James Cobb v. Peoples Temple, et al.

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

IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
IN AND FOR THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO
JAMES COBB, JR.,
Plaintiff,

vs.

PEOPLES TEMPLE OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, a nonprofit corporation; JAMES WARREN JONES, also known as JIM JONES; TERESA BUFORD; JEAN F. BROWN; PAMELA G. MOTON; and FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive,
Defendants.

No. [stamped] 739907

COMPLAINT FOR COMPENSATORY AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES FOR INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS AND FOR LIBEL ON ITS FACE

Plaintiff alleges:

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
1. Defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST (“PEOPLES TEMPLE”) is, and at all times herein mentioned was, a nonprofit corporation organized and existing under and by virtue of the law[s] of the State of California. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the principal place of business of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE is at 1859 Geary Boulevard in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California.

2. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendants TERESA BUFORD (“BUFORD”), JEAN F. BROWN (“BROWN”), and PAMELA G. MOTON (“MOTON”) are, and at all times herein relevant were, residents of the City and County of San Francisco, State of California.

3. Plaintiff is, and then all times herein relevant was, a resident of the City and County of San Francisco, State of California.

4. Plaintiff is 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. Plaintiff will amend this complaint to allege their true names and capacities when ascertained. Plaintiff is 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 plaintiff’s damage as herein alleged were proximately caused by their conduct.

5. Defendants JAMES WARREN JONES (“JONES”), also known as JIM JONES, PEOPLES TEMPLE, BUFORD, BROWN, MOTON, and FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive, were the agents and employees of the codefendants JONES, PEOPLES TEMPLE, BUFORD, BROWN, MOTON, 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.

6. From June 1967 until September 1, 1973, plaintiff was a member of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, which at all times mentioned herein presented itself as a church. The president and minister of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE at all times herein relevant was defendant JONES. On September 1, 1973, plaintiff terminated his membership in defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, which infuriated defendant JONES and made defendant JONES fearful that other members of plaintiff’s family then members of PEOPLES TEMPLE might, by plaintiff’s example, be induced to terminate their membership in PEOPLES TEMPLE.

7. At all times herein mentioned the following member of plaintiff’s family were, and still are, members of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE: Christine Cobb (mother), John Cobb (brother), Brenda Cobb (sister), Sandra Cobb (sister), Joel Cobb (brother), and Avery Brown (sister).

8. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that on or about September 3, 1973, defendant JONES intended, planned, and set in motion a scheme to systematically and periodically cause emotional distress in plaintiff and instill fear in him for the safety of his person and the safety of his loved ones. The purpose of defendant JONES therein was to deter plaintiff from publicly criticizing defendant JONES and defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, and to deter plaintiff from attempting to persuade his family members to leave PEOPLES TEMPLE. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that each of the acts complained of herein was individually and personally ordered by defendant JONES.

9. From October 1973 until the present time plaintiff has been subjected by defendant JONES to numerous harassing and threatening telephone calls received by plaintiff both at his private residence in San Francisco and at the School of Dentistry, University of California, San Francisco, where plaintiff has been, and now is, a student. These telephone calls have included the following:

      a. Anonymous telephone calls in which the caller stated in essence: “You have talked against Jim Jones and you will pay for it.”

b. Anonymous telephone calls in which the caller did not mention any names and stated in essence: “We are going to get you.”

c. Telephone calls from Christopher Lewis, a bodyguard of defendant JONES and a member of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE known by plaintiff to have been prosecuted for first-degree murder, who, during each such telephone call, ordered plaintiff not to make contact with some specifically named person then a member of PEOPLES TEMPLE and threatening plaintiff and plaintiff did so he would “regret it” and that “this is going to be between you and me.”

10. From October 1973 until the present time, plaintiff has been subjected by defendant JONES to a “saturation” defamation campaign wherein defendant JONES has falsely, publicly, recurringly, and maliciously preached to members of PEOPLES TEMPLE that plaintiff left PEOPLES TEMPLE because:

      a. plaintiff had become a “terrorist”;

 

      b. plaintiff had become a “Radical Trotskyite”;

 

      c. plaintiff had plotted to “blow up” bridges and other facilities;

 

      d. plaintiff “is planning” to organize and commit acts of “violence” against defendant JONES and the members of PEOPLES TEMPLE; and

 

    e. plaintiff had committed acts of sexual perversion with young people.

None of the aforesaid charges against plaintiff is true. Plaintiff believes that many members of PEOPLES TEMPLE, including members of his own family, have come to believe, as the result of the aforesaid defamation campaign, that some or all of these false and hideous charges against plaintiff are true.

11. In June 1975 five members of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE surrounded plaintiff in Redwood Valley, California while he was attending ceremonies for the graduation of his brother John from Redwood Valley Junior High School. The aforesaid members of PEOPLES TEMPLE threatened plaintiff by stating: “You are in trouble.… You’ll see.” When plaintiff attempted to tell his brother John that he loved him, the aforesaid members of PEOPLES TEMPLE dragged John away and prevented plaintiff from talking with him. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the aforesaid conduct by [word cut off] PEOPLES TEMPLE members was personally and specifically ordered by defendant JONES.

12. In April 1976 plaintiff received an anonymous telephone call at his residence in San Francisco when a male voice stated:

    You have been badmouthing Peoples Temple. We know that you have a son. You’re putting him in trouble.

This telephone call was perceived by plaintiff as coming from defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE upon the personal order of defendant JONES, [word cut off] it has caused the plaintiff great and continuous emotional distress and fear for the life and physical safety of his son, James Cobb, [word cut off] who was born on September 9, 1975, and who, at the time of the aforesaid telephone call, was seven months old. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES ordered [word cut off] aforesaid telephone call to be made to plaintiff with the intention of inflicting upon him emotional distress and mental suffering.

13. On or about June 23, 1977, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendant JONES knew that he was about to be exposed in the press for various crimes and immoral [word cut off, likely “acts”]. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that at that time and place defendants, and each of them except the defendant MOTON, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to intentionally inflict emotional distress and mental suffering on plaintiff should he ever attempt to re-establish contact with his above-mentioned relatives or with any ex-member of PEOPLES TEMPLE.

14. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that on or about June 23, 1977, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants, and each of them excepting defendant MOTON, in order to institutionalize the tactics of terror and [word cut off] which had been personal to defendant JONES, who was then preparing to leave the United States permanently for Guyana, South America, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to establish a permanent administrative department in defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE which would be responsive and obedient to orders rendered by defendant JONES by means of courier and by means of coded messages by international shortwave radio. Defendant BUFORD was appointed by defendant JONES to head this department, which was known as the “Diversions” department and which was to be divided into the following de facto “divisions” and to engage in the following “dirty tricks”:

      a. Defectors & Critics Division: To divert individual persons, particularly ex-members of PEOPLES TEMPLE and outspoken critics thereof, from publicizing and from organizing in opposition to the practices of defendants JONES and PEOPLES TEMPLE, by threatening such persons with death and injury to their persons and properties, including threats their homes will be burned;

b. Government & Media Division: To divert agencies of government and of the media from investigating the practices of defendants JONES and PEOPLES TEMPLE by:

        (1) “Bombarding” them with continual mass volumes of letters written in longhand by PEOPLES TEMPLE members conscripted as part of “letter-writing committees” which allege various types of unjustified harassment; and

(2) Making anonymous telephone calls to agencies of government and the media which accused totally innocent persons selected at random of heinous crimes and immoral acts (particularly crimes and acts related to those for which defendant JONES feared he was about to be accused); and

c. General Public Division: To divert the public from focusing upon the questionable practices of defendants JONES and PEOPLES TEMPLE by publishing press releases and other communications which falsely accused critics of such practices as being sexual deviates, terrorists, drug traffickers, or child molesters.

15. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, as part of the conspiracy and agreement above alleged, ordered defendant BUFORD to adopt various secretive techniques to carry out the designated threats so they could not be traced as to person or mechanical source, such techniques including the following:

      a. Threatening letters: to arrange for such to be typed on typewriters and various public libraries throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, or upon typewriters obtained second-hand and then discarded into the ocean or Bay; and

b. Threatening telephone calls: to type up the threat in the form of a script, ask various individuals loitering or walking along Mission Street in San Francisco to read the script into a tape recorder as part of a radio “test”, and then play the tape over the telephone to the person “targeted” immediately after he or she picked up the telephone.

16. On or about February 24, 1978, plaintiff attempted to re-establish contact with his mother, Christine Cobb, from whom he had not heard for more than a year. Plaintiff located her at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, where she was employed as a nurse. When plaintiff greeted his mother, who at that time was still a member of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE, she manifested symptoms of fear and kept looking around to see if she were being watched. When plaintiff asked whether his brothers and sisters had been taken by defendant JONES to Guyana, South America, his mother refused to discuss the matter. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that his mother was then and there in fear of being seen with plaintiff because he had been called a “traitor” by defendant JONES, and his family members had been ordered by defendant JONES to have no contact with him.

17. On or about March 3, 1978, plaintiff returned to Children’s Hospital in San Francisco to talk with his mother again, and learned that she longer work there but had quit without notice a few days before to the complete surprise of the personnel at said hospital. Plaintiff subsequently learned that she had been sent to Guyana upon orders of defendant JONES. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that his mother is presently at “Jonestown”, Guyana, South America, under the complete control of defendant JONES and under tragic conditions which violate basic human rights, as outlined in Exhibit G, which is attached hereto and made a part hereof.

18. On March 14, 1978, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants sent to plaintiff an unsigned letter threatening him. The letter is attached hereto as Exhibit A and made a part hereof. The letter states:

      Jim,

If you think that you are working only to destroy our friend, you’re badly underestimating the course you’re on. This is going down on the record as a deliberate attempt to starve out hundreds of good people. You’ll be remembered for much more than just a personal vendetta.

Even though what you’re trying to do is impossible, you’re going to earn for yourselves the bitterest of enemies. We have solid evidence that one of your crowd participated in Chris’ death. A whole lot of people not even associated with us can back that up. Whether or not you decide to respond to this hardly matters now. Since you’re no doubt fully aware of who you are in with and what you are working for, I count this communication probably a waste of my time. We have real class enemies to deal with, and really aren’t worrying about your clumsey [clumsy] efforts. But in the future, don’t try to say you didn’t know. It won’t wash. If you had cared anything about what was right, you would have checked with the officials that live there and have seen the work, and ask them about the kind of society we’re building there. But like I said: in the future, don’t plead ignorance.

19. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, on or about March 7, 1978, personally ordered, by means of courier and amateur shortwave radio, the sending of the aforesaid letter, and by the same means dictated its wording, using a pre-arranged code. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus received and acted upon in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, so as to result in the making of the aforesaid threat and the consequent injury to plaintiff.

20. Defendants knew at the time they sent the aforesaid letter of the state of mind of plaintiff as induced by the acts mentioned in paragraphs 8 through 16 herein. This conduct of defendants JONES, PEOPLES TEMPLE, BUFORD, BROWN, MOTON, and FIRST DOE through FIFTIETH DOE, inclusive, and the sending of the aforesaid letter, was intentional and malicious and done for the purpose of causing plaintiff to suffer humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the defendants, and each of them, knew that plaintiff would regard, as he in fact did regard, the reference to “Chris’ death” as a reference to the death of the above-mentioned Christopher Lewis, who is known to have been murdered on the streets of San Francisco in December 1977 shortly after returning from Guyana, South America. Defendants thereby intended that plaintiff be placed, as he in fact was, in fear that he would be murdered by the supporters of Christopher Lewis as an act of revenge. Defendants thereby further intended that plaintiff be placed, as he and fact was, in fear that he would be murdered by the supporters of “our friend”, whom defendants knew the plaintiff would regard, as he did in fact regard, a reference to defendant JONES.

21. Defendants did the acts and things herein alleged in paragraph 18 through 20 pursuant to, and in furtherance of, the conspiracies and agreements herein alleged in paragraph 13 through 15.

22. As a proximate result of the aforementioned letter, plaintiff suffered humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, and has been injured in mind and body, all to plaintiff’s damages in the sum of NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($900,000.00).

23. The sending of the aforementioned letter by defendants was willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive, and justifies the awarding of exemplary and punitive damages in the amount of SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS ($7,000,000.00).

24. By reason of the aforementioned letter, plaintiff was prevented from attending with the required degree of concentration to his usual profession as a graduate student of dentistry, and thereby may have set back his expected date of graduation, thereby losing earnings as a Doctor of Dental Surgery in an amount hereafter to be ascertained.

25. As a further proximate result of the aforesaid letter, plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that he will be required to employ physicians and surgeons to examine, treat, and care for him, and will incur additional medical expenses for hospital bills in an amount which is not yet been ascertained.

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
26. Plaintiff reincorporates the allegations of his First Cause of Action as though fully set forth at length herein.

27. On March 14, 1978, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants published an open letter threatening an act of mass murder of the members of PEOPLES TEMPLE under the control of defendant JONES in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, which necessarily included plaintiff’s relatives as described above. A copy of this letter is attached hereto as Exhibit B and made a part hereof. The letter was typed on letterhead stationery of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE and was addressed “TO ALL U. S. SENATORS AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS.” This letter read in part:

      We at Peoples Temple have been the subject of harassment by several agencies of the U.S. Government, and are rapidly reaching the point at which patience is exhausted. …

It seems cruel that anyone would want to escalate this type of bureaucratic harassment into an international issue, but it is equally evident that people cannot forever be continually harassed and beleaguered by such tactics without seeking alternatives that have been presented. I can say without hesitation that we are devoted to a decision that is better even to die than to be constantly harassed from one continent to the next. I hope you can look into this matter and protect the right of over 1,000 from the U.S. to live in peace.

28. On April 18, 1978, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants published a press release which “explained” the “decision… to die” as “the unanimous vote of the collective community here in Guyana.” A copy of this press release is attached hereto as Exhibit C and made a part hereof. This press release had published as its return address “Peoples Temple” and was “For Immediate Release.” It was part of a larger packet of materials signed by defendant BROWN. This press release stated in part:

      The following is a transcript of the message read to members of the press by Harriet Tropp, member of Peoples Temple Agricultural Project at Jonestown, Guyana, South America. She read the statement via amateur radio phone patch at Charles Garry’s office:

“I am speaking on behalf of Peoples Temple in response to the grossly false and malicious statements that continue to be made about our community here in Guyana. Individuals participating in a self-styled group of ‘Concerned Relatives’ have now threatened publicly to hire mercenaries to illegally enter Guyana and use whatever means necessary, including armed attack and kidnap, to capture relatives in the Peoples Temple community.…

“Finally, we would like to address ourselves to a point that has been raised, it seems, about some statements supposedly issued officially by Peoples Temple whose contents we here are unaware of. It is supposed to have been to the effect that we prefer to resist this harassment and persecution even if it means death.… And we, likewise, affirm that before we will submit quietly to the interminable plotting and persecution of this politically motivated conspiracy, we will resist actively, putting our lives on the line, if it comes to that. This is been the unanimous vote of the collective community here in Guyana.”

29. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that on or about June 23, 1977, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants, and each of them excepting defendant MOTON, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to publicly threaten the collective death of all members of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE if ever defendant JONES felt he was being persecuted or unduly harassed. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant then and there referred to such a threat euphemistically as a threat of “revolutionary suicide” when in actuality it was a megalomaniacal threat of “mass murder” which would result in the death of minor children not old enough to make voluntary and informed decisions about serious matters of any nature, much less insane proposals of collective suicide. One of the purposes of defendants in entering into this conspiracy and agreement was to deter the governments of the United States and of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana from disregarding the demands made of them by defendant JONES. Another purpose was to stir ex-members (“defectors”) of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE from publicly criticizing defendant JONES and from organizing in opposition to his practices.

30. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, on or about March 7, 1978, personally ordered, by means of courier and amateur shortwave radio, the sending of the above-mentioned open letter of March 14, 1978, and by the same means dictated its wording, using a pre-arranged code. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus received and acted upon in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, so as to result in the sending of said open letter and the consequent injury to plaintiff.

31. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, on April 17, 1978, personally ordered the publication of the above-mentioned press release of April 18, 1978, and personally dictated its wording to Harriet Tropp, and personally supervised Harriet Tropp’s reading thereof so as to be heard in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California on April 18, 1978, and so as to result in the publication of such press release in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California on April 18, 1978.

32. Defendants published the aforesaid March 14 open letter about a “decision… to die” and the aforesaid April 18 press release explaining that decision as “the unanimous vote of the collective community here in Guyana” with the intent and for the purpose of causing plaintiff, as part of the class of persons having relatives under defendant JONES’ domination at Jonestown, to suffer humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress. Defendants [word cut off] that their reference to the “collective community” which had made a “unanimous vote” to die would be interpreted by plaintiff, as it is fact was, as a reference to the threatened mass murder of plaintiff’s brother Joel (age 12), sister Brenda (age 15), brother John (age 18), sister Sandra (age 21), sister Ava (age 26), and mother Christine. Plaintiff read the March 14 open letter and the April 18 press release shortly after they were published by defendants. Attached as Exhibit D and made a part hereof is an article from the June 15, 1978 issue of the “San Francisco Chronicle” newspaper which is entitled, “Grim Report From Jungle.” Said article purports to [word cut off] an eye-witness account by “defector” Deborah Layton of the acts of defendant JONES and shows that plaintiff’s interpretation of the March 14 open letter and the April 18 press release as a reference to mass murder was accurate. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the aforesaid article on Deborah Layton is true and correct in all respects.

33. Defendants did the acts and things alleged in this Second Cause of Action pursuant to, and in furtherance of, conspiracies and agreements herein alleged.

34. As a proximate result of the aforementioned acts, plaintiff suffered humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress, and has been injured in mind and body, all to plaintiff’s damages in the sum of SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($600,000.00).

35. The aforementioned acts of defendants were willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive, and justify the awarding of the exemplary and punitive damages in the amount of FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($4,000,000.00).

36. By reason of the aforementioned acts of defendants, plaintiff was prevented from attending with the required degree of concentration to his usual profession as a dental student, and therefore may have set back his expected date of graduation, thereby losing earnings as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) in an amount hereafter to be ascertained.

37. As a further proximate cause of the aforesaid acts of defendants, plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that he will be required to employ physicians and surgeons to examine, treat, and care for him, and will incur additional medical expenses for hospital bills in an amount hereafter to be ascertained.

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
38. Plaintiff reincorporate the allegations of his First and Second Causes of Action as though fully set forth at length herein.

39. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that on or about June 23, 1977, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants, and each of them excepting defendant MOTON, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to falsely defame and falsely accused plaintiff of whatever immoral and criminal acts they could contrive should he ever attempt to interfere with the allegiance with the above-mentioned relatives to defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE as a collectivist society whose members, including plaintiff’s relatives, would be required to devote total allegiance to defendant JONES and to terminate all meaningful family ties. One of the purposes of said conspiracy and agreement was to deter plaintiff from attempting to re-establish even minimal contact with any of his relatives above-mentioned.

40. At all times herein mentioned plaintiff was, and now is, a dental student at the School of Dentistry, University of California, San Francisco, where he is a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery. At all times herein mentioned plaintiff has been, and now is, a resident of the City and County of San Francisco, State of California. Plaintiff has resided in the City and County of San Francisco for five (5) years and in all times has enjoyed a good reputation both generally and in his occupation.

41. On March 14, 1978, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants published an open letter defaming plaintiff, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit B and made a part hereof. This open letter is typed on letterhead stationery of defendant PEOPLES TEMPLE and addressed “TO ALL US SENATORS AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS.” The letter read in part:

    We at Peoples Temple have been the subject of harassment by several agencies of the U. S. Government, and are rapidly reaching the point at which patience is exhausted. Radical Trotskyite elements which defected from our organization when we refused to follow their violent course have been orchestrating a campaign against us. Two of these, Michael Cartmell and Jim Cobb, were actually discovered making ammunition several years ago. The same two persons have boasted about knowing persons in the IRS and FCC and using them to get back at Peoples Temple. They also vowed recently to several witnesses that they would see to it that our group of over 1,000 U.S. citizens (currently conducting a highly successful agricultural project in Guyana) were starved out by having funds cut off from the U.S.

42. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, on or about March 7, 1978, personally ordered, by means of courier and amateur shortwave radio, the sending of the aforesaid letter, and by the same means dictated its wording, using a pre-arranged code. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus received and acted upon in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, so as to result in the publishing of the aforesaid letter and the consequent injury to plaintiff.

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

44. The publication of the aforesaid letter was made of and concerning the plaintiff and was so understood by those who read it.

45. The entire letter is false as it pertains to plaintiff.

46. The aforesaid letter is libelous on its face. It clearly exposes plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy because it accuses him of the morally reprehensible crimes and acts of advocating revolutionary violence, of membership in a communist political party which advocates revolutionary violence, of making ammunition for aims of revolutionary violence, and of fraud and deceit.

47. The aforesaid letter was seen and read by officials, employees, and other persons in the offices of each member of the United States Congress and by other persons whose names are not known to plaintiff.

48. As a proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered loss to his reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings all to his general damages in the sum of TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($200,000.00).

49. As a further proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered the following special damages: injury to his profession, off to his injury in the sum of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($100,000.00).

50. The above-described publication was published by the defendants because of their feelings of hatred and ill will toward the plaintiff and with a desire to oppress plaintiff and thus plaintiff seeks an award of punitive damages in the sum of TWO MILLION DOLLARS ($2,000,000.00).

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION
51. Plaintiff reincorporates the allegations of his First, Second, and Third Causes of Action as though fully set forth at length herein.

52. On May 10, 1978, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants published a press release defaming plaintiff, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit E and made a part hereof. This press release stated in part:

      The statement of the ‘Concerned Relatives’ was signed by a sordid crew of individuals who, among other things, have tried blackmail; have embezzled from Peoples Temple while infiltrating it; have even been involved in the manufacture of ammunition and have advocated ridiculous and mad schemes of violence in order to achieve revolutionary ‘ends’ in the classic manner of agent provocateurs. Included in the group are people who have used and trafficked in drugs; some who have molested children, including their own…; who have operated credit card rackets, forged checks, stolen money from the treasury in the amount of thousands of dollars; who have actually abused and treated black youngsters as house slaves; who have engaged in welfare fraud and who have exhibited a series of highly unstable personal patterns in their private lives, e.g. sadism.

They are organizers, collaborators, and recruits, both paid and volunteer, in a conspiracy that has tried every trick in the book to – in the words of one of them – ‘destroy’ us.

Conspiring with other individuals, leaders in the group have lied about us, getting the worst kind of smear and innuendo-filled articles in the press. They have sent out aides to bribe people to lie about us; who have used the devices and ‘dirty trick’ methods of Cointelpro that have been used repeatedly to harass other progressive organizations.

They have tried a host of schemes: sabotaging our communications; instituting bogus investigations that get headline coverage while turning up nothing; using lies, distortions, faceless accusers to create an aura of implied guilt; they have attempted to cut off pensions to elderly people in our organization, at our beautiful agricultural project in Guyana, in an attempt to actually starve them out. They have tried to use the Offices of high officials in the State Department, everyone they could think of to sabotage our work here, which has been described by thousands of visitors as a model of cooperation, earning praises all over the world. They have circulated lies about us everywhere and have even tried to send undercover agents hired to snatch away children illegally and violently from their rightful parents and homes, and have tried to bribe and payoff officials to help them. It is all documented fact.

53. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, on or about May 1, 1978, personally ordered, by means of international amateur shortwave radio, the publication of this press release, and by the same means dictated its exact wording. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the [word cut off] of defendant JONES rendering the aforesaid order and dictation was heard in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California by all other named defendants and by FIRST DOE through TENTH DOE, inclusive, who thereupon acted upon said order pursuant to the conspiracy and agreement mentioned in paragraph 39 herein. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus heard and acted upon in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, so as to result in the publication of the aforesaid press release and the consequent injury to plaintiff.

54. Defendants did the acts and things herein alleged pursuant to, and in furtherance of, the conspiracies and agreements above alleged, including such alleged in paragraph 39 herein.

55. The publication was made of and concerning the plaintiff was so understood by those who read the publication. Attached as Exhibit C and made a part hereof is the “statement” referred to by the above-mentioned press release. It is a 49-page document signed by plaintiff, and is entitled: “Accusation of Human Rights Violations by Rev. James Warren Jones Against Our Children and Relatives at the Peoples Temple Jungle Encampment in Guyana, South America.” It was served publicly on PEOPLES TEMPLE officials in San Francisco on April 11, 1978. It is attached hereto for the purpose of showing that the publication of the above-mentioned press release was made and concerning the plaintiff and was so understood by those who read the press release.

56. The entire press releases false as it pertains to plaintiff.

57. The above-mentioned press release is libelous on its face. It clearly exposes plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy because it accuses him, as a member of the class of “Concerned Relatives” listed in the “statement” referred to in the press release, of the morally reprehensible crimes and acts of: extortion, embezzlement, sabotage, conspiracy to commit violence, sale of illegal drugs, sexual abuse of children, racketeering, forgery, grand theft, [word cut off] abuse, racism, welfare fraud, assault, deceit, false reports to government, revolutionary violence, kidnapping, bribery, and every malicious charge that the author of the press release [word cut off] contrived.

58. The press release above-mentioned was seen and read by persons entering and leaving the Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue,, San Francisco, California, on May 10, 1978. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that it was also mailed to all major newspapers, television stations, and radio stations in the State of California and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, South America, and that it was also mailed to all members of the United States Congress and to the leading officials of the Executive Branch of the United States government in Washington, D.C., including the White House and the State Department.

59. As a proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered loss of reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings all to his general damages in the sum of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($300,000.00).

60. As a further proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered the following special damages: injury to his profession, all to his injury in the sum of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($100,000.00).

61. The above-described publication was published by the defendants because of their feelings of hatred and ill will toward the plaintiff and with a desire to oppress plaintiff and thus plaintiff seeks an award of punitive damages in the sum of THREE MILLION DOLLARS ($3,000,000.00).

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION
62. Plaintiff reincorporates the allegations of his First, Second, Third, and Fourth Causes of Action as though fully set forth at length herein.

63. On May 15, 1978, in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, defendants published a letter defaming plaintiff, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit F and made a part hereof. This letter stated in part:

      Dear Manager,

What you publicize is your business. But a bit of information on some of the people you are using as sources to spread lies about Peoples Temple might cause you to question the credibility of those sources. Given their backgrounds and past actions, their motives for attacking an interracial, highly constructive organization are obviously not “Concern” for their relatives which they claim to have in Guyana. A recent official statement of the U.S. Department of State proves once and for all that the allegations they are making are lies. What their true motives are, no one in the media seems interested in exploring and disclosing. But it does no credit to you as journalists that you take them at face value. Consider your sources. The credits are listed below, and there are affidavits to back up every statement.…

Jim Cobb:

Was put through college and dental school by poor, hard-working black people – but instead of paying them back he joined a pseudo-”revolutionary commando” group.

Stole guns and rifles and manufactured ammunition.

Plotted to blow up a bridge.

Forced young men and women to bow before him and kiss his genitals, calling them racist pigs if they refused to do so…

There is much, much more. I personally know all these people, and I saw their names mentioned on the petition presenting themselves as loving, concerned relatives and friends of people overseas at the Peoples Temple mission, and I felt I had to write something to you to inform you of what I know to be true of them.

64. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that defendant JONES, on or about May 10, 1978, personally ordered by means of courier and amateur shortwave radio, the sending of the aforesaid letter, and by the same means dictated its wording, using a pre-arranged code. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the defendant JONES knew and intended that his order would be thus received and acted upon in the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, so as to result in the making of the aforesaid threat and the consequent injury to plaintiff.

65. Defendants did the acts and things herein alleged pursuant to, and in furtherance of, the conspiracies and agreements above alleged, including the alleged in paragraph 39 herein.

66. The publication of the aforesaid letter was made of and concerning the plaintiff and was so understood by those who read it.

67. The entire letter is false as it pertains to plaintiff.

68. The aforesaid letter is libelous on its face. It clearly exposes plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy because it accuses him of the morally reprehensible acts and crimes of theft, sabotage, sexual perversion, racism, fraud, and deceit.

69. The aforesaid letter is libelous on its face for the additional reason that it clearly exposes plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy because it impliedly accuses him of lying in the face of a “recent official statement of the U.S. Department of State”, a statement which does not exist and which never did exist.

70. The aforesaid letter was seen and read by persons employed by various newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that this letter was mailed to all major newspapers, television stations, and radio stations in the State of California and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and that it was also mailed, with an appropriately modified introductory paragraph, to all members of the United States Congress and to the leading officials of the Executive Branch of the United States government in Washington, D.C., including the White House and the State Department. It was read by other persons whose names are not known to plaintiff.

71. As a proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered loss of his reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings onto his general damages in the sum of SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($600,000.00).

72. As a further proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered the following special damages: injury to his profession, all to his injury in the sum of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ($100,000.00).

73. The above-described publication was published by the defendants because of their feelings of hatred and ill will toward the plaintiff and with a desire to oppress plaintiff and thus plaintiff seeks an award of punitive damages in the sum of FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($4,000,000.00).

WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays judgment as follows:

      1. For general damages in the sum of $2,600,000.00.

 

      2. For special damages in the sum of $300,000.00.

 

      3. For medical and related expense according to proof.

 

      4. For lost earnings according to proof.

 

      5. For punitive damages in the sum of $20,000,000.00.

 

    8. For such further and additional relief as the court may deem proper.

DATED: June 19, 1978.

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

Trial by jury is hereby demanded on all issues.
DATED: June 19, 1978.

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

* * * * *
VERIFICATION

I am the plaintiff in this action; the foregoing complaint is true of my own knowledge, except as to matters stated in it on [word cut off] information or belief, and as to those matters I believe it to be true.

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct and that this declaration was executed on June 19, 1978, in San Francisco, California.

[signed] James Cobb, Jr.
James Cobb, Jr.

EXHIBIT A
Jim,

If you think that you are working only to destroy our friend, or badly underestimating the course you are on. This is going down on the record as a deliberate attempt to starve out hundreds of good people. You’ll be remembered for much more than just a personal vendetta.

Even though what you’re trying to do is impossible, you’re going to earn for yourselves the bitterest of enemies. We have solid evidence that one of your crowd participated in Chris’ death. A whole lot of people not even associated with us can back that up. Whether or not you decide to respond to this hardly matters now. Since you are no doubt fully aware of who you’re in with and what you are working for, I count this communication probably a waste of my time. We have real class enemies to deal with, and really aren’t worrying about your clumsey [clumsy] efforts. But in the future, don’t try to say you didn’t know. It won’t wash. If you had cared anything about what was right, you would have checked with the officials that live there and have seen the work, and asked them about the kind of society we’re building here. But like I said; in the future, don’t plead ignorance.

EXHIBIT A1 [Envelope]
Jim Cobb
1038 Cole St. Apartment A
San Francisco, CA

[no return address]

Originally posted on May 19th, 2013.

Last modified on September 8th, 2013.
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