Wade Medlock and Mabel Medlock v. James Warren Jones, et al.

TIMOTHY OLIVER STOEN
120 Montgomery Street, Suite 1700
San Francisco, California 94104
Telephone: (415) 391-5020
Attorney for Plaintiffs

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES

WADE B. MEDLOCK and MABEL M. MEDLOCK, husband and wife,
Plaintiffs,

v.

JAMES WARREN JONES, also known as JIM JONES; PEOPLES TEMPLE OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, a nonprofit corporation; ENOLA M. NELSON; ENOLA M. NELSON REALTY; HUGH FORTSYN [Hue Forston]; JAMES MCELVANE; and FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive,
defendants.

Plaintiffs allege:

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

1. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JAMES MCELVANE is, and at all times herein mentioned was a resident of Los Angeles, State of California.

2. Defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST (“PEOPLES TEMPLE”) is, and that all times herein mentioned was, a nonprofit corporation organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of California. PEOPLES TEMPLE at all times herein mentioned represented itself as a church.

3. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant ENOLA M. NELSON is, and all times herein mentioned was, a real estate broker licensed by the State of California and doing business as defendant ENOLA M. NELSON REALTY at 5760 Rodeo Road, Los Angeles, California.

4. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JAMES MCELVANE is, and it all times herein mentioned was, a real estate salesman licensed by the State of California and doing business as a salesman for defendants ENOLA M. NELSON and ENOLA M. NELSON REALTY.

5. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JAMES WARREN JONES (“JONES”), also known as JIM JONES, was at all relevant times herein mentioned the president of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE.

6. Plaintiffs WADE B. MEDLOCK and MABEL M. MEDLOCK are, and at all times herein mentioned were, husband and wife and residents of the County of Los Angeles, State of California.

7. Plaintiffs are ignorant of the true names and capacities of defendants sued herein as FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive, and therefore sues these defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiffs will amend this complaint to allege their true names and capacities when ascertained. Plaintiffs are informed and believes and thereon alleges that each of the fictitiously named defendants is responsible in some manner for the occurrences herein alleged, and that plaintiffs’ damage as herein alleged were proximately caused by their conduct.

8. Defendants JONES, PEOPLES TEMPLE, ENOLA M. NELSON (“NELSON”), ENOLA M. NELSON REALTY (“NELSON REALTY”), HUGH FORTSYN (“FORTSYN”), JAMES MCELVANE (“MCELVANE”), and FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive, were the agents and employees of their codefendants JONES, PEOPLES TEMPLE, NELSON, NELSON REALTY, FORTSYN, MCELVANE, and FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive, and in doing the things hereinafter alleged were acting within the course and scope of such agency and the permission and consent of their codefendants.

9. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that on or about February 1, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendants, and each of them, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to unlawfully extort, convert, and misappropriate from plaintiffs, by fraud and deceit and by threats of death and bodily harm, the net proceeds from the forced sale of the plaintiffs’ real property in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, which the defendants knew to have a fair market value of approximately $190,000.00 and an equity value to plaintiffs of approximately $130,000.00.

10. On February 1, 1977 plaintiffs for the owners of two parcels of real estate, herein referred to respectively as the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY and the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, described as follows:

    a. BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY, a three-bedroom house at 4644 Don Zarembo Drive, Los Angeles, California, having a fair market value on the date of approximately $125,000.00 and outstanding encumbrances of approximately $40,000.00, thereby constituting an equity value in plaintiffs of approximately $85,000.00.

    b. SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY: a triplex and five room house at 3891 and 3891¾ 2nd Avenue, Los Angeles, California, having a fair market value on that date of approximately $65,000.00 and outstanding encumbrances of approximately $20,000.00, thereby constituting an equity value in plaintiffs of approximately $45,000.00.

11. Plaintiffs became members of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE in 1971, whose minister and president was defendant JONES. In 1975 defendant JONES began to pressure plaintiffs to sell all they had, give all proceeds from such sales to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, and “go communal”. Plaintiffs resisted this pressure, whereupon defendant JONES gradually increased it. Defendant JONES employed various stratagems to induce plaintiffs to sell the above-described properties, one approach being that the money was needed to develop the Peoples Temple Agricultural Mission in Guyana, South America, which was then being established by defendant JONES.

12. Plaintiff WADE B. MEDLOCK is 71 years of age, and plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK is 67 years of age. Plaintiffs work together in their own maintenance business for 33 years to acquire their equity in the above-described properties as security for their senior years. Neither plaintiff at anytime wish to sell either parcel of property or to donate either parcel to anyone, including defendant JONES and defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE. Plaintiffs were living in the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY as their residence at all relevant times until on or about August 1, 1977. Plaintiffs have no appreciable assets beyond the aforesaid properties.

13. On or about February 13, 1977 in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendant JONES personally called plaintiffs into the “council room” of the PEOPLES TEMPLE church building at 1366 Alvarado Boulevard, Los Angeles. Present with defendant JONES at said time and place were at least seven other members of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, including defendants FORTSYN, NELSON, and MCELVANE, all acting as agents for defendant JONES. Defendant JONES at said time and place presented to plaintiffs certain documents previously filled out by defendants NELSON, NELSON REALTY, and MCELVANE authorizing the sale of the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY and the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY. The sales prices were substantially lower than the fair market values in order to expedite immediate sales. When plaintiffs hesitated, defendant JONES personally ordered them to sign the documents by stating to plaintiffs the following threat:

    You will either sign these papers or you will die. We are not taking your property but just protecting it.

14. Plaintiffs interpreted the aforesaid statement by defendant JONES as a threat they would be killed if they did not sign the documents presented by him. Plaintiffs were not permitted to read the documents nor to ask questions concerning them. Any and all apparent consents of each plaintiff to the aforesaid authorizations were obtained by defendants solely through duress and menace of unlawful and violent injury to the person of each plaintiff.

15. At the time of signing the aforesaid documents each plaintiff was mindful of having heard defendant JONES say with respect to an individual who had given property to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE and then reneged and then died, “I killed him.”

16. Plaintiffs are informed and believes and thereon allege that defendant JONES ordered the other defendants to act as his agents in coercing their signatures on all of the documents which would be required to be signed in escrow in order to result in the proceeds of the sales of the above-described parcels being taken by defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE. All apparent consents by plaintiffs to all such other documents were obtained by defendant solely through reminders of the aforesaid threat of defendant JONES and solely through said duress and menace of unlawful and violent injury to the person of each plaintiff.

17. On May 13, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendants reminded plaintiffs or [of] the aforesaid threat of defendant JONES and ordered them to sign the document related to the escrow of the sale of the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY (Escrow Number 1183–PW) entitled “Escrow Amendment/Supplement” to Escrow Instructions. A copy of Page 1 of the Disclosure/Settlement Statement of the aforesaid sale is attached as “Exhibit A (Baldwin Hills)” and made a part hereof. A copy of the aforesaid escrow Amendment/Supplement is attached as “Exhibit B (Baldwin Hills)” and made a part here. The aforesaid Amendment/Supplement was addressed to Crestwood Escrow Services in Inglewood, California, and reads as follows:

    From sellers net proceeds at the close of escrow, escrow holder is authorized and instructed to make one-half of net proceeds payable to PEOPLES TEMPLE and one half payable to MABEL M. MEDLOCK.

The apparent consent of plaintiffs, and each of them, to the aforesaid document was obtained by defendants solely through duress and menace of unlawful and violent injury to the person of each plaintiff.

18. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JONES, upon learning that plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK had attempted to withhold from defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE her one-half of the proceeds from the sale of the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY, was furious and order the other defendants to intensify the reminders of the threats constituting duress and menace as above alleged. On May 17, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendants reminded plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK of the aforesaid threats, in order to her to sign a document relating to the escrow of the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY sale in the form of a letter addressed to Crestwood Escrow Service, a copy of which is attached hereto as “Exhibit C (Baldwin Hills)” and made a part hereof. Said letter reads as follows:

    You have heretofore been handed an instruction by me dated May 13, 1977, provided that certain funds be paid to me at the close of escrow. I now CANCEL THAT INSTRUCTION.

    Instead, please pay all funds due to me from this escrow to PEOPLES TEMPLE of the Disciples of Christ, a California Corporation.

The apparent consent and authorization of plaintiff to the aforesaid letter was obtained by plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK solely through said the said duress and menace of unlawful and violent injury to the person of each plaintiff.

19. On May 13, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendants reminded plaintiffs of the aforesaid threat of defendant JONES and ordered them to sign a document relating to the escrow of the sale of the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY (Escrow Number 1077–PW) entitled “Escrow Amendment/Supplement” to Escrow Instructions. A copy of Page 1 of the Settlement Statement for the aforesaid sale is attached as “Exhibit D (Second Avenue)” and made a part hereof. The aforesaid Amendment/Supplement was addressed to Crestwood Escrow Service in Inglewood, California, and reads as follows:

    From sellers net proceeds at close of escrow, escrow holder is authorized and instructed to make one half of net proceeds payable to PEOPLES TEMPLE and one half payable to MABEL M. MEDLOCK.

The apparent consent of plaintiffs, and each of them, to the aforesaid document was obtained by defendants solely through said duress and menace of unlawful and violent injury to the person of each plaintiff.

20. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JONES, upon learning that plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK had attempted to withhold from defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE her one half of the proceeds from the sale of the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY, was serious and ordered the other defendants to intensify the reminders of the threats constituting duress and menace as above alleged. On May 17, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendants reminded plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK of the aforesaid threats, and ordered her to sign a document relating to the escrow of the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY sale in the form of a letter addressed to Crestwood Escrow Service, a copy of which is attached hereto as “Exhibit E (Second Avenue)” and made a part hereof. Said letter reads as follows:

    You have heretofore been handed an instruction by me dated May 13, 1977, provided that certain funds be paid to me at the close of escrow. I now CANCEL THAT INSTRUCTION.

    Instead, please pay all funds due to me from this escrow to PEOPLES TEMPLE of the Disciples of Christ, a California Corporation.

The apparent consent and authorization of plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK to the aforesaid letter was obtained by defendants solely through duress and menace of unlawful and violent injury to the person of each plaintiff.

21. On or about July 28, 1977, defendants ordered plaintiffs to vacate their BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY residence because escrow was about to close. Plaintiffs stated to defendants that they would not have sufficient monies to maintain themselves and requested the sum of $10,000.00 from the net proceeds being claimed by defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, but defendant stated to plaintiffs that $10,000.00 “is too much” and agreed that plaintiffs should receive the sum of $7,000.00 instead.

22. The sales of both the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY and the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY were finalized in escrow on or about August 1, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, at which time the following net proceeds were paid over to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE:

    a. Net proceeds from sale of BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY: $37,003.08; and
    b. Net proceeds from sale of SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY: $11,506.99.

23. Plaintiffs are informed and believes and thereon allege that in addition to the above enumerated net proceeds totaling $48,510.07 paid over to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, the defendants NELSON and NELSON REALTY were ordered under duress by defendant JONES to pay, and infected pay, over to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE the sum of $5,217.00, which represented their real estate sales commission of $2,535.00 from the sale of the BALDWIN HILLS PROPERTY and $2,682.00 from the sale of the SECOND AVENUE PROPERTY.

24. At all times herein mentioned, and in particular on or about July 31, 1977, plaintiffs were, and still are, the owners and were, and still are, entitled to the possession of the following personal property: Monies constituting the net proceeds from the sales of the above-described properties paid over to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE.

25. On or about July 31, 1977, the above-mentioned personal property had a value of $48,510.07, and on that date was in the possession of plaintiffs at Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles, State of California.

26. On or about August 1, 1977, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendants converted the aforesaid personal property to their own use, as a proximate result of which plaintiffs lost the value of their entire equity in the above-described properties (less the above-mentioned payment of $7,000.00), all to plaintiffs’ damage in the sum of ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($123,000.00).

27. At the time of the conversion, defendants were fully aware that the property was the property of plaintiffs and plaintiffs were entitled to possession thereto, and notwithstanding that knowledge, defendants wrongfully, maliciously, and with intent to injure plaintiffs, converted it as hereinabove alleged. By reason thereof, plaintiffs are entitled to exemplary and punitive damages in the sum of TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS ($12,000,000.00).

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

28. Plaintiffs reincorporate the allegations of their First Cause of Action as though fully set forth at length herein.

29. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that on or about June 16, 1977, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants, and each of them excepting defendants NELSON and NELSON REALTY, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to intentionally inflict emotional distress and mental suffering on plaintiffs should they refuse to follow defendant JONES to “Jonestown”, Guyana, South America, and thereby become unable effectively to protest and complained to legal authorities about the above-alleged unlawful extortion and conversion. Said infliction of emotional distress and mental suffering was to be done by threats of death and bodily injury made by persons in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, who would be selected by, and who would act upon the express orders of, defendant JONES in Guyana, South America. Defendant JONES would transmit such orders in pre-arranged code by courier and by international shortwave amateur radio.

30. On or about January 20, 1978, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendant FORTSYN telephoned plaintiffs and made the following threat twice, one to each plaintiff:

    You know what happened to Chris. Jim wants you to come to Guyana.

31. At the time of defendant FORTSYN making the above-mentioned threat, the defendants, and each of them, the plaintiffs would regard, as they did in fact regard, the name “Chris” as a reference to Christopher Lewis, a member of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE and bodyguard of defendant JONES known publicly to have been murdered on the streets of San Francisco, California in December 1977 shortly after returning from Guyana, South America. At said time the defendants, and each of them, also that the plaintiffs would regard, as they affected regard, the name “Jim” as a reference to defendant JONES.

32. Plaintiffs are informed and believes and thereon allege that defendant JONES on or about January 14, 1978, personally ordered, by means of courier and amateur shortwave radio, the making of the aforesaid threat, and by the same means dictated its wording, using a pre-arranged code. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus received and acted upon in the County of Los Angeles, State of California so as to result in the making of the aforesaid threat and the consequent injury to plaintiffs.

33. Defendants did the acts and things herein alleged pursuant to, and in furtherance of, the conspiracy and agreement above alleged.

34. Upon being threatened by FORTSYN as above alleged, plaintiffs became fearful that they would be murdered by defendants. As a proximate result of the aforementioned threat, plaintiffs suffered humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, and have been injured in mind and body, all to the plaintiffs’ damages in the sum of six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000.00) each.

35. As a further proximate cause of the aforementioned threat, plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that they will be required to employ physicians and surgeons to examine, treat, and care for them, and may incur medical expenses for hospital bills in an amount which has not yet been ascertained.

36. The affirmation acts of defendants were willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive, and justify the awarding of exemplary and punitive damages in the amount of two million dollars ($2,000,000.00).

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

37. Plaintiffs reincorporate the allegations of their First and Second Causes of Action as though fully set forth at length herein.

38. On or about March 26, 1978, in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, defendant MCELVANE approached plaintiff WADE B. MEDLOCK. Plaintiff WADE B. MEDLOCK said to MCELVANE:

    I don’t believe in Jim anymore.

Defendant MCELVANE at said time and place then made the following threat to plaintiff WADE B. MEDLOCK in the presence of plaintiff MABEL M. MEDLOCK:

    You better watch out. What happened to Chris could happen to you.

39. At the time of defendant MCELVANE making the above-mentioned threat, the defendants, and each of them, knew that plaintiffs would regard, as they did in fact regard, the name “Chris” as a reference to Christopher Lewis as above alleged.

40. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege that defendant JONES on or about March 19, 1978, personally ordered, by means of courier and amateur shortwave radio, the making of the aforesaid threat, which was to be rendered by defendant MCELVANE after he approached plaintiff WADE B. MEDLOCK and ascertained that said plaintiff’s attitude was one likely to cause trouble for defendants JONES and PEOPLES TEMPLE. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon alleges that defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus executed by defendant MCELVANE in the County of Los Angeles, State of California so as to result in the making of the aforesaid threat and the consequent injury to plaintiffs.

41. Defendants did the acts and things herein alleged pursuant to, and in furtherance of, the conspiracy and agreement alleged in paragraph 29 herein.

42. Upon being threatened by defendant MCELVANE as above alleged, plaintiffs became even more fearful that they would be murdered by defendants. As a proximate result of the aforementioned threat, plaintiffs suffered humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, and have been injured in mind and body, all to plaintiffs’ damage in the sum of six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000.00) each.

43. As a further proximate result of the aforementioned threat, plaintiffs are informed and believes and thereon allege that they will be required to employ physicians and surgeons to examine, treat, and care for them, and may incur medical expenses for hospital bills in an amount which is not yet been ascertained.

44. The aforementioned acts of defendants were willful, wanton, malicious, and depressive, and justify the awarding of exemplary and punitive damages in the amount of two million dollars ($2,000,000.00).

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs pray judgment as follows:

    1. For general damages in the sum of $2,523,000.00.
    2. For medical and related expenses according to proof.
    3. For punitive damages in the sum of $16,000,000.00.
    4. For costs of suit herein incurred.
    5. For such further and other relief as the court may deem proper.

DATED: June 6, 1978.

[Signed] Timothy Oliver Stoen
Timothy Oliver Stoen
Attorney for Plaintiffs

Trial by jury is hereby demanded on all issues.
DATED: June 6, 1978.

[Signed] Timothy Oliver Stoen
Timothy Oliver Stoen
Attorney for Plaintiffs

[Several pages of escrow forms and statements follow, and are not reproduced as text here.]

Originally posted on May 17th, 2013.

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