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Judge's order defied

Gag order defied

A Manitoba man falsely accused of sexually molesting three children will defy a judge and continue to publish details of a lawsuit against Saskatoon police on the Internet.

"I'm going to keep publishing in the hopes the public will rally behind me. It's the thing that's going to force the truth to be heard," said Richard Klassen, who has been living near Altona after being "chased out" of Saskatchewan in 1999.

Klassen's Web site, injusticebusters.com, documents his 10-year ordeal with the Saskatchewan justice system after he and 15 other people were charged with 60 counts of sexually molesting three foster children in 1991.

It was billed as the 'Scandal of the Century' by Saskatoon police after false allegations of witchcraft and human sacrifice were made by the children ages 5 to 11.

"We were said to have been cutting the legs off of babies and having barbecues in downtown Saskatoon ... it's an incredible story," Klassen, 39, said yesterday.

Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ted Zarzeczny ordered Klassen Tuesday to stop publishing details of his $10-million malicious prosecution lawsuit against police and the justice department because the information was given to him as part of the discovery phase of the case.

PUBLIC RECORD

The judge ruled Klassen could be removed from the lawsuit if he fails to comply.

Klassen maintains the information was already part of the public record and was broadcast during two episodes of CBC's Fifth Estate, the latest aired last week.

Klassen's father [Peter] ended up pleading guilty to a single charge of sexual assault and charges were dropped against the remaining 15. Two of the three children have since admitted they made up the allegations.

"I made up these stories because I felt pressured and was making up stories as we went along," Michael Ross states in his affidavit, published on Klassen's Web site.

His sister's affidavit names Ross as the person who assaulted her.

"My issue is those children were sexually assaulted and those professionals who were there to protect them and they failed to do that," said Klassen, who wants a public inquiry called.

"If Joyce Milgaard had shut up, David Milgaard would still be in jail and not have received the money he received."

Klassen, his wife and three kids aged 10, 12 and 18, moved to Altona after being harassed for three years while living in the small town of Harris, Sask., about 30 kilometres west of Saskatoon.


Website defies court order

SASKATOON, SK - One of the editors of a controversial web site, Sheila Steele, says she will continue to publish details of a lawsuit, despite a court order.

The site, called "injustice busters" describes the case of several foster parents charged with sexual abuse.

One of the children who claimed he had been abused [Michael Ross], recently admitted he made up the allegations.

Most of the charges were dropped, but the foster parents are now suing the police and prosecutors.

Earlier this month, the Saskatoon police department asked a court to order that the editors stop publishing certain details until the lawsuit is resolved. The judge has agreed.

However, Sheila Steele, one of the publishers of the website, says she won't comply with the order.

"The story stays because it's in the public interest," insists Steele.

The judge in the case said if the publishers do not comply with the order, their $10-million lawsuit could be dismissed.


Judge orders halt to online publication of lawsuit details

Pair could face dismissal of $10M lawsuit for ignoring gag order

Saskatoon police and the provincial Justice Department have won a gag order against a controversial Web site dedicated to publishing information on a 10-year-old scandal.

A judge ordered injusticebusters.com to stop publishing many of the details from the foster child case Tuesday or face the dismissal of a $10-million lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution.

"Something horribly wrong has happened and we can't tell anybody about it?" said Richard Klassen, one of the Web site publishers.

"It's a free speech issue, so the first thing I'm going to do is appeal the decision.

"It's more important for the public to know what went wrong than to worry about the lawsuit. The priority for me is free speech."

Sixteen people were charged with 60 counts of sexually molesting three foster children in 1991. In the end one elderly man agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of sexual assault. In return the Crown dropped charges against the other accused people.

The children have since admitted they fabricated the allegations to please police officers and social workers. Twelve of the people who were falsely accused are suing police and prosecutors for at least $10 million. The judge imposed an order Tuesday which said no documents that are part of the civil suit can be published on the Web site. That includes dozens of documents that have been in the public domain for several years from previous court proceedings.

The list also includes the sworn testimony of the now-grown children - which was obtained and first published by the Web site - where they recanted their allegations.

Klassen pointed out media outlets - including The StarPhoenix and more recently the CBC television program The 5th Estate - have already published or broadcast much of the material covered under Tuesday's order. "The 5th Estate just came out with it and said everything that's in the documents. Where does that restrict the media? To the point where I can't speak to the media?" Klassen said.

Justice Ted Zarzeczny imposed the gag order, saying the plaintiffs who launched the lawsuit agreed to have their dispute settled in front of the courts.

Zarzeczny also warned injusticebusters.com publishers that other material on the Web site "could be found to constitute defamation, harassment or intimidation of the other defendants sufficient to warrant further orders."

Lawyers for the police department had asked Zarzeczny to gag these types of material at the hearing earlier this month. He declined to do so, for now.

"It's really a way of getting at the Web site through the back door," said Sheila Steele, another web site publisher.

injusticebusters.com was still operating late Tuesday evening. The judge gave Klassen 30 days to pay court costs.

Klassen, a painter, said he's not sure how he'll come up with the money which will likely total at least $2,000.


This fight is far from over and we have taken a blow

The fiat is posted here. Richard Klassen's statement is here.


Judge not ready to unplug Internet site

City police, province told they may have to pursue publication ban elsewhere

An Internet site that has ignored publication bans and court-ordered seals to expose details of a scandal from the early 1990s will likely survive following a hearing Tuesday.

During the hearing, lawyers for the Saskatoon police and the province asked Justice Ted Zarzeczny to force injusticebusters.com to stop what they called the libel and harassment of police officers and other justice officials.

They also asked the judge to order the publishers to abide by publication bans and to stop using documents which they say were obtained from the early stages of a civil suit.

Zarzeczny, who reserved his decision, quickly narrowed down the focus of the hearing, telling lawyers for the police and the province that other mechanisms exist to enforce publication bans and slanderous allegations. "How do I have the jurisdiction to do anything about that?" Zarzeczny asked Barry Rossmann, the lawyer from the city solicitor's office who is representing the police.

Twelve people who were falsely accused of sexually abusing three foster children are suing police and prosecutors for at least $10 million. The plaintiffs were among 16 people who were charged with 60 counts of sexually molesting the children in 1991.

At the end of the criminal cases, one elderly man [Peter Klassen] agreed to plead guilty. In exchange the Crown dropped charges against the other accused people. Rossmann argued details of the case should be revealed in an orderly and complete fashion - if and when the civil suit makes it to trial.

"The plaintiffs have been publishing bits and pieces of information. Some of it is false, some of it is at best partial and it is very slanted and one-sided. The defence is unable to respond because it is following the rules of the court," Rossmann said. "The defendants are at risk of being unjustly vilified in the public and the press because they cannot fully tell their side."

Richard Klassen and Sheila Steele have run injusticebusters.com for three years.

The site, which has received more than 1,100 visits from Saskatchewan computer users since The StarPhoenix reported on the police application Monday, is harshly critical of many of the police, prosecutors, judges and journalists who have been involved in the case over the past decade.

Rossmann accused the site of publishing scandalous and libelous allegations against Brian Dueck, the senior city police officer who led the investigation of the foster child case. He pointed out similar allegations in a poster campaign six years ago led to jail time for John and Johanna Lucas. The couple was convicted of the rare charge of defamatory libel. Similar charges against Klassen were thrown out in 1996.

Klassen's lawyer, Ed Holgate, said the conduct of the authorities and their attempt to gag debate on the case is scandalous.

"This is a public matter concerning the public actions of prosecutors, the police force and other public authorities. Privacy issues are secondary," Holgate said. "The defence is attempting to keep discussion of this matter under wraps."

Klassen said he has never published any material from the civil suit on his Internet site. He said all of the information put on the site comes from the original prosecutions in the early 1990s.

"Nothing I have on Injusticebusters has defied the rules. It's public knowledge. It's the truth. That's why the other side wants a sweeping ban," Klassen said. Earlier this month city police obtained a court-ordered seal on material filed for Tuesday's hearing. In its original application the police asked Zarzeczny to continue the seal on the file.

During the hearing Rossmann backed down from the request, saying the public should have access to the court file.

The boy and two girls who first made their allegations a decade ago have since admitted to injusticebusters.com, The StarPhoenix and to the CBC program the Fifth Estate that they invented the allegations.

The boy has also admitted that he was abusing his sisters at the time of the allegations. The children, who are now all in their early 20s, say police, prosecutors and social workers were well aware of what was going on but kept the three children together anyway.