Watchtower Embarrassed in Court

On June 14, 2012 an Oakland, California jury took very little time to decide that the Watchtower Society was guilty of failing to protect the children in its care. The jury decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses care more about protecting their organization’s reputation than it does the safety of their own children and young people at a Kingdom Hall. That verdict and its potential long-term effects on the Watchtower Society should not be underestimated.

Alameda County Courthouse, Hayward, CA
(where the lawsuit was filed)

Located on the inland side of San Francisco Bay in California, Alameda County has a very typical but diverse middle-class American population. The city of Fremont is located directly across the Bay from Menlo Park, the site of other court cases involving the Watchtower’s taking over a Kingdom Hall. Based on the number of court cases under way in just the San Francisco Bay area, the “faithful slave’s” Legal Department must be working a lot of overtime.

In the case known as “Doe v. The Watchtower Society Bible and Tract Society of New York,” the jury ordered the Watchtower Society and the real perpetrator to pay nearly $7 million compensatory damages. The following day, the same jury awarded the plaintiff another $21 million in punitive damages. The Watchtower is on the hook for all the punitive and 40% of the compensatory damages. Jonathan Kendrick, now a registered sex-offender, did not testify as part of an agreement to not have to actually pay his part of the damages.

An outside attorney, Jim McCabe, led the Watchtower Society’s defense team. He expressed his disappointment with the verdict, declaring that there will be appeals and outcome of the case is likely to take several years. “The Jehovah’s Witnesses hate child abuse and believe it’s a plague on humanity,” McCabe said. His opinion was that a religious organization could not be held responsible for the actions of one its members, especially a member who held no responsible assignment for the Kingdom Hall.

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Menlo Park Kingdom Hall: The State Lawsuit

The Menlo Park Kingdom Hall takeover scandal is like a movie monster that just won’t die.

Three former elders have filed Court cases in San Francisco Federal Court (dismissed), San Mateo Superior Court in Redwood City (dismissed), and earlier this year another case that is progressing in San Jose Federal Court. There was another filing in federal court on April, 2012 [Cobb & Cobb Sr. v. Chase Bank] that is still developing.

These court cases all center around four Menlo Park elders that the Watchtower Society removed and replaced in the summer of 2010. Three of the elders decided to challenge their replacement as officers of the non-profit corporation that owned and managed the land, building, and financial assets connected to the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall.

Over the past two years, Ex-JW.com has provided our readers with ongoing articles and PDF copies of most relevant court documents. This post presents the transcript of the state case heard in the Superior Court of San Mateo County, California on February 22, 2012. The original transcript is quite lengthy, so it’s been broken into seven parts for ease of reading and downloading. Below the link to each section there is an abbreviated synopsis for quick reference.

Those close to the case suggest that our readers give special attention to section 6 below. Defendant Ernest Brede, the current COBOE at Menlo Park, describes events during and after the takeover, and testifies under oath that the existing board of directors was never officially voted out of office. Instead, as directed by a Watchtower Society attorney, a new corporation was simply formed to replace the existing corporation. That is a clear violation of California corporation law.

As you read the full transcript of this case, you may notice that while the court gave the appearance of being fair, the judge sustained practically every objection made by the Watchtower’s attorneys – even to the point of designating printed and signed letters and publications issued by the Watchtower as being “hearsay.” While it often seems that the judge would give Jason Cobb a little slack (he was appearing “pro per” and had not been given time to fully prepare for that day’s trial), he tended to rule for the defense on most critical issues as they came up.

It’s interesting to note that the Watchtower seems to have changed its official position about what kind of religion it really is. For decades the Society has criticized the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and most mainstream Protestant denominations, for being “hierarchies.” Instead of being ruled from the top down by a pope or archbishop, Jehovah’s Witnesses have traditionally presented themselves as groups of Bible students meeting together in small groups, directed in an ecclesiastical “theocratic arrangement.” Watchtower publications still promote the idea that appointments of local elders and special pioneers are directed by holy spirit, not from direct orders by branch office managers.

Watchtower attorney Calvin Rouse destroys that claim forever as officially recorded on pages 4 and 5 (segment 1). Rouse states emphatically, “We are a hierarchical religion just like the Catholic Church.” What follows is even more enlightening.

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Menlo Park: Elder Tells All – 3

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?

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Menlo Park: Elder Tells All – 2

Jason Cobb was one of the four elders serving in the Menlo Park (California) Kingdom Hall dismissed from their “theocratic assignments” effective July 1, 2010. For reasons of his own, Jason chose not to take part as a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed the following August by his father, Jonathan Cobb Sr., and fellow elder Walter Arlen St. Clair. (See San Francisco Federal District Court, case 3:10-cv-03907-MEJ).

Wanting to stay an active Jehovah’s Witness in good standing, Jason tried to keep a low profile as he continued to attend meetings and field service. But he also worked on the sidelines in support of his father and Arlen St. Clair as they fought to restore their reputations within the congregation.

In spite of his efforts, he soon found himself drawn into the battle. It was obvious that there was far more going on behind the scenes during the takeover of his Kingdom Hall. This was turning out to be more complicated than just a simple merger with the Redwood City congregation. Even though he was still confused about the real reasons for his dismissal as Coordinator of the Board of Elders (CoBOE), he knew that something was just not right about how the takeover was being handled.

As an elder, he’d served the congregation as an officer of the non-profit corporation holding the title to Kingdom Hall and the land it sat on. As a corporate officer, he and other elders were responsible for the maintenance of the building and protecting the monetary assets of the congregation. At regular intervals, he and the other officers would report to the members of the congregation on the status of bank accounts, the overall condition of the Kingdom Hall, and other corporate business.

Within weeks after his father and St. Clair filed the federal lawsuit, Jason Cobb had to begin a fight to save his own reputation. This forced him to file police reports and a parallel lawsuit in the California state courts.

That’s a little background to get you started. But I’m going to let Jason Cobb tell his side of the story in his own way. You get to read the transcripts of both of his depositions as a witness in the federal court case. I urge you to get comfortable, enlarge the documents on your computer screen (for most web browsers use “Ctrl +”), and settle in for a fascinating read. I’ll try to make it easier for you by putting the documents and exhibits in sequence when possible as the story progresses.

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Menlo Park: Elder Tells All – 1

Readers of Ex-Jw.com who have been following this story know that on January 6, 2012 Federal Judge Maria-Elena James dismissed the lawsuit filed by two former elders of the Menlo Park (California) Kingdom Hall, Jonathan D. Cobb Sr. and Walter Arlen St. Clair. (See Menlo Park Kingdom Hall Lawsuit Dismissed .)

Since then a concurrent civil case filed in Superior Court at the state level by former elder and COBOE Jason Cobb has also been dismissed.

In an unexpected move, on March 19, 2012 Jason Cobb and his father, Jonathan Cobb Sr., filed a new and expanded federal lawsuit in San Jose, California. Even though they know that their lives as Jehovah’s Witnesses may be nearing an end, they remain convinced that they must expose the facts about the allegedly illegal steps the Watchtower has been willing to take to seize control of the Kingdom Hall where they once served as elders. They refuse to give up the fight in spite of the fact that their reputations as faithful and dedicated Jehovah’s Witnesses have been under constant attack and many of their lifelong Witness friends have apparently abandoned them.

Several weeks ago a person claiming to be a current member of the Menlo Park congregation contacted me. “This Kingdom Hall has changed so much in the last year,” she said, “it’s like we’re all living in some kind of nightmare, but not quite. I don’t think the brothers and sisters feel safe here anymore.  We know things aren’t right the way they are now, but what can we do? Where can we go? We just want things to be the way they were before the Redwood City elders took over. A lot of us would go to another Kingdom Hall if we could, but we feel trapped.” When I asked if the original Menlo Park members support the Cobbs, she replied, “Deep down, I guess many of us do. We thought they were good brothers. But we really don’t know what is truth and what is lies. I know we’re not supposed to,  but some of us have read your website, and what you say about what is going on sounds right. But how do we know if we can trust you? We don’t know you. We really don’t know what the truth is.”

To our readers: We can not judge whether the Watchtower Society, the local Regional Building Committee, or the defendants in this case have actually done anything wrong. The charges made in both the old and new lawsuits by the deposed former elders have not been confirmed by any court as of this date. Remember that people, and even corporations, “are innocent until proven guilty.” All we can do is compare how the Watchtower’s representatives have acted in their takeover of Menlo Park to  what the Society has done to other Kingdom Halls throughout North America.

We invite our readers who are still faithful and active Jehovah’s Witnesses to comment on this case and our next few articles. All we can do is to ask active JWs to honestly look at what has happened to their own Kingdom Halls and assembly halls. Do you really understand how the Watchtower has become more like the Catholic Church? Do you realize that local Kingdom Halls originally built, paid for, and maintained by local members have become part of the Watchtower Society’s real estate holdings now worth billions of dollars – without any compensation to local congregations?

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Menlo Park: From Behind the Scenes

By John Steele


Disclaimer: This article in no way reflects the views of the parties who run this website, are solely my views and opinions, and as such I am merely sharing them with the public. – John Steele


By now many of you know that the court case has been terminated; not dismissed – but terminated. I say this because there is a difference. If the case had been just dismissed then we would have action at an appeal. But by terminating the case and forcing it shut, it basically means that they [the Court] are forcing the case closed and effectively preventing any leave for appeal. In plain language: someone wanted this case shut down and buried.

We were less than 90 days away from trial. As many of you already know, I turned in the “witness list” several weeks ago and stipulated that Don Adams [President of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, Inc.] would be the first Witness I would put on the stand. That coupled with the nearly 300 page opposition to the Summary Judgment, which had a great deal of evidence attached, was enough to terrify the “powers that be” at the Watchtower.

Through this whole affair the Watchtower has only been concerned with one thing – and that is not dealing with the problem, but trying to cover it up.

To this end they have used the usual type of tactics, threats, intimidation – and ultimately money. Yes, they basically paid to have this case forced shut. The Watchtower has made payments to various agencies and parties involved in this, and this is just one of the behind the scenes things that most are not aware of.

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