On June 29, 1994 Jon Michael Bell, a former reporter hired to investigate Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church by Stauffer Communications, Inc.,filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka, Kansas against Stauffer Communications alleging the Topeka Capital-Journal owed him compensation for overtime and to clarify ownership of his notes and work product. The work product in question, "Addicted to Hate" chronicling the life and times of Fred Phelps, was attached to the lawsuit as Exhibit A making it, therefore, a public document. Learning of the suit, members of Topeka's anti-Phelps underground delivered a certified copy of the lawsuit to a copy shop near the courthouse.
Within 48 hours, Stauffer Communications had written all area media outlets and issued veiled warnings about using the information contained in "Addicted to Hate". A rival Topeka newspaper, the Metro News, announced it was considering publishing the lawsuit in it entirety. The Kansas City Star abided by Stauffer Communication's wishes, but several other media outlets aired or printed portions of the manuscript. Within 48 hours of the filing, Stauffer Communications persuaded a judge to seal the suit so the Clerk of the District Court could no longer make copies for the public. No matter - no such order was issued to the copy shop or to the hundreds of citizens that already had copies.
On July 8 the Capital-Journal, which had deep-sixed the Phelps project and fired the publisher who authorized it when it was completed last fall, suddenly began its watered-down, copyrighted series on Phelps that they had earlier claimed they wouldn't print. Bell also withdrew his suit the same day. By this time, however, TV networks, wire services, and eastern newspapers had obtained copies of the manuscript, and Stauffer's unprecedented attempt to suppress media discussion of the document attracted the interest of several major East Coast newspapers on First Amendment grounds.
Phelps, a self-proclaimed advocate of the First Amendment, whose 'free speech activities include libel, slander defamation of character, intimidation, obscene language, battery, promptly denounced Stauffer Communications and denied the allegations of child abuse, spouse abuse, and other illegal activities. Anyone familiar with Phelps and his children who remain loyal to him, however, can clearly see these adult children and his wife suffer from the grotesque and obvious behaviors symptomatic of severe, long-term abuse. Where and how the twisted saga of Fred Phelps will end is anyone's guess.
The volunteer distributors of this file wish to emphatically state that Jon Michael Bell did not suggest, encourage, or take part in the transfer or distribution of his typewritten manuscript (Exhibit A) to ASCII format. Volunteer distributors make no guarantees either expressed or implied and cannot be responsible in the use of this file.
Jon Michael Bell, one of the authors of "Addicted to Hate", seeks no compensation for his work. If, however, after reading "Addicted to Hate", you would like to make a contribution in his name to organizations in Topeka assisting AIDS victims, abused children and battered women, please send your donations to:
Let the word go forth that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Topekans and Kansans DO NOT support Westboro Baptist Cult and Fred Phelps' hate campaigns against all who disagree with him. The District Attorney in Shawnee County (Topeka) has filed several criminal cases against members of the Westboro Cult ranging from disorderly conduct and battery to felony charges of aggravated intimidations of victims and witnesses. Prosecution of these cases are delayed pending the outcome of the second of the lawsuits filed in federal court by Phelps Chartered. There will probably be more. Fred and his lawyer offspring and in-laws continue to abuse the judicial system much as Fred did before his state and federal disbarments. The case is expected to be heard in federal court in early fall, but few expect that this will be the end.
Please let Topeka officials and Federal Judge Sam Crow know that many of Fred Phelps' and WBC activities (as outlined in the above paragraph and documented by both "Addicted to Hate" and the Capital-Journal series) are NOT protected by the First Amendment and encourage them to take whatever steps are necessary to prosecute Phelps for those activities which are clearly crimes to the fullest extent of the law. Please do it today!
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF SHAWNEE COUNTY, KANSAS DIVISION 7 JON BELL, Plaintiff, vs. Case No. 94CV766 STAUFFER COMMUNICATIONS, INC., Defendant.
PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF (Pursuant to K.S.A. Chapter 60-1701 et. seq.)
COMES NOW the Plaintiff Jon Bell and states:
1.Plaintiff is a resident of Kansas.
2.Defendant Stauffer Communications, Inc. is a corporation organized under the laws of Kansas and may be served by serving its resident agent The Corporation Company, Inc., 515 S. Kansas Ave., Topeka, Kansas 66603.
3.Plaintiff was an intern and employed by Defendant to work for its newspaper Topeka Capital Journal, in Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas.
4. As part of his work he was assigned by the managing editor to prepare stories and/or manuscripts concerning one Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, Inc.
5. That Plaintiff's employment was originally undertaken for compensation of $1300 per month (37 hours per week at $8.00/hour). As the scope of the Phelps project expanded to book length, Plaintiff indicated his willingness to do a book for the compensation he was being paid. It was represented to him by the managing editor, Mr. Sullivan, that the publication of the book would have such value to Plaintiff's reputation as an author that the publication plus the salary was just compensation. In reliance upon the representation that the book would be published by Defendant, he continued with the project to the point of final manuscript and dedicated overtime hours (for which he was not separately compensated) having a reasonable value in excess of $10,000.
6. Plaintiff has been advised by Mr. Hively, the publisher of the Topeka Capital Journal that Defendant does not intend to publish the book or any portion of it.
7. Plaintiff has been separately advised by the defendant's attorney that Defendant does not grant Plaintiff permission to publish the book (Ex. B attached).
8. Plaintiff claims that he has intellectual property rights in the manuscript and desires to publish it and that in the absence of compensation for his overtime or because of his reliance on Mr. Sullivan's representation if Defendant chooses to waste the work that he has the right to publish the book.
9. In that Defendant has asserted superior rights to the manuscript, but, has likewise has declared an intent not to publish and the fact that the material may become dated, or alternatively, lose its timelessness (the subject of the manuscript is currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor of the State of Kansas), it is important to resolve the rights of the parties in and to the manuscript as it relates to the contract of employment which previously existed between Plaintiff and Defendant, and terminate the controversy over rights to the manuscript which gives rise to these proceedings.
10. Plaintiff feels uncertain and insecure of his legal position in the absence of a judicial declaration of his rights, and for that reason, brings this action.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays that the Court construe the terms of his employment and his rights to publish the manuscript marked as Ex. A and attached hereto, and permit the Plaintiff the right without restriction, and subject to any fair accounting to Defendant, to publish the manuscript.
(Signature of Jon Bell) Jon Bell, pro s 82 (Home address intentionally omitted) Lawrence, KS 66044
(Document contains the seal of the District Court of Shawnee County, Kansas and the signature of Leslie Miller, Deputy Clerk of the District Court of Shawnee County, Kansas and dated 6-29-94.)
(Letterhead of the law firm of Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds & Palmer) 515 South Kansas Avenue Topeka, Kansas 66603-3999 913-233-0593 Telecopier: 913-233-8870)
June 2, 1994
Mr. Jon Bell (Home Address Intentionally Omitted) Shawnee, Kansas 66216
In re: Topeka Capital-Journal Our file: 31143
I understand that you are in some way marketing or trying to develop an interest in the Capital-Journal's investigatory work on Fred Phelps.
Be advised that you are not authorized to engage in this activity. This work is the property of The Topeka Capital-Journal, and does not belong to you. My client will make all decisions regarding the piece. You are not authorized to speak on behalf of The Capital-Journal regarding this work, or even to reveal its existence for that matter. If you are taking any steps to develop a market or other interest in this work, you are required to cease immediately.
Meanwhile, please advise Pete Goering at The Capital-Journal of any steps you have taken in this regard.
Very truly yours, (Signature of Michael W. Merriam) Michael W. Merriam
MWM:ah cc: Mr. Pete Goering
(Note: This document contains the time stamp of the Clerk of the District Court, Shawnee County, Kansas showing the document was filed with the Clerk at 1:05 p.m. of June 29, 1994.)
(Note: The contents of the following document shows the time stamp of the Clerk of the District Court, Shawnee County, Kansas and shows that the document was filed at 1:05 p.m. on June 29, 1994.)
"And be sure your sin will find you out." (Num. 32:23)
A frequent quote of Pastor Fred Phelps
CAST OF CHARACTERS AND PHELPS FAMILY TREE
Reverend Fred Phelps: lawyer and Baptist minister; head of the Westboro Baptist Church; 64 years old. Disbarred.
Marge Phelps: wife of Fred; mother of his 13 children; 68 years old. WBC member.
1. Fred Phelps, Jr.: lawyer and employee at the Kansas Department of Corrections; 40 years old. Oldest son. WBC member.
Betty Phelps (Schurle): wife of Fred, Jr.; lawyer and owner-operator of a day-care home; 41 years old. WBC member.
2. ***Mark Phelps: businessman in Southern California; estranged from the family cult; 39 years old. 2nd son.
Luava Phelps (Sundgren): wife of Mark; childhood sweetheart; 36 years old.
3. ***Katherine Phelps: lawyer; suspended from the bar; living on welfare; 38 years-old; oldest daughter. Not in WBC.
4. Margie Phelps: lawyer and employee of the Kansas Department of Corrections; 37 years old; 2nd daughter. WBC member.
5. Shirley Phelps-Roper: lawyer at Phelps Chartered; 36 years old; 3rd daughter. WBC member.
Brent Roper: husband of Shirley; lawyer and businessman in Topeka; 30 years old; WBC member.
6. ***Nate Phelps: businessman in Southern California; estranged from family cult; 35 years old. 3rd son.
7. Jonathon Phelps: lawyer; 4th son; 34 years old; WBC member. Paulette Phelps (Ossiander): wife of Jonathon; 33 years old; high school graduate; WBC member.
8. Rebekah Phelps-Davis: lawyer at Phelps Chartered; 32 years old; 4th daughter; WBC member.
Chris Davis: husband to Rebekah; 38 years old; raised from childhood in the WBC.
9. Elizabeth Phelps: lawyer at Phelps Chartered; night house manager staff at Sheltered Living, Inc. Topeka; 31 years old; 5th daughter; WBC member. Former counsel for the Shawnee County Sheriff's Department.
10. Timothy Phelps: lawyer and employee of the Shawnee County Department of Corrections; 30 years old; 5th son; WBC member.
Lee Ann Phelps (Brown): wife of Timothy; lawyer and employee of Shawnee County Sheriff's Department; 27 years old; WBC member.
11.***Dorotha Bird (Phelps): lawyer practicing independently in Topeka; 6th daughter; not a WBC member; changed her last name to avoid family's notoriety. 29 years old.
12. Rachel Phelps: lawyer at Phelps Chartered; YMCA fitness instructor; 28 years old; 7th daughter; WBC member.
13. Abigail Phelps: lawyer and employee at SRS-Youth and Adult Services, Juvenile Offender Program; 25 years old; 8th daughter; WBC member.
Fred Wade Phelps: the Rev. Phelps' father; he lived in Meridian, Mississippi. He was a railroad bull.
Catherine Idalette Phelps (Johnson): the Rev. Phelps' mother; she died when he was a small child.
Martha Jean Capron (Phelps): the Rev. Phelps' only sibling; a former missionary to Indonesia, she now lives in Pennsylvania; the brother and sister have not spoken for years.
***Denotes a Phelps child who has left the family cult.
(Note: The next portion of Exhibit A contains some handwritten notes denoting ages of the Phelps' children, some names of some of the non-Phelps WBC members (George Stutzman, Charles Hockenbarger, Jennifer Hockenbarger, and Charles Hockenbarger), names of some of the Phelps' grandchildren (Benjamin, Sharon, Sara, Libby, Jacob, Sam, and Josh), and 2 items pasted onto the document which are published documents showing the Phelps family tree and a map of the area surrounding Meridian, Mississippi.)
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