Hocus pocus, free speech in focus

by Lee Hopkins on March 12, 2008 · 40 comments

in marketing

hbi-sott-lawsuit

Via the PRNewsChannel comes word that a website’s owner, who lives in France, is being sued by an Oregon man via the Oregon judicial system over what may have several implications for ‘freedom of speech’.

Founded in 2002, Signs of The Times is an alternative news research resource and news analysis site. Its founder, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, is being sued by ‘Higher Balance Institute’ (HBI), owned by Eric Pepin and based in Oregon.

HBI alleges that the operators of SOTT.net "published false and defamatory statements" regarding HBI and Eric Pepin on the SOTT Web site forum. Pepin is seeking approximately $4.5 million in damages.

The suit stems from information posted on the SOTT.net forums where globally-based forum participants uncovered and re-posted public-domain information and newspaper records showing that Pepin had recently faced numerous sexual abuse charges in an Oregon court involving a child and former employee of HBI. A grand jury found enough evidence to indict Pepin who admitted in court to having sexual relations with his employees.

According to The Oregonian newspaper Judge Steven L. Price, who presided over the case, stated that it was "probable that the conduct alleged in all counts occurred," but that the absence of a date stamp on a video proving that the events occurred while the complainant was still a minor meant that the allegations could not be proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. Judge Price was therefore obligated to acquit.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • Rhiannon

    Well, old age tactics, you say it!
    How about freedom of speech, and freedom of reporting official news and discussing it on the Net ?
    Let’s keep an eye on it, if the guru was to win, it could create a dangerous precedent. Internet freedom must be preserved.

  • Rhiannon

    Well, old age tactics, you say it!
    How about freedom of speech, and freedom of reporting official news and discussing it on the Net ?
    Let’s keep an eye on it, if the guru was to win, it could create a dangerous precedent. Internet freedom must be preserved.

  • Shar

    It’s a sad day when a public forum can be sued for discussing events that actually transpired.

  • Shar

    It’s a sad day when a public forum can be sued for discussing events that actually transpired.

  • navigante

    People have the right to know what kind of people are behind an institute who is supposed to care for the spiritual and wellbeing of their customers. A man charged of sexual abuses? Jeez, no wonder they want that information wiped out from the web.

  • navigante

    People have the right to know what kind of people are behind an institute who is supposed to care for the spiritual and wellbeing of their customers. A man charged of sexual abuses? Jeez, no wonder they want that information wiped out from the web.

  • glen

    I’m sure Mr Pepin would be quite disturbed with anyone that upsets his “new age applecart” that has been providing him with dollars and sex all these years.

    Perhaps a litte “practice what you preach” would be the best remedy for him.

  • glen

    I’m sure Mr Pepin would be quite disturbed with anyone that upsets his “new age applecart” that has been providing him with dollars and sex all these years.

    Perhaps a litte “practice what you preach” would be the best remedy for him.

  • Axel

    What a blatant attack on freedom of speech !

    Meanwhile, Pepin, the self proclaimed guru sells his snakes oil called Magneurol which displays a never ending list of benevolent properties.

    Here are some properties mentioned in his site (it would be funny if people’s health was not at stake):
    * Enhanced Focus
    * Optimized Memory
    * Dramatic Hearing Improvement
    * Vision Regeneration
    * More Energy
    * Relief of Depression
    * Enhanced Touch Sensory
    * Stress Reductions
    * Heightened Immune System
    * …

    By the way, can magneurol cure pedophilic tendencies ?

  • Axel

    What a blatant attack on freedom of speech !

    Meanwhile, Pepin, the self proclaimed guru sells his snakes oil called Magneurol which displays a never ending list of benevolent properties.

    Here are some properties mentioned in his site (it would be funny if people’s health was not at stake):
    * Enhanced Focus
    * Optimized Memory
    * Dramatic Hearing Improvement
    * Vision Regeneration
    * More Energy
    * Relief of Depression
    * Enhanced Touch Sensory
    * Stress Reductions
    * Heightened Immune System
    * …

    By the way, can magneurol cure pedophilic tendencies ?

  • http://sybervigilantes.blogspot.com/ cybervigilantes

    It is outrageous that this case is even accepted by a court at all. How can a website be penalised for forum posts that present publicly available information?

  • http://sybervigilantes.blogspot.com cybervigilantes

    It is outrageous that this case is even accepted by a court at all. How can a website be penalised for forum posts that present publicly available information?

  • Fiona

    Hmmm…yes, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I follow freedom of speech issues. These kinds of suits are very disturbing. It only takes one of these managing to get through the legal system to set a precedent that could have chilling effects on us all.

  • Fiona

    Hmmm…yes, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I follow freedom of speech issues. These kinds of suits are very disturbing. It only takes one of these managing to get through the legal system to set a precedent that could have chilling effects on us all.

  • http://leehopkins.net/ Lee Hopkins

    Nothing about the US legal system surprises me, but that is perhaps an outcome of having swallowed so many US legal tv shows over the years, that we in Australia believe that the US are completely litigation-crazy and barking mad.

    “By the way, can magneurol cure pedophilic tendencies ?” That HAS to be the comment of the week! Brilliant, Axel! :-)

  • http://leehopkins.net Lee Hopkins

    Nothing about the US legal system surprises me, but that is perhaps an outcome of having swallowed so many US legal tv shows over the years, that we in Australia believe that the US are completely litigation-crazy and barking mad.

    “By the way, can magneurol cure pedophilic tendencies ?” That HAS to be the comment of the week! Brilliant, Axel! :-)

  • Sally

    If HBI were to win this ridiculous case it would actually create a precedent I believe, and what that would result in for bloggers around the world, would be horrifying…..

  • Sally

    If HBI were to win this ridiculous case it would actually create a precedent I believe, and what that would result in for bloggers around the world, would be horrifying…..

  • landers53

    What amazes me is the fact that what the forum was discussing was already published news articles. This would lead one to ask why is it that this “guru” is not suing these newspapers? If he says that the forum is making false claims, and they are discussing published news articles, then the newspapers themselves must be making false claims as well. But obviously they are not.

    This is, without a doubt, an attack on freedom of speech.

  • landers53

    What amazes me is the fact that what the forum was discussing was already published news articles. This would lead one to ask why is it that this “guru” is not suing these newspapers? If he says that the forum is making false claims, and they are discussing published news articles, then the newspapers themselves must be making false claims as well. But obviously they are not.

    This is, without a doubt, an attack on freedom of speech.

  • neema

    “it will be interesting to see how this plays out”

    WTF you mean, come on people, it would be sick joke if it wasn’t so scary. There is only two ways this will “play out”. We will have more freedom or less! I know personally I can see the dire importance of such a case and will help by making a small donation to sott.net defense fund. I SUGGEST ANYONE ELSE WHO CARES ABOUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH DO THE SAME NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. There is info on their web page (sott.net) on how you can help. Hey anyone remember this:

    There are 3 kinds of people. Those who MAKE things happen. THOSE WHO WATCH WHAT HAPPENS. Those who WONDER what happened.

    This is it guys and gals the writing is on the wall, we must all participate and make things happen or we will watch others change things and we will end up wondering about what went wrong.

  • neema

    “it will be interesting to see how this plays out”

    WTF you mean, come on people, it would be sick joke if it wasn’t so scary. There is only two ways this will “play out”. We will have more freedom or less! I know personally I can see the dire importance of such a case and will help by making a small donation to sott.net defense fund. I SUGGEST ANYONE ELSE WHO CARES ABOUT FREEDOM OF SPEECH DO THE SAME NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. There is info on their web page (sott.net) on how you can help. Hey anyone remember this:

    There are 3 kinds of people. Those who MAKE things happen. THOSE WHO WATCH WHAT HAPPENS. Those who WONDER what happened.

    This is it guys and gals the writing is on the wall, we must all participate and make things happen or we will watch others change things and we will end up wondering about what went wrong.

  • Frank

    Unfortunately for the accused, the “Old Age legal tactics” used against them end up costing time and money, each of which one would suspect is in short supply for most independent, alternative news sites.

    Most alternative news sites run on shoestring budgets and have a limited number of resources. Resources, which are likely already spread thin attempting to provide objective reporting against the flood of mega-media commodity reporting, are faced with the burden of having to defend their research. Effort which would normally be exerted on research and reporting now must be shifted to dealing with defense.

    In addition, legal defense costs would dip into operating funds which are likely fairly tight, since most alternative news outlets operate on donations or similar financial support. Even if the case were to be successfully defended, the brunt of the financial burden may be more than the site owners can realistically absorb.

    Let’s hope people step up to support these sites since the “Old Age legal tactics” could be the modus operendi for taking down other popular alternative news outlets in the future.

  • Frank

    Unfortunately for the accused, the “Old Age legal tactics” used against them end up costing time and money, each of which one would suspect is in short supply for most independent, alternative news sites.

    Most alternative news sites run on shoestring budgets and have a limited number of resources. Resources, which are likely already spread thin attempting to provide objective reporting against the flood of mega-media commodity reporting, are faced with the burden of having to defend their research. Effort which would normally be exerted on research and reporting now must be shifted to dealing with defense.

    In addition, legal defense costs would dip into operating funds which are likely fairly tight, since most alternative news outlets operate on donations or similar financial support. Even if the case were to be successfully defended, the brunt of the financial burden may be more than the site owners can realistically absorb.

    Let’s hope people step up to support these sites since the “Old Age legal tactics” could be the modus operendi for taking down other popular alternative news outlets in the future.

  • Andres

    More than interesting, the way this plays out will be vital for the rest of us cyber-speakers. I mean, if a self-proclaimed guru with cash can shut down any forum who comments on articles about him – articles that were already in the public domain – then we can all kiss our Internet discussions good bye.

    Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on this guy who claims to have had sex with almost the entirety of his staff and who sells telepathic pills??

  • Andres

    More than interesting, the way this plays out will be vital for the rest of us cyber-speakers. I mean, if a self-proclaimed guru with cash can shut down any forum who comments on articles about him – articles that were already in the public domain – then we can all kiss our Internet discussions good bye.

    Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on this guy who claims to have had sex with almost the entirety of his staff and who sells telepathic pills??

  • hu

    Greed is as old as adam and eve. As long greed exist , there will be people who seek spiritual solutions like psychic pills , so the suppliers and they are ready go as far as having sex. It’s all ridiculous to see this guy diverting the fall of his fortune from his sex scanadal to forum comments to get the so called compensation.

  • hu

    Greed is as old as adam and eve. As long greed exist , there will be people who seek spiritual solutions like psychic pills , so the suppliers and they are ready go as far as having sex. It’s all ridiculous to see this guy diverting the fall of his fortune from his sex scanadal to forum comments to get the so called compensation.

  • Robert

    It reminds me of this woman who bought a house near an airport in Van Nuys, CA. She kept complaining about the airplanes flying over and making noise, and decided to file lawsuits. By doing this, she was able to change the flight times. But, this was because she kept using up the resources of the city there, which could not stop her from filing suits for small things, even if she keeps losing. What kind of legal system do we have where people can file frivolous lawsuits without penalties? Where does this “legal” intimidation stop? It’s a sad thing to be able to influence sites such as http://www.sott.net by trying to run them dry with frivolous lawsuits!

  • Robert

    It reminds me of this woman who bought a house near an airport in Van Nuys, CA. She kept complaining about the airplanes flying over and making noise, and decided to file lawsuits. By doing this, she was able to change the flight times. But, this was because she kept using up the resources of the city there, which could not stop her from filing suits for small things, even if she keeps losing. What kind of legal system do we have where people can file frivolous lawsuits without penalties? Where does this “legal” intimidation stop? It’s a sad thing to be able to influence sites such as http://www.sott.net by trying to run them dry with frivolous lawsuits!

  • Silbury

    Well said neema – this is a critical case for freedom to win. Sott.net must be supported.

    It’s insane that a public forum where public domain information is freely discussed should be subject to this sort of very serious legal harrassment. The fact that such a case can even be brought is a sad (but accurate) indictment of the legal systems we live under. When a man of Pepin’s record can bring such a case just because somebody is backing him – resulting in the draining of scarce respurces from the voices of freedom – it is an ample demonstration that the system itself is psychopathic.

    What a world when psychopaths roam freely and the legal system supports them. “The meek shall inherit the earth” – where did it all go wrong?

  • Silbury

    Well said neema – this is a critical case for freedom to win. Sott.net must be supported.

    It’s insane that a public forum where public domain information is freely discussed should be subject to this sort of very serious legal harrassment. The fact that such a case can even be brought is a sad (but accurate) indictment of the legal systems we live under. When a man of Pepin’s record can bring such a case just because somebody is backing him – resulting in the draining of scarce respurces from the voices of freedom – it is an ample demonstration that the system itself is psychopathic.

    What a world when psychopaths roam freely and the legal system supports them. “The meek shall inherit the earth” – where did it all go wrong?

  • Moku

    It is apparent that the “Guru” has been exposed for the fraud that he truly is, now the predator(Mr. Pepin) wants revenge for this negative exposure. The SOTT discussion forum has presented facts based on data. Leaving the reader to make an informed choice based on free will. Where is the crime in thinking for one’s self, based on facts
    The system is truly psychopathic

  • Moku

    It is apparent that the “Guru” has been exposed for the fraud that he truly is, now the predator(Mr. Pepin) wants revenge for this negative exposure. The SOTT discussion forum has presented facts based on data. Leaving the reader to make an informed choice based on free will. Where is the crime in thinking for one’s self, based on facts
    The system is truly psychopathic

  • Huron

    Each time the wolves can keep the deer from comparing notes, it gets easier for the wolves. SOTT is dedicated to warning about and exposing the wolves. Please support their defense fund at http://www.sott.net

    This is for all of us.

  • Huron

    Each time the wolves can keep the deer from comparing notes, it gets easier for the wolves. SOTT is dedicated to warning about and exposing the wolves. Please support their defense fund at http://www.sott.net

    This is for all of us.

  • Huron

    A most excellent outcome!!!
    http://www.sott.net/articles/show/171245-Oregon-Judge-SLAPPS-Self-proclaimed-Guru-Landmark-Victory-for-SOTT-net-Internet-Free-Speech

    Oregon Judge SLAPPS Self-proclaimed Guru – Landmark Victory for SOTT.net, Internet Free Speech

    “Portland, Oregon new age guru Eric Pepin’s attempt to silence online critics was defeated Thursday (18 Dec.) as Portland based federal Judge Ancer Haggerty dismissed a defamation suit brought by Pepin’s organization, Higher Balance Institute, against an Internet forum that had published critical comments. (Read the Opinion and Order of Judge Haggerty HERE) ”

    Check out the rest at the link above. A great day for Free Speech, but the battle rages on!

  • Huron

    A most excellent outcome!!!
    http://www.sott.net/articles/show/171245-Oregon-Judge-SLAPPS-Self-proclaimed-Guru-Landmark-Victory-for-SOTT-net-Internet-Free-Speech

    Oregon Judge SLAPPS Self-proclaimed Guru – Landmark Victory for SOTT.net, Internet Free Speech

    “Portland, Oregon new age guru Eric Pepin’s attempt to silence online critics was defeated Thursday (18 Dec.) as Portland based federal Judge Ancer Haggerty dismissed a defamation suit brought by Pepin’s organization, Higher Balance Institute, against an Internet forum that had published critical comments. (Read the Opinion and Order of Judge Haggerty HERE) ”

    Check out the rest at the link above. A great day for Free Speech, but the battle rages on!

  • Awapuhi

    A great day for Free Speech indeed! It is nice to see justice prevail!

  • Awapuhi

    A great day for Free Speech indeed! It is nice to see justice prevail!

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