Saturday, April 21, 2012

Can You Say RICO.......Will HSUS Be Bullhooked for Millions in Legal Fees?

April 19, 2012

The ongoing legal drama between a set of animal rights groups and Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros. circus, has taken a saucy new turn. And it looks like the animal rights activists and their lawyers could soon be neck-deep in elephant dung.
First, a quick review. Animal rights activists brought a lawsuit against Feld in 2000 alleging elephant abuse in violation of the Endangered Species Act, with former Feld trainer Tom Rider as a key witness and plaintiff. After years of legal wrangling, D.C. federal judge Emmet Sullivan threw out the lawsuit in late 2009, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing and—more importantly—that Rider was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible” after receiving at least $190,000 from the animal rights cabal, his sole source of income as the case made its way through the courts. A US Court of Appeals recently upheld the dismissal. (Read the full opinion here.)
Feld returned fire, filing a racketeering lawsuit that hinges on the court’s findings. How the alleged scheme worked, according to Sullivan’s 2009 ruling, was essentially that counsel for plaintiffs' law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein, and Crystal ran a nonprofit called the “Wildlife Advocacy Project” (WAP) and other groups funneled money through it to Rider. (Rider also allegedly received payments directly from animal rights group plaintiffs and through MGC.)
HSUS fits in because the Fund for Animals was a plaintiff in the suit against Feld, and merged with HSUS in 2004/2005. Fund chief—now an HSUS executive—Michael Markarian also apparently fits into the equation, according to Sullivan’s ruling:
Beginning in December 2001 and continuing until at least the beginning of 2008, the organizational plaintiffs made payments to WAP for the purpose of funding Mr. Rider. While FFA/HSUS (Mr. Markarian) testified that it was not certain whether WAP used its “donations” for other purposes as well, this testimony is undermined by the documents underlying FFA/HSUS’s “donations,” which indicate that the money was specifically for use in connection with this litigation. FFA/HSUS’s testimony also is questionable given that in 2003, plaintiffs’ counsel, Ms. Meyer, specifically sent an email to the representatives of the organizational plaintiffs, including Mr. Markarian, requesting funds to support Mr. Rider’s advocacy efforts regarding the elephants and the lawsuit, and expressly suggesting that the funds for Mr. Rider could be contributed to WAP so that they would be tax deductible.
Also named in the racketeering lawsuit are HSUS attorney Kimberly Ockene and HSUS Senior Vice President Jonathan Lovvorn, both of whom used to work at Meyer, Glitzenstein, and Crystal and were plaintiff attorneys during the Endangered Species Act complaint. In fact, Feld’s attorneys allege that money was taken out of an HSUS bank account and earmarked for Rider.
So what’s new?
Last week Feld’s attorneys filed a motion in the original case—not the racketeering case—demanding that the plaintiffs pay for legal fees that Feld accrued, totaling an estimated $20 million. Defending a lawsuit for a decade tends to be an expensive endeavor, after all.
This could be a double-whammy for HSUS. It could be on the hook for a good chunk of the $20 million in legal fees. Additionally, Feld is seeking treble damages under RICO against HSUS and the other defendants in the separate racketeering lawsuit—so add another $60 million to the potential pot.
And that’s not all.
Feld’s attorneys are also asking the court to officially sanction the attorneys for their conduct. They allege that “Not only did counsel bring fraudulent (Rider) and frivolous (API) claims, they doggedly pursued them for more than eleven years.” Feld alleges that the plaintiffs knew that their key witness was unreliable and “each and every step of the way counsel had an opportunity to drop either Rider or API or both (and put an end to FEI’s mounting legal expenses). Yet they did not. Instead, they embraced Rider’s lies and API’s meritless and hollow allegations…”
And since the court is apparently allowed to hold the attorneys jointly and severally liable for the estimated $20 million in legal fees (if the court rules the plaintiffs should pay it), that means HSUS, Lovvorn, and Ockene, among others, could have quite the bill, along with a bench-slap to go with it.
We encourage you to read the whole motion for all the intricacies and details. When there’s a ruling, we’ll be sure you’re among the first to know.
Humane Watch Team

Hey Duncan, I've found a couple of "unlikely hero's" for you.  Right here, pal........

Talking Animals
A radio show about animals and animal issues manned by Duncan

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Unlikely Hero Gives Voice To Elephants Who Can't Voice Their Own Complaints

At first glance, you wouldn't necessarily peg Tom Rider as a guy speaking up for animals and educating the public in the process.

I mean, he doesn't cut the dashing figure of, say, Wayne Pacelle, the handsome, dapper honcho of the Humane Society of The U.S.

Rider's rounder, more rumpled.

But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and many would say that Rider, who was my guest on the Jan. 7 edition of "Talking Animals," has done heroic work on behalf of circus elephants--particularly those forced to sing for their supper in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus--for many years.

In 1997, Rider went to work for Ringling caring for the elephants, and over the course of a two 1/2 year stint, became a whistleblower after witnessing the daily abuse of those pacyhderms.'FYI, PACHYDERMS.' That abuse involved the elephants being immobilized by chains for most of the day (often unchained only long enough to perform), and for even longer periods in the trains that transport the Ringling units, which means the elephants are forced to stand for hours in their own waste.

Worse--as has been widely documented in video pieces and by Rider (who reiterated this in our interview) and other Ringling whistleblowers--these wonderful, intelligent, complex creatures are repeatedly beaten with an ankus or bullhook which is heavy and club-like 'I'VE GOT YOUR HEAVY AND CLUB-LIKE RIGHT HERE.  WHY DON'T YOU HEAVY AND CLUB-LIKE THIS, DUNK......' and has a pointy, sharp tip 'THAT'S WHAT MY 5 YEAR OLD SON SAID WHEN HE GOT HIS FIRST GRADE SCHOOL SHOT'S.  LOL'   Imagine a heavy and sharp fireplace poker. (I've done a Ringling-related show each year since I launched "Talking Animals" in 2003, and I've written on this topic for The Huffington Post and elsewhere.)

Tom Rider is now a central figure in a federal lawsuit brought against Ringling by multiple animal groups (including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA], The Fund for Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Animal Protection Institute ) for mistreatment of the elephants under the Endangered Species Act.


That suit is slated to resume--some would say commence-- February 3 in Washington, DC.

In an odd intersection of heroic with nomadic, Rider essentially lives in his 80s Volkswagen bus,'GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, DUNK!!!!!  YOUR "ODD INTERSECTION OF HEROIC WITH NOMADIC" IS INTERPRETED AS HOMELESS AND DESTITUTE  IN EVERY OTHER PART OF SOCIETY EXCEPT YOUR PRIVATE IDAHO' traveling to where one of the Ringling units is performing, making himself available to local media types and anyone else interested in hearing('SOUNDS LIKE JAYNE MANSFIELD, DOESN'T IT KING OF AQUARIA?') the dark truth about the life of circus animals.

Filling this role ain't exactly a get-rich scheme. Indeed, it would appear that Rider maintains a hand-to-mouth existence.  'SHUT THE MIKE OFF, AND PAY ATTENTION, DUNK.'

Joined by his daughter, whom he's been visiting in recent days, he had driven a considerable distance to join me in-studio for the "Talking Animals" interview, but wasn't sticking around for opening night of Ringling's Tampa engagement because his VW bus has a bum starter he can't afford to get fixed and he didn't want to get stranded in the dark, especially with rain forecast for the evening.

I offered to take them to lunch after the show--under the circumstances, seemed like the least I could do--but he politely declined, mostly because they needed to get back so his daughter could sort out a problem with her food stamps.

So, again, it's safe to say that speaking for the elephants--and against Ringling--has not served as a lucrative gambit for Rider. It's just something he feels compelled to do. 'HEY DUNK, NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, LISTEN UP.  RIDER WAS PAID $190,000,000!!!!!  I WOULD LIKE YOU TO INTERPRET "NON-LUCRATIVE GAMBIT" FOR ME, PLEASE.  ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY THOUSAND DOLLARS SEEMS KIND OF COMPELLING, DON'T YOU AGREE?  HELL, I WOULD THINK YOU COULD UPGRADE A VOLKSWAGEN BUS TO A DOUBLE WIDE, AND LIVE LIKE A HERO WITH THAT KIND OF MONEY!!!!!'  As he noted in our interview, he plans to walk into that courtroom Feb. 3 and testify under oath, in large part because none of the affected elephants (even the ones still alive) can do so. 'MAYBE THE GRATEFUL ELEPHANTS, IF THERE ARE ANY STILL ALIVE, WILL RECIPROCATE IN KIND WHEN THE IRS ASKS TOM IF HE FILLED THE "NON-LUCRATIVE GAMBIT?  HE WILL NEED A FORCEFUL SURROGATE IN THAT WITNESS BOX.  HERO OR NOT........'

Those elephants will have a very forceful surrogate in that witness box.


Anonymous said...

Maybe one day those who constantly harp on the Felds and what they think they should be doing with their shows will see that they are the ONLY ones with the money and balls to fight the mega wealth of HSUS and Peta. If there are any animals left in the circus at the end of this decade, it will be because of the efforts of the Felds and no one else.

Wade G. Burck said...

Well said, 'If there are any animals left in the circus at the end of this decade, it will be because of the efforts of the Felds and no one else.' When Hawthorn was spending millions dealing with their "problem", deserved or not, it is not for me to judge, an attempt was made to solicit funds/help from others in the industry. It was only attempted as no funds/help were forthcoming, and Hawthorn plead no contest, and cut their losses. The weak minded bitch about the rich and they sure love to see them twist in the wind. Situation reversed, they whine children and play the pity card all day long.