See also: Escapades of former sheriff Gary Penrod
Witnesses who have been lined up to testify that the woman who has provided psychological care to members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for more than two decades engaged in multiple sexual affairs with the deputies she was hired to treat should be excluded from testifying in a libel suit she has brought against a newspaper publisher, her attorney has told the court.
Nancy K. Bohl is the proprietor of the Counseling Team International (also see her at “Spirit of the Law“). With the Counseling Team, Bohl has provided several forms of psychological services to the sheriff’s department since 1986. Bohl and her company sued Valley Wide Newspapers in 2000, alleging that a series of articles published in papers owned by Valley Wide publisher Raymond S. G. Pryke libeled her. Valley Wide Newspapers publishes four newspapers in the High Desert portion of San Bernardino County.
The articles under question in the libel suit reported Bohl, an unmarried woman who at that time had a $96,000 per year contract to provide psychological services to members of the sheriff’s department, in 1998 took out a $452,000 loan to purchase a home with then-sheriff Gary Penrod, who was at that time married to Janet Penrod; that the cohabitation and merging of Penrod and Bohl’s financial interests constituted a potential violation of Government Code Section 1090 which prohibits an elected official from having a financial interest in a contract involving an agency he or she heads; that word of the relationship between Bohl and Penrod had become common knowledge among sheriff’s deputies, resulting in their reluctance to undergo counseling or any form of psychological treatment offered by Bohl or her company; and that deputies had related incidents in which information gleaned by Bohl or members of the Counseling Team during counseling sessions with the deputies had been leaked to the department’s command echelon.
Bohl, who married Penrod in April 2000 after his divorce from Janet Penrod was finalized, sued Valley Wide Newspapers, the reporter who had written the articles, Mark Gutglueck; Valley Wide co-publisher Jenny Jones; Valley Wide assistant publishers Michelle Haeckel and Patty Thomas; and Valley Wide editor Joyce Bohannon in June 2000, alleging the articles were false and malicious and had both negligently and maliciously inflicted emotional distress upon Bohl.
Upon learning the following year that Pryke was owner of Valley Wide Newspapers, he was added as a defendant. In short order, Jones, Haeckel, Thomas and Bohannon were dismissed as defendants.
In prosecuting the suit and as discovery for the suit progressed and depositions were taken, the attorney representing Bohl, John David Rowell insisted that the sheriff’s deputies who had provided the information to Valley Wide Newspapers be identified. Gutglueck and Pryke resisted those demands. When Rowell learned that deputies had alleged that Bohl was not licensed by the state to practice as a psychologist and that she had engaged in sexual relationships with some of the deputies/clients, Rowell intensified his effort to learn who Valley Wide’s sources were, despite the consideration that the articles he and his client deemed libelous made no mention of her lack of licensing or her sexual contact with her clients.
In 2003, Rowell convinced the judge then hearing the case, Christopher Warner, that an identification of Valley Wide Newspapers’ sources for the articles was necessary to make a determination of the articles’ accuracy or lack thereof. Warner ordered Pryke and Gutglueck to identify the sources. Pryke, who had not interviewed the sources personally, was unable to do so and declined. Warner entered terminating sanctions in the form of a default judgment against him. Gutglueck identified six deputies as having provided information upon which the articles were based. Discovery proceeded and Gutglueck and Valley Wide Newspapers took the deposition of Nancy Bohl, during which she acknowledged never having obtained licensing as a psychologist, having failed the state licensing examination on multiple occasions and made a somewhat equivocal denial of having had sexual relationships with department members who were her clients. Depositions with two of those deputies – deputy Ken Holtz and retired detective Jim Lingren – were taken in which both acknowledged having told Gutglueck about Bohl’s reputation for failing to maintain confidentiality with regard to information she obtained during counseling sessions as well as specific information from her counseling activity that had become common knowledge throughout the department. Before Gutglueck and Valley Wide Newspapers could move to take the depositions of the four other sheriff’s officers – a deputy, a senior deputy, a sergeant and a lieutenant – who had served as sources for the articles, Rowell dismissed Gutglueck as a defendant. Gutglueck is now the publisher of the Sentinel.
With Gutglueck out of the picture, Rowell and Bohl then turned their attention to Pryke, whose personal worth at that point was calculated at roughly $30 million. Using the default judgment already entered against Pryke, Rowell and Bohl put on a prove-up hearing against Pryke in which they claimed Bohl’s career as a provider of psychological services to various entities had been harmed by the publication of the articles. Warner entered a $3 million judgment against Pryke in October 2005.
Pryke appealed the ruling to the Fourth Appellate Court in Riverside and in 2006, the justices there ruled that Warner had erred in entering terminating sanctions against Pryke based merely on his refusal or inability to identify the sources for the story. The Fourth Appellate Court ruled that Pryke must be provided with a jury trial and directed the matter back to San Bernardino Superior Court, where that trial was originally scheduled to take place as early as 2007, but has been postponed seven times, six times on the motion of the plaintiff. The matter was most recently scheduled to come to trial this week, on April 26, but on April 22, Rowell sought from the magistrate now scheduled to hear the case, judge Frank Gafkowski, a postponement until August 1.
Gafkowski granted that postponement.
Prior to Rowell’s postponement motion, he prepared four motions in limine relating to the case. A motion in limine is a request made before the start of a trial asking the judge to rule that certain evidence not be presented to the jury.
One of those motions in limine Rowell presented to Gafkowski related to testimony and evidence Rowell anticipates Pryke’s lawyers will produce to demonstrate that Bohl was sexually involved with her clients, including deputies.
“Based on discovery responses in this case, plaintiffs anticipate that defendant Raymond Pryke will make statements to the jury and attempt to introduce through witnesses Lingren and Holtz an argument that Nancy K. Bohl had a bad reputation for having sexual relationships with members of the sheriff’s department and for leaking information obtained in confidential counseling sessions with various sheriff’s deputies,” Rowell wrote in a motion dated April 14. “Plaintiffs seek an order in limine prohibiting, absent court order, trial counsel from making any argument, directing any questions to the witnesses, or making any reference in the presence of any juror or prospective juror, or introducing in any form of evidence, and prohibiting all witnesses from giving opinion testimony regarding plaintiff’s reputation which are irrelevant and inadmissible as hearsay.”
Rowell stopped short of asserting that the statements to be offered by the witnesses who would testify about Bohl’s sexual contact with department members were false.
Nor has Rowell always considered testimony about his client’s sexual involvement with the deputies she was counseling irrelevant or inadmissible.
In a previous hearing in the case before judge Leroy Simmons that occurred on June 5, 2001, Rowell petitioned the court to order Gutglueck to reveal which members of the department had told him Bohl had engaged in oral sex with deputies she was counseling.
“Is the business about this oral sex stuff, is that involved in this lawsuit?” a transcript of that hearing records Simmons asking Rowell.
“Well, it is to a degree,” Rowell responded.
Rowell did not respond to phone calls nor to an email from the Sentinel requesting resolution of the apparent discrepancy between his statement to the court in 2001 and his stance on behalf of his client currently. Nor would he offer any further comment or information relating to the motion in limine or the subjects it addresses.
Bohl, whose company now has a $970,000 three-year contract to provide psychological care to members of the sheriff’s department, made no response to the Sentinel’s inquiries relating to the motion in limine.
Pryke said he considered the information Rowell wants to exclude relevant to the matters at issue in the lawsuit.
“Of course it is relevant,” Pryke said. “But like all issues at trial, a decision on that is up to the judge and if he makes a decision with which we disagree, then we will have the option of doing a writ to the appellate court.”
Judge Gafkowski did not make any ruling on the motions in limine presented to him by Rowell and will not likely make any findings until a point closer to the now scheduled August 1 trial date.
On April 26, Gafkowski told the Sentinel “I appreciate that” there were multiple issues, including ones included in Rowell’s motions in limine, that the press is interested in. “I understand what is involved here,” he said.
Filed under: Censorship, Civil Liberties, Free Speech, Information, Media, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex, Privacy, San Bernardino County, SB Judges, SB Sheriff | Tagged: Christopher Warner, Counseling Team International, Frank Gafkowski, Gary Penrod, High Desert, Janet Penrod, Jenny Jones, Jim Lingren, John David Rowell, Joyce Bohannon, Ken Holtz, Leroy Simmons, Mark Gutglueck, Michelle Haeckel, Nancy K. Bohl, Patty Thomas, Raymond S. G. Pryke, San Bernardino County, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Spirit of the Law, Valley Wide Newspapers |