Circus Lawsuits - A Three Ring Circus!
Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus battles “animal rights” terrorists, protecting our right to wholesome family entertainment and Elephant Conservation.
Aug 28 2007 | TheDogPress.com
Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-In-Chief
Feld Entertainment, Inc., today filed a lawsuit against the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and other animal rights organizations charging conspiracy and numerous violations of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
The RICO lawsuit is a direct result of the discovery of more than $100,000 in payments to Tom Rider who was a plaintiff in litigation filed by various animal rights groups against Feld Entertainment in 2000. The lawsuit alleges that Rider, a former Feld Entertainment employee, and the other activist defendants engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity consisting in part of payments to Rider through an organization controlled by the defendants' lawyers. The lawsuit alleges that under RICO, these payments constituted bribes and illegal gratuity payments. The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants took actions to conceal their conduct.
Feld Entertainment's lawsuit sets forth the alleged facts in detail. In addition to the claim that Rider is a "paid plaintiff," the lawsuit alleges that the defendants committed various illegal acts, including bribery, obstruction of justice, wire fraud and mail fraud, making them all subject to the federal RICO statute.
"This lawsuit is a direct result of the animal rights extremists' agenda to deny U.S. families entertainment choices like the circus and their ongoing conspiracy to harm Feld Entertainment," stated Stephen Payne, a spokesperson for Feld Entertainment. “Feld Entertainment looks forward to proving to a jury the magnitude and scope of the defendants' conduct." (see details below)
The defendants named in the lawsuit include the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), The Fund for Animals (FFA), the Animal Protection Institute (API), the Wildlife Advocacy Project (WAP) and Tom Rider.
PETA Sues Circus for Conspiracy
HELLO???? Wasn't PETA paying attention? Ringling Bros. Circus just filed suit against the SPCA, now PETA wants publicity.
NORFOLK - Sept 2007 The circus may have left town that Sunday, but the show continued in a Northern Virginia courtroom. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is suing the head of the parent company of Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows Inc. for conspiring to infiltrate and harm its operations.
PETA's civil suit against Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, alleges that Feld and numerous associates orchestrated a protracted "massive conspiracy" against PETA and other animal-rights groups. The suit claims that these associates - including Feld employees, private investigators and a former top CIA official - infiltrated PETA and other animal-rights groups over a period of years in order to steal documents, monitor their activities, distract them from their missions, finance opposition groups and otherwise hamper their work.
PETA claims these crimes were committed because of the group's longtime campaign for the rights of circus animals, particularly elephants. The conspiracy charges included breaking and entering, burglaries, wiretaps, document theft, and planting and supervising undercover operatives, according to the suit.
These tactics are the same Feld has been accused of using against other animal-rights groups, a freelance journalist, a former Feld employee, who is critical of Feld "These activities apparently stem from defendant Feld's personal paranoias and his personal vendettas to destroy anyone that criticizes him, his family, or his corporate empire," PETA's suit says.
Feld spokesman Paul Clark responded Friday, saying, "We don't believe there's any merit to the allegations by PETA. Mr. Feld has done nothing wrong." The actions of PETA and other animal-rights groups over the years, he said, are most likely "an attempt to close the circus down." PETA alleges that Feld's group hired at least two people "to volunteer and/or procure employment" at PETA and to use these positions "for illegal and immoral purposes."
Details of the alleged conspiracy against PETA emerged in a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2000 against Feld by Performing Animal Welfare Society, a California animal-rights group. In that suit, PAWS (interestingly acronymed as the federal bill recently defeated by dog breeders) alleged that Feld's associates had sent two of their employees to volunteer with PAWS in the late 1980s and early 1990s in order to steal confidential documents about the group's donors and officers. These documents surfaced in the late 1990s in conjunction with a lawsuit filed by a former Feld employee, Charles F. Smith, who left the company in 1997 and sued Feld soon after.
A PAWS officer, who reviewed 20 boxes of documents unearthed in the Smith case, claimed in the PAWS suit that the boxes contained, among other things, PETA personnel and payroll records.
More revelations emerged as part of Smith's suit against Feld, including an affidavit by Clair E. George, who served as deputy director of operations for the CIA from 1984 to 1987. George was convicted of perjury in 1992 during the Iran-Contra affair and later pardoned by then-President George H.W. Bush. As third in command at the CIA, George oversaw the agency's global covert operations.
In his affidavit, George stated that he served as a Feld consultant in the early 1990s. As part of his duties, George reviewed reports from a private investigator working for Feld "based on their surveillance of, and efforts to counter, the activities of various animal-rights groups," according to the affidavit. George also stated in the document that he "discussed these reports in meetings in which Mr. Feld was present."
PAWS' lawsuit against Feld was eventually settled, with Feld agreeing to reimburse the group and give it some of the company's circus animals for its sanctuary.
PETA's suit, meanwhile, claims PETA is one of the animal-rights groups mentioned in George's affidavit and alleges that George "oversaw the infiltration" of these groups, even bringing in another ex-CIA operative to assist him. For his duties, the suit alleges, he was "paid several million dollars."
The suit maintains that while Feld had others do his work for him, he "masterminded and directed" the conspiracy and "closely monitored, oversaw and was kept closely apprised about the events." The suit also alleges that Feld settled with PAWS to prevent negative publicity.
Smith, PAWS and PETA are not the only ones to take similar legal action against Feld. In 1999, freelance journalist Jan Pottker filed a multimillion-dollar suit against Feld, claiming he had overseen a conspiracy against her that involved spying on her, tapping her phone, breaking into her home and sabotaging her writing career with phony publishing deals.
Pottker alleged this retribution stemmed from an unflattering 1990 article she wrote about Feld and his family for a business magazine. Her theory was partly corroborated by ex-CIA employee George, who detailed in his affidavit for the Smith case how he had gotten hold of Pottker's outline for her proposed Feld biography and then "undertook a series of efforts to find out what Pottker was doing and reported on the results of my work to Mr. Feld."
George also detailed how he was "assigned" to arrange for a publisher "to publish a book by Pottker on another subject to divert her from her proposed book on Mr. Feld."
In a separate suit, former Feld employee Shan Sparshott won a $500,000 judgment in 2001 against Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment and Smith for illegally audio- and videotaping her in her office and at home. The case was reversed on appeal on procedural grounds.
In 2001, PETA successfully sued Feld for the return of some its documents, which Feld's attorneys eventually released, and "therein virtually admitted those documents were stolen," according to the current suit.
In addition to the personnel and payroll records, PETA believes Feld's associates took "financial documents, detailed phone records and other highly detailed internal memoranda."
The current suit, filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, is the latest iteration of one dating from 2002. In it, PETA seeks damages and reimbursement for money spent uncovering the "scope of the infiltration," retrieving their documents and attorney's fees in what could total $1.8 million.
In November, a Fairfax County judge fined members of Feld's defense team after they made claims of judicial misconduct and interfered with a deposition. In December, the same judge sanctioned Feld for failing to reveal his net worth and provide an unredacted copy of a 30-page document that allegedly details plans to discredit PETA and join with other anti-PETA groups.
Feld Entertainment has previously settled a case with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding violations of the department's Animal Welfare Act for elephant mistreatment. Other cases are pending.
Kenneth Feld, who took over as head of Feld Entertainment upon the death of his father, Irvin, in 1984, had a net worth of $725 million as of October 2004, according to Forbes magazine. In addition to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, Feld Entertainment also has managed Disney on Ice and the Siegfried & Roy magic show in Las Vegas.
"We think it's not a serious lawsuit," Feld's spokesman Clark said Friday of the PETA matter. "We think, if anything, it's a publicity stunt."
Feld Entertainment is the world's leading producer of live family entertainment. The company's spectaculars have toured the US, 50 other countries, six continents, and are seen by millions of people each year. In 1995, Feld entertainment established the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation (R), a state-of-the- art facility which has become a recognized leader in the conservation, study and care of the endangered Asian elephant.
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