Gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy and a close associate, Diego Rodriguez, have not cooperated with a defamation lawsuit filed against them by St. Luke’s Health System, according to court documents.
Lawyers for St. Luke’s have been unable to locate Rodriguez and serve him, while Bundy has been served but has not responded to the lawsuit, according to the documents.
And despite the litigation, both Rodriguez and Bundy have continued to make the kind of accusations the hospital system sued over, and which it asked an Ada County Court to require the two men to cease doing.
In May, St. Luke’s sued alleging that Rodriguez and Bundy orchestrated a coordinated campaign to mislead followers about the circumstances of a child welfare case during an effort to get back custody of Rodriguez’s grandson. The state took custody of the young child after authorities said they believed the child’s weight-loss could be life-threatening.
The family disputed that, which led Rodriguez and Bundy to embark on a sustained publicity blitz, attacking the hospital — where the baby was briefly held for medical treatment — for “child trafficking” and other alleged crimes. The lawsuit vehemently denied the claims, calling the accusations a “knowingly dishonest and baseless smear campaign” aimed at furthering both of their political careers and earning money.
Bundy, who is running as an independent candidate and is known for far-right armed standoffs with law enforcement, sent out mass messages to his group of activists, called the People’s Rights Network. Multiple protests were held outside of the hospital in Boise. On March 11, the night that local police took custody of Rodriguez’s grandson, Bundy was arrested at the St. Luke’s Meridian hospital for misdemeanor trespassing.
Protesters went to the homes of government officials involved in the case and published information about those involved online.
On May 12, a process server gave legal papers to Bundy and a campaign staffer in Emmett, where Bundy lives. Since then, neither Bundy nor any lawyer on his behalf has filed responses in court.
Bundy did not respond to a text message request from the Idaho Statesman for comment.
The lawsuit accuses Bundy, his campaign, the People’s Rights Network, Rodriguez and associated entities of defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass, unfair business practices, violating of the Idaho Charitable Solicitation Act and civil conspiracy to commit defamation.
St. Luke’s also told the court it quickly needed information about organizations linked to the two men: the People’s Rights Network and Freedom Man PAC, a political action committee controlled by Rodriguez.
Ada County District Judge Lynn Norton granted the health system’s request on June 3, ordering Bundy to respond to the questions within 14 days, according to court documents.
That did not happen.
On June 24, an attorney for the hospital, Erik Stidham, of the firm Holland & Hart, said in a filing that Bundy had not responded to the court’s order “in any way,” a document said. The attorney asked the court to sanction Bundy and to require him to sit for a deposition or hold him in contempt.
Bundy has spoken about the lawsuit in the press, stating in an interview that the lawsuit is “an opportunity to further expose them because they are pretty wicked,” Stidham’s filing said.
An amended summons, filed by the Ada County clerk, said that the court could enter judgment against Bundy and the People’s Rights Network if the parties fail to respond to the lawsuit.
The latest filings were first reported by the Idaho Capital Sun.
Rodriguez also hasn’t responded
A process server attempted to serve Rodriguez with the lawsuit at four addresses in Meridian but could not locate him. The server also conducted “surveillance” at Bundy campaign fundraising event in Meridian in an attempt to locate Rodriguez. He was not there.
In an affidavit, Stidham said that “It appears that Mr. Rodriguez may no longer reside in Idaho.”
The attorney also noted that the state has filed a “significant tax lien” against Rodriguez, which the attorney said “creates concern that Mr. Rodriguez has left the state to avoid legal proceedings.”
A record of the lien, secured by the Idaho State Tax Commission and filed on Nov. 30, shows it amounted to $138,393.
Since the lawsuit was filed, Rodriguez has written posts on his website about the activity, saying the health system is suing for his efforts at “exposing” the hospital and its “very wicked hands.”
“It’s not that he’s not aware of (the lawsuit), he’s just purposefully trying to avoid engaging with the process,” Stidham told the Statesman by phone.
In a text message, Rodriguez told the Statesman that he is living in another country, and he accused the hospital and law firm representing them of corruption and lying.
“I have been out of the country and I am now a resident of another country where I will be for any future hearings,” he said. “But I am both happy and willing to participate in all court hearings via Zoom.”
Rodriguez did not say what country he has moved to. He previously told the Statesman he was moving to Florida.
He accused the Holland & Hart firm of “untold numbers of corrupt actions against the citizens of Idaho,” for actions related to work done for current and prior government officials.
He also said he has not made any false statements about the actions of the hospital or others involved in his grandson’s child welfare case, but he believes he will lose in court.
“With the odds stacked against me, it will not matter what evidence is presented at this court trial — I will lose. I accept that,” he said.
In an email, Stidham said it is time for Rodriguez to participate in the legal proceedings.
“While dodging the legal process, Mr. Rodriguez continues to manufacture baseless, incoherent conspiracy theories about the hospital, the state government, and law firms,” he said. “The time has come for Mr. Rodriguez to stop running away from accountability.”
St. Luke’s has filed a motion asking for service by publication, which would mean publishing a summons to Rodriguez in a local newspaper.
A hearing on that motion, as well as the request to sanction Bundy, is scheduled to be held on July 12.