‘Witness harassment’: St. Luke’s filings show what led to Ammon Bundy arrest warrant
After becoming the target of far-right activist Ammon Bundy and his followers, a St. Luke’s nurse practitioner installed a security system in her home, according to court documents.
She avoided going to the grocery store, posting on social media or wearing her St. Luke’s badge outside of work. She didn’t want her children to spend the night at her home.
“I have experienced flashbacks accompanied by physical symptoms, reoccurring memories and nightmares, difficulty sleeping, distressing thoughts, and physical signs of distress such as racing heart, tightness of chest, and difficulty breathing,” Tracy Jungman wrote in a court document.
At least three witnesses are unwilling to testify in St. Luke’s Health System’s defamation lawsuit against Bundy, associate Diego Rodriguez and related entities because they fear the tactics used by the former gubernatorial candidate and his followers, according to St. Luke’s attorney Erik Stidham.
It is those alleged actions, and not Bundy’s refusal to respond to the lawsuit in state court, that led to an arrest warrant being issued by a judge last week. Stidham said the warrant is the result of Bundy’s failure to follow a court order barring the defendants from “witness harassment” and intimidation.
“I understand that others are unwilling to serve as witnesses because they are concerned for their own safety and the safety of their families,” Dr. Natasha Erickson, a pediatrician and plaintiff in the lawsuit, stated in a May 2 affidavit. “It seems completely unfair and unjust that my ability to pursue my legal claims is being undercut because Rodriguez, Bundy, PRN, and Freedom Man Press are allowed to bully, intimidate, and threaten witnesses.”
St. Luke’s filed its lawsuit last May after Bundy and Rodriguez led protests at the Boise hospital over a child welfare case involving Rodriguez’s grandchild, the Idaho Statesman previously reported. The lawsuit names as defendants those two men, Bundy’s People’s Rights Network, and other business entities affiliated with them.
Rodriguez runs a website called FreedomMan.org that is full of blog posts and other references to the child welfare case and St. Luke’s.
The suit claims that the defendants posted lies about the hospital system online and did so in part to raise money and gain a bigger political following.
Immediately after the protests, the hospital spent $4.6 million to hire 11 new full-time security employees, and purchase and test security equipment including bulletproof vests, CS spray gel, tasers, body cameras and drones, according to new court filings.
In December, 4th District Judge Lynn Norton issued a protection order prohibiting any defendants or agents of the defendants from using direct or indirect force to intimidate, threaten or harass anyone who had testified in the case or might be called as a witness. They also were prohibited from trying to influence, deter, obstruct or impede potential witnesses.
Bundy repeatedly violated that order through online statements, St. Luke’s argued in a 300-page document packed with examples. He has also refused to remove certain web pages about people involved in the lawsuit — in violation of a cease and desist notice — including a call to action and a post titled “Come No More Upon Me, A Warning Letter From Ammon Bundy.”
Included in the St. Luke’s filings was a March affidavit from Spencer Fomby, a recently retired Boise Police Department captain, stating that he believed the actions of Bundy and the People’s Rights Network were creating a “serious life-threatening danger to the targets.”
“It is my opinion that extremist groups like People’s Rights Network have a playbook that involves the intentional use of misinformation and disinformation to radicalize others to take action, including violent action, against individuals identified by the extremist group,” Fomby said in the affidavit.
Norton ruled that Bundy had defied the order and issued the arrest warrant.
That led to some back-and-forth regarding the Gem County Sheriff’s Office serving legal papers to Bundy, and then to essentially what has become a stalemate at Bundy’s property in Gem County.
Ammon Bundy’s history, rhetoric
Known for armed standoffs with federal officials in Nevada in 2014 and Oregon in 2016, Bundy has not explicitly threatened violence against those involved in the St. Luke’s lawsuit. But the hospital says that his online speech labeling them as “wicked” enemies, coupled with statements that violence is sometimes necessary when defending oneself, show the danger.
“There is no silver bullet to securing liberty,” Bundy wrote in February. “It is going to take unity, suffering, and the willingness to use violence in defense, like it always has. Stop believing that some convention or other plot is the answer. Stop thinking that the courts or elected representatives are going to save us.”
Gem County Sheriff Donnie Wunder said at one point that he wouldn’t serve Bundy with court papers. Wunder said Bundy was avoiding those trying to serve him and was confrontational when they succeeded in contacting him. St. Luke’s and Wunder said in a joint statement last week that they were concerned about the situation escalating and “agree that Mr. Bundy poses a real threat of physical violence.”
In online writings and videos, Bundy sometimes seems to be trying to play the role of a weary martyr.
“After Thursday’s confrontation with the Gem County sheriff deputies, I feel like they are going to keep pushing and pushing until I become what they say I am,” he wrote in an April blog post.
In the “Come No More Upon Me” letter, Bundy named Stidham and St. Luke’s CEO Chris Roth, among other people, and warned them to “come no more upon me or my family.” He warned them “in the name of Jesus Christ” that he would be patient three times, but after that, “God will deliver them into my hands.”
“I pray every day to my Father In Heaven for the resolve to remain peaceful, but feel I have the justification to call upon my friends and defend myself by any means, even though I have no intention at this point to do so,” Bundy said in the letter.
Roth, Erickson and others allege that they have been affected by Bundy’s behavior.
“The false accusations and doxxing caused and continue to cause me mental distress and reputational harm,” Erickson said in her court filing. “These public accusations of kidnapping and harming children have adversely affected my sleep patterns and created anxiety and stress. These defamatory actions, coupled with the incitements to harass me and my family and implied threats of violence from Defendants’ followers, have had a traumatic effect.”
After the warrant was issued, Bundy sent several messages to his followers, calling them to come to his aid and hosting events on his property. Long lines of vehicles have been seen outside his home.
The Gem County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that deputies have visited Bundy’s Emmett house but have not arrested or located him. A video posted by a Bundy follower on Tuesday showed a deputy leaving papers at the property and telling the person holding the camera to let Bundy know he had been served.
Wunder did not respond to the Statesman’s emails and phone calls.
Co-defendant Diego Rodriguez also accused of harassment
The St. Luke’s plaintiffs on Tuesday filed a request for a contempt of court order against Rodriguez, claiming that he also was harassing and intimidating witnesses and parties to the case. Court filings show that Rodriguez has kept up a steady stream of online posts aimed at those involved.
His most recent filing was April 27, when he took shots at the judge, Roth, Erickson and others.
An April 4 blog post on the Freedom Man website targets the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and its director, Dave Jeppesen, and is littered with homophobic rants.
The department’s child welfare chief, Kristen Nate — labeled by Rodriguez as “a vindictive, angry, Christian hating, political leftist, who loves power and seeks every opportunity to destroy godly families” — said the website posted a photo of her mother and a photoshopped image of Nate pointing a gun at Rodriguez’s family.
The website accused Erickson of kidnapping and abuse, and called her a “destroyer of families.” Like many involved, her photo and identifying information were posted to Freedom Man.
In her affidavit, Erickson said she was disappointed that the court was not enforcing the protective order.
“My family and I have received no protection,” Erickson wrote. “If anything, it feels like the harassment and intimidation have increased since the Protective Order was put in place. Bundy, Rodriguez, PRN, and Freedom Man Press seem to have escalated and spread their false narrative of kidnapping and conspiracy and have increased the false statements that are directed at me.”