News of the Watchtower Society’s assets being frozen after the Candace Conti verdict has spread like wildfire across the web. Imagine my surprise when I logged in to Facebook this morning and saw it posted in all the ex-Witness groups! I was reluctant to post about it here until we heard from a lawyer or at least saw it mentioned in the news for confirmation. But the very fact that word is spreading is big news, because it means that many Jehovah’s Witnesses will go into Armageddon mode. That could lead to a lot of weirdness that ex-Witnesses need to prepare themselves for.
In a nutshell, it seems that the judge presiding over the pedophile case has frozen the Society’s assets pending the outcome of its appeal against the ruling. The appeal process could easily take two years, during which time the Society cannot buy or sell its properties without permission from the court. This happened on June 20th.
UPDATE: Here’s the flipside of the news, which I thought might be forthcoming. Somehow, I knew it was too good to be true. Maybe I should have left the question mark in the title.
WATCHTOWER ASSETS NOT FROZEN FOR TWO YEARS
There have been many comments and some articles written about the freezing of one billion dollars of Watchtower assets following the loss of the Candace Conti court case. Those that have commented on this are technically true in part but in the typical court proceedings this is just a matter of the regular filing of documents to protect the settlement for the plaintiff.
It is considered a typical move in a court proceeding to freeze the assets when the defendant had yet to obtain a bond to cover the settlement. It was apparent WT did not expect to lose and simply were not prepared for this. So the Judge doing his job made the ruling contingent upon WT obtaining a bond to protect the settlement for Ms Conti. The minute the Watchtower obtains the bond the all assets are free and clear to be used any way they wish. So this looks like more of a procedural matter. WT will obtain a bond in a week or so and the order will in a matter of typical court procedure be removed.
Those are the facts. It would have been amazing to see their assets frozen for two years but in this instance it is just not the case. The point is this remains a major victory for abuse survivors everywhere. Institutions are being called into account for bullying victims into silence and in many instances hiding behind the first amendment as religion. We can finally see the brave efforts of those that have come forward having a huge impact and forcing unethical and immoral men to face responsibility for their actions. Thanks to all that speak out and help others to know they are not alone.
We have also updated the media page to reflect the extensive media coverage of this story.
And now, back to the rest of the original post…
Here is the news as I read it according to Steven Unthank. He says that the media is being notified of the news. I am posting his comments here so you guys can judge for yourselves what’s going on. There is also a post about it on JWD.
SUMMARY AND COURT EXTRACT
Filed on June 19, 2012, DEFENDANTS WATCHTOWER AND NORTH FREMONT CONGREGATION’S EX PARTE APPLICATION TO STAY ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT;
Defendants Watchtower applied for an Order temporarily staying enforcement of any judgment that may in the future be entered in this matter on the verdicts returned by the jury on June 13 and 14, 2012, until ten (10) days after the last day on which a notice of appeal may be filed, and (2) extinguishing any existing liens, levies or attachments and preventing the creation of any new liens, levies or attachments during the pendency of the temporary stay.
Defendants claimed that this matter is necessary because: (1) the Church Defendants intend to file post-trial motions and, therefore, the final judgment may be eliminated, reduced, modified, or otherwise affected; (2) the Church Defendants presently intend to file an appeal should their post-trial motions be denied in whole or in part and, therefore, they will need time to obtain the requisite bond…
Also filed on June 19, 2012, PLAINTIFF JANE DOE’S LIMITED OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF NEW YORK, INC. AND NORTH FREMONT CONGREGATION’S EX PARTE APPLICATION TO STAY ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT.
Plaintiff has no objection to an Order preventing the creation of any new liens, levies, or attachments, provided she is protected from a distribution of assets in avoidance of the judgment.
There are no existing liens, levies, or attachments to extinguish, as a result of which, that part of the Ex Parte request is moot. However, Plaintiff’s willingness to agree to a stay of execution of the judgment to be filed shortly is conditional. To avoid a massive transfer of real estate assets worth, at present, approximately $1 Billion, from Watchtower to another corporate entity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which would leave Plaintiff with no enforcement right for the Judgment, Plaintiff requests that any stay be subject to the condition that defendant Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. not transfer, convey, or change title to any of its real property prior to the filing of a bond or undertaking required as a condition of appeal.
Defendant filed on June 19, 2012 a REPLY BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF EX PARTE APPLICATION TO STAY ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT stating:
Plaintiff’s opposition states a willingness to agree to a stay of execution of the judgment on the condition that Defendant Watchtower “not transfer, convey, or change title to any of its real property prior to the filing of a bond or undertaking required as a condition of appeal.” This condition puts the proverbial cart before the horse.
As explained in the ex parte application, a temporary stay of enforcement of the judgment is necessary to protect the Church Defendants because of the uncertainty of the judgment, …
Temporary stays like the one the Church Defendants are requesting here are routinely granted to protect the parties when a judgment is uncertain. While Defendant Watchtower has absolutely no intent to make any fraudulent transfers of real property now or in the future, to the extent any such transfers of real property should occur during the stay to prevent Plaintiff from collecting on any ultimate judgment that may survive the post-trial motions and appeals, remedies would plainly be available to Plaintiff. That said, again, Plaintiff’s claimed concern is premature, plus the Church Defendants have no intention of defrauding Plaintiff out of any judgment that ultimately may be owed to her once all post–trial motions and appeals have run their course. …
Filed June 20, 2012 (Decision of Hon. Robert D. McGuinness, Judge of the Superior Court) BY THE COURT, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS WATCHTOWER AND NORTH FREMONT CONGREGATION’S EX PARTE APPLICATION TO STAY ENFORCEMENT OF THE JUDGMENT.
After considering the submitted papers, including any response or opposition filed on behalf of Plaintiff, the Court grants the Church Defendants’ application as follows:
GOOD CAUSE APPEARING, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
(1) Enforcement of the judgment to be entered on the jury’s special verdicts of June 13 and 14, 2012 shall be temporarily and completely stayed and, pending another order of court [The last five words were handwritten in by the judge]
(2) Any existing liens, levies or attachments pertaining to the forthcoming judgment referenced in (1) above are here by extinguished RDM [RDM handwritten in by the judge]
Then the judge included in his own handwriting a number 3:
(3) The foregoing stay is expressly conditioned upon D’s The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc’s not transferring, conveying or changing title to any real property in its name today pending further order of court.
It certainly reads like the Society’s assets have been frozen, at least temporarily.
I will comment further once I have a better understanding of what’s happening.