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Judge issues civil arrest warrant for Ammon Bundy, who has ignored St. Luke's lawsuit for nearly 1 year

Heath Druzin

Editor's note: St. Luke's is a financial sponsor of Boise State Public Radio, but had no input or editorial control over this story.

An Idaho judge issued a civil arrest warrant Tuesday for Ammon Bundy, after he repeatedly failed to appear in court or respond to a lawsuit filed by St. Luke’s Health System.

Ada County Judge Lynn Norton found probable cause that Bundy committed contempt and set his bail at $10,000, a figure she called “reasonable.”

Bundy wasn’t present in the courtroom, though several of his supporters were.

“I can’t really arraign him since he’s not here,” Norton said.

“I think it’s impossible not to conclude that, absent Mr. Bundy having some consequences for his actions, it will just continue,” said Erik Stidham, an attorney who is representing St. Luke’s.

St. Luke’s last May filed a lawsuit against Bundy, his gubernatorial campaign and other business entities, as well as his friend, Diego Rodriguez, and Rodriguez's organizations.

Protests over the hospitalization of Rodriguez’s infant grandson last year that resulted in the redirection of emergency services and a lockdown of the downtown Boise campus were simply a “grift” to enrich themselves and boost their own publicity, the health system alleged.

It could take several days for Bundy to be arraigned.

Norton considered a few other motions made by St. Luke’s legal team, including a request for a “discovery referee” to help compel Bundy and Rodriguez, his co-defendant, to produce documents and other records that can be used at trial. She said she would rule on the request at a later date.

Norton also ordered that Bundy, Rodriguez, as well as other business entities controlled by one or the other, are required to appear for depositions.

A jury trial in the case is set for July.

St. Luke’s legal team asks Idaho Supreme Court to force Gem County sheriff to serve Bundy legal notices

Tuesday afternoon’s court actions come after Stidham and others from St. Luke’s legal team asked the Idaho Supreme Court to force the Gem County Sheriff’s Office to serve Bundy his legal notices as required by state law.

Bundy pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing charges in January,according to Idaho Reports, resulting in a suspended jail sentence and one year of unsupervised probation.

In a letter written April 12, Gem County Sheriff Donnie Wunder said Bundy, who lives in Emmett, is “…becoming more and more aggressive with his behavior…” when served with these civil notifications.

Because he has ignored the lawsuit andhasn’t shown up in court, St. Luke’s lawyers said they must use processing companies to serve him with these documents.

Bundy, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent candidate for governor last year, told Gem County dispatchers he considers processors as trespassers, according to Wunder’s letter.

The sheriff said Bundy told him during a phone call that he was “at his breaking point.”

“By the tone in his voice, I believe he is,” Wunder wrote. “My concern is with the safety of process servers and my deputies. I do not want to risk harm over a civil issue.”

In a follow-up email with Gem County Prosecutor Erick Thomson on April 14, Thomson confirmed to St. Luke’s that Wunder would not continue to serve these documents without a court order.

State law requires county sheriffs to serve these documents in legal cases. Failure to carry out these deliveries is a violation of St. Luke’s constitutional rights, according to its legal team. Wunder told Boise State Public Radio in an email Tuesday that he cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

CEO says St. Luke’s wants to stand up to ‘bullying, intimidation, disruption …’

Several hundred pages of sworn statements, legal briefs, new arguments and evidence filed in recent months in the case between St. Luke’s and Bundy, Rodriguez and their organizations offer more insight into what happened in mid-March 2022, during a series of protests outside St. Luke’s hospital in downtown Boise over the child protection case.

The court documents also show that Bundy continues to ignore or refuse to cooperate with the legal process. Rodriguez has participated to a limited extent.

Rodriguez last year greeted the lawsuit byposting on his website that he looked forward to it opening a door to him, legally. He could now obtain financial evidence and other information relating to St. Luke’s and share it with the public, he wrote.

Rodriguez took the opportunity to use that open door last month, when he made his own demand that St. Luke’s provide him with the legal evidence to which he is entitled as a defendant.

The evidence he requested includes:

  • “security footage from the Ambulance Bay during the dates and times noted where St. Luke’s alleges to have needed to lockdown the hospital because of an alleged imminent danger from protestors.”
  • records of his grandson’s medical care, case files, meeting notes and financial records to show how much money St. Luke’s was paid during his grandson’s stay at the hospital.
  • data and records related to COVID-19 medical treatment.
  • the number of minors who have died at St. Luke’s hospital annually for the last 10 years.
  • detailed information about COVID-19 vaccines and St. Luke’s policies regarding the vaccines.
  • “details of any and all complaints issued against St. Luke’s hospitals for medical malpractice, medical negligence, or any other lawsuits, complaints, referrals, or likewise demonstrating incompetence, errors, or problems with St. Luke’s doctors, nurses, or staffs.”

Judge Norton on Tuesday issued an order that blocks Rodriguez and other defendants from sharing the information they receive from St. Luke’s.

Rodriguez last month also formally responded to the lawsuit in a court filing that repeated many of the claims St. Luke’s is suing him over.

“Everything I stated and published is either completely true or is something I believe to be completely true,” Rodriguez wrote in his response to the court. “In America, we have the right to Freedom of Speech and no one can compel me to not speak the truth about any subject — particularly when the welfare and safety of my own grandson is involved.”

Rodriguez said he and Bundy have not made any profit from the child protection case.

“How sick and twisted could someone possibly be to even imagine that I was engaging in a ‘grift’ as they call it — that I was trying to gain money and publicity from the kidnapping of my grandson,” he wrote in his court filing. “This level of depravity is rare, and one can only assume that the plaintiffs or their counsel are acting in perfect alignment with the textbook psychological definition of ‘projection,’ which means that they accuse you of doing what they would do. Normal, decent and honest citizens with integrity would never think to use the most horrifying experience in their entire life — the kidnapping of a precious baby, in this case my own grandson — for profit!”

In addition to their attempts to extract information from Bundy, St. Luke’s attorneys traveled to Orlando, Florida, in January to question Rodriguez under oath, as ordered by the court. The lead attorney sent Rodriguez several emails, which are part of the court records. Rodriguez did not show up.

Rodriguez emailed the attorney in February, saying he was "not waiving any rights to challenge the order to sit for a two day meaningless deposition," but that he would "attempt to make myself available" on two days in late March — at a location in Brazil.

St. Luke’s attorneys have since asked the judge to impose sanctions and force the defendants to cover the costs of pursuing them under the law.

"I believe it is important that St. Luke's stands up to the bullying, intimidation, disruption, and self-serving and menacing actions of (Bundy, Rodriguez and their organizations) …” said St. Luke’s Health System CEO Chris Roth, in a sworn statement from November. “Inaction would signal that this type of behavior is acceptable in our community. It is not."

Rodriguez, Bundy and their organizations spearheaded the protests after Rodriguez’s grandson was placed in child protection and hospitalized at St. Luke’s.

Protesters shouted profanities at health care workers who were going to work or leaving work at the hospital, according to statements from St. Luke’s officials, health care workers and a patient’s husband.

St. Luke’s officials and health care providers said hundreds of people protested outside the hospital on March 15. At one point, they said, elected legislators joined the protest.

In a video posted to Facebook by one of the leaders of Health Freedom Idaho, current Republican Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton; and former Republican Reps. Chad Christensen of Iona, Karey Hanks of St. Anthony, and Ron Nate of Rexburg are shown participating in the protest.

The video also captures one of the protesters boasting that they kept an ambulance from being able to leave the hospital’s ambulance bay. The hospital went on lockdown for about two hours that day. It diverted patients and ambulances to other health care facilities during the lockdown.

People from about 30 states called the hospital as the protests continued, according to a sworn statement by the health system’s vice president of population health.

Those calls flooded the hospital’s switchboard, according to statements from St. Luke’s officials, and included messages such as:

  • "I'll f------ kill you"
  • "If that baby is not returned to its mother there is going to be hell to pay"
  • "Groups are going to be coming . . . we're coming"
  • "The governor of this state should be shot"
  • "It's disgusting what this hospital is doing to this baby ... sex trafficking ... you are responsible for that"
  • "How about you give that baby an enema you baby killers? What is wrong with you morons? You are going to pay for this."
  • "If anything happens to your [sic] child your ass is dead"
  • "You will be put in jail and executed"
  • "I am so f------ pissed off at you people right now, you have no right to be alive."

“What was remarkable to me was that the protesters were willing to put the lives of the medical staff, all the child patients, and their families at risk," one pediatrician said in a sworn statement. "Many of the protesters were openly carrying guns. They were aggressive toward staff members coming and going from the entrance. That fear that we would not be able to protect not only ourselves but the numerous sick, young children both on the general pediatric floor and the pediatric (cancer) unit was intense."

The pediatrician said that, because the infant’s location was not disclosed, the medical staff worried that armed protesters would come into the building and search room by room until they found him.

That may have been one of the group’s plans, according to a sworn statement from the husband of a patient who was in the hospital ICU that day.

The Treasure Valley resident was visiting his wife daily during a two-week stay at St. Luke's in Boise following surgery. He said the number of protesters increased from "just a handful" on March 13, 2022, to "about 400 or more people" two days later, the day the hospital went on lockdown.

"That day, the entrance to the hospital was completely packed with protesters," he wrote in a sworn statement. "They were using megaphones to shout at doctors and people walking in and out — sometimes straight into their ears."

The patient's husband on that day couldn't find parking at the hospital due to the protest and ended up parking near a cemetery a couple blocks away. As he walked to the hospital, he noticed "all of the side streets were full of Bundy's people. I saw a truck parked on one side street that had several men in the back holding AR-15s." Protesters called nurses coming and going from the hospital the "c-word" and the "b-word" as well as "murderer" and "kidnapper," the patient's husband wrote.

He noticed someone in the crowd whom he recognized from "several months prior when I was part of a counter-protest to the Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters in downtown Boise," he wrote.

Identifying the woman as "Sara Ann," the patient's husband said the woman told him that armed militia groups were on their way to the hospital and the crowd planned to take the baby.

"Shocked, I asked her if their plan was to go from room to room looking for the baby," he wrote. "She responded: 'In every war there's casualties and Ammon believes it's a war zone.'"

The patient's husband said he confirmed with Bundy that Bundy supported the protest.

"I was genuinely concerned for my wife's safety should the protesters breach the hospital doors and security," the patient's husband wrote. Because of his concern, he went out to his vehicle to get his handgun, for which he had a concealed carry permit, he wrote.

"Every nurse on my wife's floor was scared. I'm surprised it didn't turn into something really ugly," he wrote. "I can't believe I had to conceal at a hospital, where people go to get healed, not hurt."

Doctors, health care workers feared for their families and patients

Roth said the words and actions of Bundy, Rodriguez and their organizations and followers caused disruptions as the health system stood up its “incident command” for more than two weeks to be ready to respond to armed protests.

"In the 32 years of my career in healthcare, I never imagined that a non-profit hospital could or would be attacked the way (Bundy, Rodriguez and their organizations) have done -- using armed threats, intimidation, doxing, and a campaign of falsehoods to disrupt the hospital's ability to provide medical help to the community it serves," Roth wrote in his statement to the court.

Statements from Roth and several others involved in the case, and statements from their spouses or partners, said the “doxxing” by the protest organizers has affected morale and the mental health of those involved in the case.

Several of the health care workers who were doxxed said in statements that they have anxiety, nightmares, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and repeated checking to make sure doors and windows are locked. They spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on home security systems and changed their daily habits, the statements said.

"I remember when she went to get a tire changed on her car and they asked for her name she was worried about giving it out because you never know who might be a supporter," the husband of a pediatrician wrote in a sworn statement.

Health care providers said they worried not only about the safety of their families, homes and selves; they worried also that parents would be reluctant to take their children to St. Luke’s Boise campus, the location of Idaho’s only children’s hospital.
This story is a collaboration betweeen Boise State Public Radio and the Idaho Capital Sun. You can find their work here.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.
James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.