‘Kidnapped’: Family at center of Bundy-led protests sues St. Luke’s, police, Idaho agency

The parents of the baby at the center of a child welfare case that prompted protests at hospitals led by far-right activist Ammon Bundy have filed a lawsuit naming St. Luke’s Health System, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the city of Meridian and several individuals.

The lawsuit was filed March 27 by Marissa and Levi Anderson, the parents of the 10-month-old who was separated from them on March 11, 2022, after health authorities determined the child’s weight loss could threaten his life. Roughly a week after the state took custody of the child, he was returned to the Andersons.

Diego Rodriguez, the child’s grandfather and a close associate of Bundy’s, and Miranda Chavoya, the child’s aunt, also are plaintiffs in the suit, which asks for $10 million in damages.

The time in between the baby’s separation and return was marked by protests stirred by Bundy and Rodriguez — first at the St. Luke’s hospital in Meridian and then at its Boise complex. Bundy was arrested for his actions at the Meridian facility, and protests in Boise caused the hospital to go into lockdown. The health system later sued Bundy, Rodriguez and Bundy’s People’s Rights Network, winning over $50 million in damages.

The Andersons’ case was initially brought in Florida, where they now live, but an Orlando judge transferred the venue to Idaho because the events occurred here and because the defendants reside in the Gem State, according to a court order.

The plaintiffs had argued that the case couldn’t be heard in Idaho because of “extreme bias” against them based on the defamation lawsuit that St. Luke’s filed and won. Neither Bundy nor Rodriguez ever came to court.

“I owe St. Luke’s nothing,” Bundy told the Idaho Statesman following the jury verdict. He eventually lost his house in Emmett, and he and his family fled the state.

Bundy and Rodriguez, as well as St. Luke’s, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the family’s lawsuit.

What happened in the child welfare case?

The baby’s pediatrician had recommended the boy be taken to the hospital in the winter of 2022 because he was having trouble digesting proteins and was losing weight. He was hospitalized for “severe malnourishment,” a news release from the Meridian Police Department said, and was discharged a few days later after gaining some weight.

When his parents failed to bring him to a scheduled follow-up with the pediatrician, the case was referred to Health and Welfare, and police were contacted.

Police from Boise, Meridian and Garden City stopped the Andersons at a Garden City gas station and took the child into custody because authorities believed the child to be in danger of imminent harm, the news release said.

Marissa Anderson previously told the statesman in an interview that she was not feeling well and had called the doctor to reschedule. When law enforcement stopped the family, she repeatedly told police she would not hand over her child, and she was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor resisting or obstructing officers. The baby was taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s in Meridian, and the charges against Marissa were later dropped.

Bundy put out a call to his People’s Rights Network group, and more than 20 people gathered at the hospital’s entrance to protest. He was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing and Rodriguez was arrested on one count of misdemeanor resisting or obstructing officers. Bundy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The protests later shifted to St. Luke’s in Boise, where Bundy’s followers carried picket signs and forced the hospital into lockdown. There also were protests at the courthouse and at Health and Welfare headquarters.

New court documents claim the infant was ‘abducted’

The lawsuit from the family against St. Luke’s, the state agency and others alleged that the child received poor treatment at the hospital and was “left in a pool of his own vomit.”

It accused the health system and the city of Meridian of “abducting” the boy and keeping him from his mother, causing her physical harm and distress, as “political retaliation” against Bundy and Rodriguez. The complaint alleged that Health and Welfare was aware “there was no evidence of danger or injury” to the child, but received compensation for ordering him into custody anyway.

“Defendants failed to release the infant victim within twenty-four hours after he had been unlawfully seized, confined, kidnapped, abducted and carried away,” the lawsuit said.

The rules of the Idaho Child Protection Act were not followed, according to the suit, which also made claims of misconduct, negligent training, abuse of process, unlawful arrest, intentional battery, excessive force and defamation. It also alleged sexual abuse — claiming a police officer groped Marissa Anderson under the guise of patting her down for weapons.

The lawsuit named several individuals as defendants: Dave Jeppesen, recently retired director of Health and Welfare; Tracy Jungman, nurse practitioner at St. Luke’s; Roxanne Printz, social worker at Health and Welfare; Kelsey Johnston, Meridian police spokesperson; Jeff Fuller, Meridian Police Department detective; Steven Hansen, Meridian detective; Sean King, former Caldwell Police Department officer; Kenneth Caygle, Meridian police officer; Christopher McGilvery, Meridian police sergeant; and Tracy Basterrechea, Meridian’s police chief.

Bill Nary, an attorney for the city of Meridian, told the Statesman by phone that the city would let the matter play out in court.

“We feel that the officers acted appropriately and followed the court’s orders,” he said.

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