Here is the fifth installment in my series of excerpts prior to the publication of my new book: Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus. This is Chapter 96. It appears in Part Five. I particularly love this chapter, because it shows just one of the many miracles that occurred in the long journey to get justice for Prakash’s victims. The book is now available to pre-order on this website. All book orders will be fulfilled on the book’s official launch date: February 15, 2012. Order now and save $5 off the price of $14.99.
Uncivil Behavior – When Lawyers Play Dirty
I learned the hard way about the important differences between criminal and civil court cases.
In criminal cases, there are strict rules regarding who the defense lawyers can deposition (interview) and who they cannot. For example, defense lawyers do not have access to the state’s witnesses.
In civil cases, however, the defense lawyers can deposition almost anyone they want to, no matter how remotely related the person may be to the case. As one lawyer told me, they could interview a neighbor’s gardener if they wanted to.
Despite the rules, Prakash’s defense lawyers still tried to talk to the state’s two female witnesses in his criminal case. They attempted to contact both women, even hiring private detectives in Seattle to track them down. They became so aggressive that the DA finally told them pointblank to leave her witnesses alone.
And they did — for two years. Then a potential jackpot fell into their laps.
In March 2010, an ex-JKP devotee launched a civil suit against Prakash and seven members of the Barsana Dham organization. Since she could not find a lawyer to take on what some called a “frivolous” lawsuit, the woman filed pro se, which means she advocated on her own behalf, rather than being represented by a lawyer.
With the filing of that civil complaint, all bets were off from Barsana Dham’s perspective. They could deposition anyone they wanted to, and claim that it was for the civil suit. One of Prakash’s lawyers, Randy Levitt, immediately sent out subpoenas to six people—the three women related to the criminal trial, who were abused by Prakash as children (Kate, Shyama, and Vesla) and their significant others.
Five of the six people subpoenaed had absolutely nothing to do with the ex-devotee filing the civil case. In fact, the three men subpoenaed didn’t even know her. It was clear that Randy, the attorney for Barsana Dham, was exploiting the more lenient rules of civil law to gain access to the witnesses involved in the criminal case.
What Prakash’s defense team did not count on was the determination of the three girls to not simply roll over and play dead.
The depositions for Kate and her husband were scheduled first. I emailed Melina, a lawyer I had met along the way who had once been a prosecutor in San Antonio. I explained the situation and asked what Kate should do.
She wrote back saying: “Maybe they can quash the depositions.” “Quash” means to legally deny an action requested.
Kate began researching how to quash a deposition, and found a lawsuit in which the wife of a CEO of a large energy company in Texas had successfully quashed a deposition that lawyers had requested of her related to her husband’s legal problems.
Kate used the document as her template and created motions to quash for herself and her husband, which she then filed with the State of Washington, where she lived. The motions to quash were very simple and straightforward:
“Kate does not have any knowledge of the events alleged in the Plaintiff’s civil action and JKP Barsana Dham has failed to show that she has. Kate’s only significant interaction with the plaintiff was as a child neighbor before the year 1997 when she moved away at 18 years old. Kate had no association with the Plaintiff as an adult between the years of 1997 and 2007 and has not lived near her or had any interaction with the Plaintiff as an adult during the years she has made her claims.”
Kate notified Randy that she had filed the motions and, as such, would not be appearing for the scheduled deposition until she heard back from the Washington Judge.
But Randy did not want to let her off the hook, even though she was following legal procedure. He wrote back, insisting that Kate did not understand the rules of law and that she and her husband were still required to appear at the deposition as scheduled, despite her motions to quash. Finally, Kate just ignored his manipulating emails.
Nonetheless, Randy flew to Washington, wasting his time and Barsana Dham’s money. Then he even tried to charge Kate and her husband for the trip—and he filed a motion to that end.
Within a few weeks Kate received the news from the Washington Court. Both her deposition and her husband’s had successfully been quashed. Kate accomplished this out of sheer determination not to let Prakash’s lawyers push her around. The depositions for her sister and brother-in-law were also successfully quashed.
The letter she received from the Washington Judge was worthy of being framed. One paragraph summed up what he likely thought of the matter:
“Defendants sought attorney fees and expenses because their counsel flew from Texas to Seattle to take the depositions of Kathryn Tonnessen and Dylan Peterson. Defendants also sought an order of contempt. The court declines to award attorney fees or to hold the witnesses in contempt. They properly filed motions to quash the subpoenas, and did not act unreasonably in failing to appear for depositions before the court had ruled on their motions to quash.”
After her victory Kate joked: “I had the best lawyers money could buy”—which was more than Prakash could say.