This is the last segment of this series of articles about the Kingdom Hall takeover scandal in Menlo Park, California.
Two different court documents form the basis of Jason Cobb’s testimony covered in this article. Both are long and detailed, but always engaging. Many active and former Jehovah’s Witnesses will be shocked as they read about the events that have taken place in the once peaceful little Kingdom Hall located halfway between San Jose and San Francisco.
Amazingly, after two years this case is still in the courts and the players on both sides are still in the game. This battle could go on for many years.
I leave it to our readers to judge for themselves as to who wears the “black hats” in this case. Was the Watchtower Society behind a scheme to grab ownership of a valuable piece of real estate worth an estimated $2.5 million? What was behind the assignments of Paul Koehler and Steve Misterfield to that circuit? Who was it that generated the publisher transfer request for a sister who did not want to move from Menlo Park (where she lived) to Santa Rosa (where she worked) – in direct violation of the Watchtower’s own guidance?
Ex-JW.com will continue to report on this amazing story for as long as it lasts. No matter who wins or loses, the facts and details of this story will continue to reveal new information about what the Watchtower Society is willing to do to extend its control over its followers.
As editor, all I can say is “follow the money.” Who stands to make millions of dollars when the dust settles? Who has the most to lose?
As with the previous article in this series, I’ve created short synopsis for each segment of the court documents to act as an index. After you’ve read all of Mr. Cobb’s depositions and statements, feel free to comment on this entire series of articles, on the case itself, and the actions of all the people involved – including the Watchtower Society and its leaders.
[All segments are PDFs. Click on segment title to read or download.]
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Segment 1
[21 pages] The Plaintiffs’ deposition of Jason Cobb takes place in the East Palo Alto (CA) City Hall at 10 AM on October 27, 2011. Plaintiff Jonathan Cobb Sr. conducts the interview with plaintiff Walter Arlen St. Clair in attendance. Personal identification and Jason’s standing within the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall. Jason explains the nature of the dispute and the defendants’ initial actions. Regional Building Committee’s involvement. Original discussions of mergers and abandonment of the building. The Governing Body’s role. Watchtower Society’s reorganization and division of responsibilities. Jason’s state lawsuit defined. California laws defining roles within corporation. Observance of state laws vs. organizational policy. Replacement of officers based on corporate laws. New elders (defendants) allegedly open up new bank accounts for the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall corporation without legal authority.
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Segment 2
[25 pages] Jason visits Chase Bank branch to see if anyone had opened new accounts. Bank employee states that someone opened a new business account in Jason’s name. Bank manager suggests that there might be bank fraud and identity theft. Jason freezes the account and reports his findings to Menlo Park police. Old elder board votes to take back Wells Fargo account and confirm proper usage. Governing Body has no legal authority over local corporations, only religious control. New elders file new deed and create a new name for the corporation, all without legal authority. Ernest Brede allegedly gives false financial report to the congregation and infers that the prior elder body was responsible for missing funds. ($16,500) How the new BOE were able to take over the corporation. Did the Governing Body actually remove the elders? If so, how? Jason accused of misappropriation of funds by new elders. Local police investigation goes dormant. The arrival of CO Paul Koehler. Early clues that the Watchtower might want to take ownership of the Kingdom Hall.
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Segment 3
[25 pages] Request to form a Spanish congregation at Menlo Park KH. Loss of off-street parking due to expansion of VA hospital. Parking problems. Paul Koehler assigned as CO. Koehler’s aggressive personality and agenda. Watchtower HQ’s involvement. Koehler’s strange and excessive focus on the KH building. Regional Building Committee gets involved, makes plans. Local level financing of refurb projects. Koehler dominates meetings and pushes his agenda. Letter sent to Watchtower HQ complaining about Koehler’s actions and seeking guidance. Koehler’s military demeanor and actions. Questions about Koehler’s military background and experience. Letter of acknowledgement received from the Service Department. Menlo Park ordered by Service Department to transfer a sister to Santa Rosa against her will. Response in support of sister’s request to stay in Menlo Park. Koehler and Misterfield visit Menlo Park and accuse elder body of insubordination. Elders realize they are attending a tribunal meeting and being charged with insubordination. Misterfield supports Koehler against elder body. Koehler’s mysterious absence.
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Segment 4
[25 pages] Elders receive letter from Service Department ordering them to transfer sister to Santa Rosa Kingdom Hall. After tribunal meeting Koehler and Misterfield recommend removal of entire elder body. Ulterior motives? A practical joke? Form S-303. Misterfield’s nervous reaction after meeting. Possible wire fraud? Evidence of deception by defendants. Elders receive letter informing them of their dismissal (May 2010). Effect of Ernest Brede’s inaccurate financial report to the congregation. Defendants’ scheme discovered and identified. Possible criminal acts detailed. Are defendant’s actions religious or secular? A “Serbian abstention”? “Free exercise clause”? Does the Governing Body support these actions by the defendants? “Serbian collusion,” “Serbian fraud.” The Santa Rosa S-21 card issue a setup? All part of a master plan to take control of the Kingdom Hall property?
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Segment 5
[12 pages] The strategy behind the Menlo Park elders’ removal. A criminal act hidden behind religious privilege? Discussions with witness Bill Douglas. DO Misterfield’s assignment from Watchtower HQ. Discussions about mergers, property disposal, and property acquisition. Mistreatment of elders and their families to force them to leave. Watchtower conductor Lucas refuses to call on Sister Cobb. End of deposition.
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Exhibits 4-6
[13 pages] (1) Jason Cobb’s Letter to the IRS; (2) Kingdom Ministry: Publishers Free to Choose Congregations; (3) Letter from Mark West Congregation (Santa Rosa, CA); (4) Letter from Watchtower Service Department ordering publisher transfer; (5) Sequence of events leading up to deletion of Menlo Park body of elders; (6) CO Koehler’s performance report on Menlo Park KH (February 28, 2010).
Plaintiffs’ Deposition of Jason Cobb – Exhibits 8-10
[13 pages] Various exhibits referred to in Jason Cobb’s deposition for the Plaintiffs: (1) English Menlo Park Corporation Minutes, 9/16/2010; (2) New Articles of Incorporation, English Corporation; (3) Bylaws of the English Corporation; (4) Corporation Certificate of Status; (5) California Secretary of State, Statement of Information (March 30, 2010); (6) California Secretary of State, Statement of Information (May 14, 2008); (7) (Allegedly Fraudulent) Restated Articles of Incorporation (January 12, 2011).
Jason Cobb’s Declaration to the Federal Court
[48 pages] Jason Cobb’s official written declaration presented to the federal court November 3, 2011. Events and facts related to the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall takeover and resulting federal lawsuit. Jason explains his involvement, the alleged illegal and unethical actions by and for the defendants, and the official position of the original Board of Directors of the non-profit corporation of which he was chairman. More of the same information covered in the verbal deposition, but in written correspondence format with exhibits and legal defenses.
Jason Cobb’s Declaration (Exhibits)
[43 pages] Various exhibits referred to in Jason Cobb’s declaration: (A) California Secretary of State Business Entity Detail; (B) Wells Fargo Checking Account Statement (July 20, 2010); (C) Wells Fargo Business Account Application (July 12, 2010); (D) Statement of Facts: Herbert W. Atkins; (E) Wells Fargo Checking Account Statement (November 18, 2010); (F) California Secretary of State, Business Entity Detail (Updated – April 1, 2011); (G) California Secretary of State, Certificate of Status (October 13, 2010); (H) Resolutions of Board of Directors, (April 8, 2011); (I) Quoted paragraphs from Watchtower publications; (J) Email exchange J. Cobb / Ernest Brede; (K) Change to Corporation Grant Deed (April 18, 2011); (L) Letter to the Court for Bank Records (July 14, 2011) and followup (July 29, 2011); (M) Original Articles of Incorporation [unreadable] (May 6,1980).