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Friday, November 16, 2007

Richard Moore's account of the Ron Price lawsuit deposition

Here's Richard Moore's write-up about what happened during deposition in the Ron Price lawsuit against Richard and his wife Debbie. There are two big reasons why I'm posting it here too: one, because Richard gives his perspective on what happened when Doug Hux interrogated me. And two, because Richard Moore, although he's not the lousy blogger like Ron Price is, is a man who just can't leave stuff consistent on his Political Soup website. Richard, haven't you heard of archiving stuff?! Anyhoo here it is for permanent record (and with proper citation, which I always do anyway)...


D-DAY NOVEMBER 15, 2007. It wasn't exactly the allies storming the beach at Normandy, but it was a bloody, painful assault on one witness. I am talking about Deposition Day in the Ron Price defamation lawsuit against my wife Debbie and me.

For my readers who have been living under a rock without internet access for the past year, Rockingham County School Board member Ron Price is suing Debbie and me for libel and slander because I said Price stole Congressman Brad Miller's campaign signs from the roadside.

Reidsville Police Department officers found Miller signs in Price's car trunk just minutes after two independent witnesses saw Price pulling them up along Highway 14 between Reidsville and Eden.

Price is also suing Debbie and me because Debbie went to a magistrate with a copy of the Reidsville Police Department report that said Price had committed larceny by stealing Brad Miller's signs. The magistrate read the Police Department report and the law and then issued a warrant charging Price with removing or vandalizing public notices (NCGS 14-384).

Price subsequently confessed to taking Miller's signs on his own web site, in several newspaper articles, and on live television.

Price has convinced himself he has been defamed and charged with a crime because I was attempting to take his seat on the Rockingham County School Board.

According to Price, because I received the highest number of votes of the eleven losing candidates, I would have been automatically appointed to fill the seat to which Price had been elected if he abandoned it or was removed from it.

Price believes my accusing him of stealing has nothing to do with Price actually stealing Brad Miller's campaign signs. And, Debbie asking a magistrate about charging Price with removing public notices has nothing to do with Ron Price actually stealing Brad Miller's campaign signs.

I didn't report Wendy Hoover for embezzling money from the school system because I thought I would get her nice paying job. I reported her because it was the right thing to do when the School Board tried to cover up the crime. Debbie felt the same way when she went to a magistrate about Price's "sign incident".

Click here to watch Debbie talk about the charges against Ron Price. The video was recorded in late January, 2007.

Unfortunately the facts do not support Mr. Price's view of our motivations for accusing him of stealing.

There is nothing automatic about selecting a replacement for a vacancy on the Rockingham County School Board. The law says the School Board can make recommendations to the County Commissioners, but the Commissioners decide who fills the vacancy. It doesn't matter why or when the vacancy occurs.

Debbie and I have never for a moment believed the Commissioners would ever select me to fill a seat on the School Board, and we're damned sure the School Board would not recommend me. Would I accept an appointment if hell freezes over? Of course I would. I ran for School Board, why wouldn't I?

Anyways, on November 15, Debbie and I were summoned to the office of Doug Hux in Eden. Hux represented Ron Price during his brief legal problems with the "sign incident." Hux is also representing Price in his lawsuit against my wife and me.

Price was summoned to the deposition by our attorney, Seth "THE SAW" Cohen.

We were all called to give testimony relating to Price's lawsuit.

For those who don't know what the purpose of a deposition is, as best as I can understand it, it's a pre-trial mini-trial. The "witnesses" are under oath and the lawyers ask them a lot of questions. There ain't no judge or jury. The lawyers just size up the potential witnesses. One might call it scouting.

There is a court reporter present who records everything said, puts numbered stickers on documents, and changes tapes in what looked like two oversized cassette tape players. Our court reporter wore a high-altitude fighter pilot mask on her face during the entire deposition. I'm not sure what the mask was about - maybe she has emphysema, a germ phobia, or she was afraid somebody was going to fart in the small conference room in Hux's office.

The deposition questions, at least in this lawsuit, seemed to be as much, or maybe even more, about motivation than the simple facts - otherwise known as the truth. I'm told lawyers ask questions during depositions and then ask the same questions during the actual trial to see if they can catch you giving two different answers. If your answers differ, the lawyer puts you on the spot at the trial.

The beginning questions are fluff designed to put you at ease with the nice man who is about to strap you down on a rack and attach electrified barbwire to your nuts. At first you are asked things like when you were born, where you went to school, your job history, why your web site server is located in Germany.

I felt pretty good with my answers about my birth date, schooling, employment history, etc., but then Hux threw me a real curve ball. The question definitely rattled me for a few seconds, and I'm sure it was obvious to everyone in the room that I was not at ease with my answer.

Hux asked, "Mr. Moore, can you tell me why your web site is located on a server in Germany?"

Damn! Hux is a clever devil! From out of nowhere, Hux nailed me with a question that I couldn't answer. I was never expecting this. I thought I knew the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the "sign incident." I had no fear of the truth. I had no reason to hide from the truth. In fact I wanted the truth about the "sign incident" plastered all over Doug Hux's office.

Prior to Doug Hux asking me why my web site server is located in Germany, I never knew my web server is located in Germany. I don't know how Mr. Hux knows where my web site server is located. He seemed very computer/internet savvy for someone who said he doesn't even have an email address.

Anyways, Doug, wanted to know why my web site is located on a server in Germany. I didn't know the answer, but I thanked Mr. Hux for providing me with a tidbit of useless information that I didn't previously have.

By the way, Doug has a very nice office. Hux said it used to be an old post office. The original brickwork is visible on the interior, there's a high ceiling, an original hardwood floor, a couple of pretty plants line a hallway leading to offices and a conference room. Doug's receptionist was very nice. She told me she really enjoyed my Political Soup program on WGSR-TV. She also likes our My Home Kitchen cooking show, but it comes on too late for her to see it very often. Her sister loves My Home Kitchen.

I should mention Doug was very cordial to Debbie and me, but he didn't indicate whether he ever watched Political Soup for any reason other than to sue me and my wife.

Mr. Hux let me use his toilet a couple of times and he gave me some bottled water to help lubricate my answers. Mr. Hux seems to be a nice man, but so does Ron Price when you first meet him.

Hux let me have a blank writing pad that appeared to have been lifted from a Clarion Hotel. When I showed my lawyer the Clarion logo on the pad, Hux immediately explained the pad was lawfully obtained. Yeah, sure Doug, whatever you say.

There's a bigger story behind the Clarion pad and Hux's reaction to me showing it to Seth Cohen, but I can't say any more right now. If you read Chris Knight's comments on the deposition, you might figure it out.

By the way, my lawyer has a real nice office too. It looks like something you see on a TV legal drama. I have to admit Doug's plants are nicer than Seth's, and Seth has never offered Debbie and me any refreshing beverages. I think Doug Hux may be my new best buddy. I hope Ron doesn't mind.

Chris Knight was also summoned to give a deposition, but nobody could ever understand why.

Chris didn't understand. My wife and I didn't understand. Our lawyer didn't understand. And by the end of Chris' 15-minute deposition, I'm guessing Doug Hux and Ron Price weren't sure why they deposed Chris either.

Seth Cohen didn't have any questions for Chris because Seth had no idea why Chris was even there. Chris was summoned by Price and Hux, not by Debbie and me or our lawyer.

We (Debbie, Seth, and myself) didn't understand why Chris was summoned before the deposition, and we understood even less after the deposition.

One thing we did understand after Chris' deposition was Chris worked for and supported Ron Price's school board candidacy. According to Chris, he even offered to make a campaign TV commercial for Ron for free.

Chris' said he did an abrupt about-face after Price was caught stealing Brad Miller's campaign signs. During the deposition, Chris made it very clear in a very dramatic style that he now considers Price to be a scoundrel who sacrificed integrity and honesty on the altar of political gain when Price took Miller's signs and replaced them with signs for Miller's opponent Vernon Robinson.

Chris was considered a "witness" for the Plaintiff (Ron Price) because the Plaintiff summoned him to the deposition. If Chris Knight was deposed as a witness to support the Plaintiff's claims against Debbie and me, it probably didn't work out quite the way Ron and Doug hoped.

I had planned to give you all the juicy details about the deposition, including posting the actual verbatim transcripts. My lawyer asked me not to do that right now. I don't exactly know why because I think the depositions are public records, but I am paying Mr. Cohen for his advice, so I'll follow it.

I think I can tell you a few things without disregarding Mr. Cohen's advice.

I was the first "witness". Hux spent about an hour interrogating me. Except for the Germany question, I was pretty comfortable with everything.

Several times Hux asked questions that I didn't quite understand what he was getting at. A queerly phrased question can be a bit unsettling because you have to struggle to figure out which answer goes with the question.

There is only one truth in the "sign incident", but that truth is composed of many facts. It was sometimes puzzling as to which particular fact Mr. Hux was seeking. Although I'm not entirely sure I answered the questions that were being asked, I tried my best to answer everything as honestly as I possibly could.

There were a lot of theoretical questions, a lot of "what-ifs". I was very puzzled about those kinds of questions.

There were questions about what I thought Mr. Price's intentions were. Hell, I don't know for sure what Price's intentions were with the signs or are with the lawsuit. I just know Price stole the signs because he admitted he took them, and the police found them in his possession, and the police said the signs were stolen, and the police took them away from him.

My wife tells me I did too much answering, but my lawyer said my unnecessarily lengthy answers weren't detrimental. If my answers were excessive, it was because I was trying to figure out what the hell the question was. I got a little confused by some of the questions, but none of them made me angry or anxious.

Debbie was much more concise in her answers, although she too was somewhat buffaloed by some of the questions. Maybe it was just the way Hux phrased things. Debbie was on the "witness stand" (a nice leather-covered chair in Hux's conference room) for about 30 minutes.

Debbie and I were very composed. I think we were good witnesses. Debbie is always composed, and I took a 10mg Allakhazam before the deposition.

Everybody went to lunch after Debbie's deposition. Did you know lawyers take 90 minutes for lunch? Debbie and I ate a tasty breakfast at Chaneys. You can really linger over your pancakes when you have 90 minutes to eat. Seth went somewhere by himself. Ron and Doug went somewhere on what Doug called a "business lunch". I guess "business lunch" means tax deductible.

After lunch, Chris Knight was called in for a brief, unproductive, and pointless interrogation. Much of the time was spent on Chris' employment history. In addition to being brief, unproductive, and pointless, Chris' deposition was also weird. I got the feeling if Chris had worn his Jedi light saber to the deposition, he would have gone over to the Dark Side of the Force on Hux.

Hux seemed really interested in whether Chris and I were friends. Hux asked the question of both Chris and me. My answer was Chris and I are casual friends. We know each other, but I've never been to Chris' home or met his wife. Chris has never been to my home. We are cordial when we meet, but we've never gone fishing together.

When Chris was asked the friend question, his answer was much, much, much longer than mine, but the bottom line was the same.

Chris and I have no more idea what the friends question was about than why Chris was deposed. It was just another mystery in this whole bizarre "sign incident".

Next up was the star of the deposition - Mr. Ronald Filer Price. As I have said, I have been asked not to go into details, but in summary I don't think it went well for Mr. Price.

My lawyer, Seth Cohen, grilled Price for almost two hours. For most of that time, it did not seem Mr. Price was comfortable with the questions, his answers, or the circumstances of the deposition. Price did a lot of hand-wringing, twitching, grimacing, squirming, stammering and hesitating. There were a lot of contradictions and back-peddling that were driving Price's dramatic body language.

A couple of times I noticed Mr. Hux snickering. I could be wrong, but I got the impression Mr. Hux was snickering at Mr. Price's answers to Seth's question. I have to admit I snickered a time or two myself. I even noticed the court reporter's eyes twinkling a bit. I couldn't tell if she was in a full-out snicker because that damn pilot's oxygen mask was covering most of her face.

In summary, at the end of two hours Seth Cohen had Price tied up in so many knots I don't know if he'll ever get himself untangled. Seth Cohen's nickname is "THE SAW", but "THE SHEEP SHANKER" (a type of knot) might be more appropriate.

Speaking of knots, at one point Chris and Hux got into a verbal scuffle about who was the best Boy Scout. Chris easily won because Chris achieved the top rank of Eagle Scout and Hux didn't. I told you it was weird.

At the conclusion of the deposition, Seth Cohen indicated he might depose Ron Price's wife because she was riding around in the car with Price when the "sign incident" occurred. Apparently, Seth thinks Ms. Price might have been yet another eyewitness to Ron stealing Congressman Miller's signs.

Hux said he might want to depose Chris Knight again. Hux may have been joking, but I couldn't tell for sure. I know if Hux drags Chris into his office one more time, it'll be a lot worse than weird. Remember the bar brawl in the first Star Wars movie?

THINGS WE LEARNED. 1) Debbie and I learned for the first time exactly how much Mr. Price wants from us for his suffering over the "sign incident". Hold on to your hats, here it comes - $250,000. Yes, folks, Ronald Filer Price wants Debbie and I to pay him a cool quarter of a million dollars for accusing him of stealing and tattling on him to a magistrate. For the record, if Debbie and I sold everything we own, including our home, our cars, our business, our clothes, our furniture and appliances, including a big screen TV and a DVD player, and tossed in all the cash we have, we couldn't begin to come up with $250,000. Price might as well have asked for $100 gazillion dollars.

2) Although Ron Price has been promising for months to give everyone a "complete and factual account of the sign incident" once his litigation against us has been settled, if Price's testimony during the deposition was the real "complete and factual account of the sign incident", and we have to assume it was because he was under oath, then nothing has changed. The "complete and factual account" is the same account as what you've read here and in other newspapers, and heard on WGSR-TV. Price's account given during the deposition is more detailed, but no different. I won't say more about the details at this time.

3) According to Price's deposition testimony, I am the real thief rather than him. Price accused me of being a thief because after the election someone gave me a Ron Price for School Board sign which I displayed in last year's Christmas parade. I posted on my web site a request for people to bring me Ron Price and Brad Miller campaign signs which they had come by honestly. Only one person responded to my request and he brought me a Price sign and a Miller sign. I think I still have them somewhere.

Although Ron has never asked me to return his sign, Ron is sure I am a thief because I have not returned his sign. Indeed, even as he was accusing me of being a thief for keeping his sign, he still never asked me to return it.

Ron did say if he runs for School Board again, he will need his sign back. I think if Ron has any sense at all, he won't run for School Board or anything else ever again. Even in Rockingham County, I am confident Ron Price is a one-term School Board member.

Price suggested it was OK for him to take Congressman Miller's signs before the election because he was going to take them to the DOT storage yard because they were illegally planted on the highway right-of-way, and he wanted to make it hard for Miller's supporters to find their signs to replant them before the election, but someone giving me a Ron Price sign two weeks after the election was theft. It was just one of many logic knots in which Price found himself ensnared.

Seth Cohen told me Doug Hux had told him to expect some major fireworks (startling revelations) during the depositions. Neither Seth nor I could imagine what Hux was talking about. Again I'm guessing here, but I think Hux thought tossing out a photo of me holding a Ron Price for School Board sign was going to be the smoking gun that proves Ron Price didn't steal Congressman Miller's signs.

If there was any kind of startling revelation during the deposition, it was Ron Price's dismal performance on the witness stand. In defense of Price, no one would have an easy time getting out of the corner into which Ron Price has painted himself. Performing miracles is not simple work, even for Ron Price.

I told Debbie that Ron should go to a magistrate and take out a warrant if he believes I stole one of his campaign signs a year ago. I can handle it. Defending myself against a charge of vandalizing or removing a public notice will be a helluva lot cheaper than defending myself against a frivolous lawsuit.

Whether Price charges me with sign theft or not doesn't change the fact that Price stole Congressman Miller's signs, and then filed a quarter-million dollar lawsuit against the people who complained about what he did.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT. The deposition is over. Everyone is packing up to leave while doing some friendly chatting. I have just returned from Doug's toilet to hear Ron in the process of telling Seth Cohen that he went to the Berger law firm to find someone to help him with his problems. The Berger firm turned him down. Ron asked if they had a recommendation for another lawyer. The Berger people told Ron to call Seth Cohen. Ron told Seth that he just never got around to calling him and then finally decided to hire Doug Hux.

During the entire four hours of testimony, I made only two comments to Ron Price. The second and final one was, "Ron, I think you made the right decision hiring Mr. Hux rather than Mr. Cohen." I looked at Hux, who was standing right beside me, when I paid Mr. Hux the compliment. I hope the remark didn't hurt Seth's feelings.

My first comment to Ron Price was "Good morning, Ron" when I arrived. Much to my surprise, Ron politely returned my greeting.

STANDBY FOR LAUNCH. Be patient. As soon as it's possible, I will report the "complete and factual account of the sign incident", including the sworn testimonies of Ronald Filer Price and myself. You've already heard mine, but I think it's important for you to hear Mr. Price's side of the story too.


Eric H. Smith said...

I gave Richard Moore the Ron Price sign. I got the sign from a reliable source of campaign signs.