In 1998, Knight founded Ramtha's School of Enlightenment in the Yelm area to teach others about her beliefs. The school has had tens of thousands of followers. After last year's release of the videos of Knight making derogatory comments, the Freedom Foundation, a libertarian-leaning organization in Washington, reposted many of the videos in the run-up to the November elections. The release of the videos ignited a controversy, with a number of state Republicans calling for Democratic candidates to give back campaign contributions they had received from Knight.

A representative from the Freedom Foundation said last week that the videos depicting Knight making her controversial statements have been mostly removed from the Internet, at the behest of Knight's attorneys. Glen Morgan, property rights director for the Freedom Foundation, added last week that the Freedom Foundation is not bound by a contract with RSE, and could repost the videos of Knight it has in its possession, if it chose to do so.

In a news release sent to The Olympian last week, Knight gave a prepared statement applauding Tabor's ruling.

"This action was of critical importance to us," Knight said in her statement. "RSE's teachings and message are its product. Quite appropriately, these materials are carefully protected. While the vast majority of individuals who signed the (Conditions of Participation) respect its terms and abide by them, there are occasions where individuals do not. When this occurs, JZK Inc. will vigorously protect its materials and the enforceability of a contract signed by thousands."

An attorney for Knight said Tuesday that the videos depicting Knight were "chopped up," and taken out-of-context, in an attempt to make her look bad.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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