A Thurston County Superior Court Judge on Friday declined to compel the naming of an alleged witness of a contract murder in the court case between JZK, Inc. and Virginia Coverdale.
Judge Gary Tabor also ruled Coverdale could videotape JZ Knight's deposition and ruled that Coverdale couldn't amend her counterclaims against JZK, Inc.
The court case stems from a video Coverdale posted to YouTube late last year that showed Yelm channeler JZ Knight channeling Ramtha, a purported 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior, while making derogatory comments about Catholics, gays and Jews. Knight's company, JZK, Inc., sued Coverdale for breach of contract.
According to court documents, Coverdale allegedly posted on a Facebook group that she had spoken to a woman who claimed her husband murdered someone in Tenino, allegedly at the request of JZ Knight.
Lawyers for JZK, Inc. asked Coverdale to name the alleged witness during a deposition interview and she refused, according to court documents.
According to a court transcript, Tabor said on Friday that he was contacted by two Thurston County Sheriff's Office detectives the day before, and told them he "didn't believe it was appropriate for me to receive any information from them" about the alleged contract murder witness.
"I then posed a hypothetical, and I said hypothetically speaking, if you were involved in an investigation, would it be your opinion that that matter would remain confidential until such time as you were ready to make decisions? And they indicated yes."
He said the detectives indicated if they were contacted by an attorney, they would tell them if they were involved in an investigation.
JZK, Inc. Lawyer Jeffrey Grant proposed deferring the motion "in light of ... (the judge's) comments that there are detectives willing to speak with the lawyers in the civil action. Let us follow that step first."
Grant said on Monday that he was still waiting to hear back from the detectives.
"Even if the detectives tell us, we may need to still make sure we're talking about the same thing," he said.
Grant said the issue was brought up during Coverdale's deposition because it related to her credibility.
"If Ms. Coverdale is making ... statements about somebody else that are hurtful or alarming and turn out not to be true, that's alarming," he said. "It kind of undermines the credibility of people on other issues if they're willing to make outlandish statements that are just not true. To accuse anybody or to tell others that somebody allegedly arranged for a contract murder, that's kind of a strong statement and if it turns out not to be true, I mean, that's what we're trying to find out.
"It's probably safe to say that we're pretty skeptical that any ... (investigation) is focusing on the school or JZ Knight, but we'll find out," he added. "That's what we're trying to do."
Breckan Scott, Coverdale's lawyer, asserted on Tuesday that the detectives' conversation with Tabor lent credibility to her client. She questioned the relevance of the allegation to the lawsuit.
"To now raise this tangential issue in this proceeding completely conflicts with their claim throughout that this is a simple breach of contract case and for those reasons we believe it's completely irrelevant and inappropriate to insert the alleged contract murder allegation into this case," she said.
"We are confident that Ms. Coverdale accurately reported the facts and circumstances of which she was informed. So, assuming that she did accurately report the facts and circumstances, and the detectives accurately convey that to plaintiff's counsel, we do not believe that there will be any need for any further motions to compel regarding disclosure of the witness."
Tabor also ruled Knight's deposition could be videotaped. He placed limitations on how the video could be used.
Grant argued in court that "there is substantial evidence that justifies the concern that our client has about the likelihood of harm that will or could occur if her deposition is videotaped."
He said if the video were disseminated, "the harm is done. There is no real adequate basis to claw it back. Once it's out, it's out."
That could be intentional or by error, he said, noting that in February the defendant inadvertently disseminated JZK, Inc.'s proprietary financial information, and in March distributed transcripts of Coverdale's deposition.
He stressed that he did not object to the defense having access to a written transcript of Knight's deposition.
Scott said Coverdale's former lawyer, Shawn Newman, documented in a declaration multiple attempts to schedule a video deposition of Knight. She questioned why the issue of barring a video deposition wasn't raised in a previous motion seeking to limit the scope and duration of Knight's deposition.
Scott said she also offered to keep the video at her office and only allow people to view it there.
"We're not disseminating anything prior to trial," she said, adding she expects the court to make additional rulings regarding the fate of discovery materials after the trial.
Civil rules dictate that a videographer store the video "under conditions that will protect it against loss or destruction or tampering and shall preserve it, as far as practicable, the quality of the tape and the technical integrity of the testimony and images it contains," Tabor said.
Additionally, he ordered the video only be available to the attorneys in their offices.
"So I am not saying you can't show somebody a copy of the video, but it has to be in your office," he said. "You are not to send it in the mail or email to anybody else or send it somewhere other than in your offices."
Tabor denied Coverdale's motion to amend her counterclaims, including adding a claim under the Consumer Protection Act.
"If she was fraudulently induced by the business practices of an organization which were unfair and deceptive to enter into that contract, and to maintain her membership in the organization, that is a Consumer Protection Act violation and an ongoing Consumer Protection Act violation which is intrinsically linked and inseparable from the issues of fact and law in this case," Scott argued.
Grant said it was inappropriate for Coverdale to redefine the scope of the case.
"(W)e are faced with the prospect of having a reasonably narrow legal and factual case converted into something else," Grant stated. "This is our case. It's a breach of contract."
He said she was free to make her own claims in her own lawsuit, but not in JZK, Inc.'s lawsuit.
Tabor ruled that Coverdale's existing counterclaims could move forward, but declined to allow new counterclaims.