It was my intention to continue with more
about and around DSM-5, in fact with dr. Thomas Szasz
(professor emeritus psychiatry), as rendered on Wikipedia, but then
that promises to become rather a lot of text, and there also is other
news, as summarized in the title, that may interest folks with ME/CFS,
such as myself. Those interested are likely to know most of the story,
that I will indeed also mostly presume known in what follows. Here are
links to the last three Nederlogs on the subjects:
- ME: Heidi
Bauer vs the Whittemores + Dr. Lombardi PI at WPI
- me+ME: XMRV updates + Whittemore updates
1. WPI seek millions
2. "Truth Is An Absolute Defense To Libel"
1. WPI seek millions
The latest in what may be called the
litigation-saga is that the Whittemores, or formally the WPI, want
millions from Judy Mikovits Ph.D., while also complaining to Jamie
Deckoff-Jones M.D. about her blog and site, who knows in preparation
for a lawsuit against her, and about Ms Bauer's negative writings about
Let me start with the money.
There is an article by Martha Bellisle,
entitled as follows, with a link to the original in the title:
Peterson Institute seek millions
damages from fired researcher
This seems reasonably well informed, in
respect of the law, at least, and starts as follows, and I quote by
Now that a judge has ruled in favor of
the Whittemore Peterson Institute in a civil case against a researcher
who took a laptop, notebooks and files after she was fired, the two
sides are fighting over damages.
The Whittemore Peterson Institute for
Neuro-Immune Disease made world headlines in 2009 after Dr. Judy
Mikovits lead a team that discovered a new retrovirus that could help
treat chronic fatigue syndrome. But the research was discredited last
year and Mikovits lost her job. The institute claimed she stole
important research materials when she left, a claim she denied.
But Washoe District Judge Brent Adams
signed a default judgment last month in favor of the institute, saying
Mikovits failed to comply with his rulings on releasing materials in
In case you are interested, see
- me+ME: WPI vs Mikovits = 1 :
0 + ME-varia
me+ME: Whittemores in court + mB12
- me+ME: X-Rx + Whittemores
The original continues:
A hearing on damages is expected this
week. The institute is seeking millions in salary and research costs as
well as lost donations, while Mikovits’ lawyer, Dennis Jones, said her
actions did not cause any harm.
This seems to me a
disingenuous position: She had the lab notebooks stolen - a US judge
will conclude, it seems to me - and that cannot be covered by "did not
cause any harm".
Criminal charges against Mikovits are
pending, said her criminal lawyer, Scott Freeman.
“At this point, Ms. Mikovits has
returned all of the materials that she had in her possession and they
all are in evidence in the criminal case,” Freeman said. “The only
reason the civil case was filed was because she didn’t give them up
fast enough. But she has turned everything over.”
For more on the lab books
and computer - "all of the materials" - see
- ME: WPI vs Mikovits -
documents in the case
- me+ME: More on WPI
As to whether it really
are "all of the materials": That seems doubtful to me, but is probably hard to
prove either way. And Ms. Mikovits's lawyers contradict each other, it
seems to me, at least by implication.
Onward to the WPI:
Meanwhile, the institute is defending
itself against two lawsuits filed by the Wingfield Nevada Group, owned
by Harvey Whittemore’s former partners. The suits claim the institute
owes Wingfield $1.7 million for using its staff and a company jet.
as if the Seenos also attacked the WPI specifically. In a separate
court case? If so, that is mildly interesting - but then the Seenos
want $ 40 million from the Whittemores, who want $ 60 million from the
And then there are quite a
The lawsuits are just three on a list
that Whittemore has been fighting in recent weeks. His former partners,
Tom and Albert Seeno Jr. of Concord, Calif., claim he embezzled funds
from Wingfield, while Whittemore claims in another suit that the Seenos
are guilty of racketeering. Two banks also sued Whittemore for millions
in unpaid loans. And a federal grand jury is reportedly meeting
Wednesday to hear testimony on Whittemore’s campaign contribution
So the banks are also
trying to get Harvey. Here is one way, to make money, though it seems
not likely to succeed doing so:
Following the judge’s ruling on the
claim against Mikovits, the institute’s lawyer, Tom Bowen, filed a list
of documents in preparation for a hearing on damages, which indicates
they want to be refunded all costs associated with Mikovits’ work.
One document shows Mikovits was paid
$693,485 since starting with the institute in 2007. Another lists
research costs totaling $2.3 million and grant reimbursements that came
to $655,838. The documents also claim the institute saw a drop in
donations of $133,100 after Mikovits left.
unreasonable by my standards, and sounds malicious and unfair. And while I can understand why Harvey wants money, this seems
an unlikely way to get it.
Bowen also submitted copies of emails
between Mikovits and various colleagues as well as a statement by Max
Pfost, who worked with Mikovits at the institute. After she was fired,
she directed Pfost to go into her office and collect her materials, he
“I expressed some skepticism to
Mikovits about whether she could take the research and samples and
stated that Dr. (Vince) Lombardi would take over the projects and
continue on behalf of WPI,” Pfost said in the affidavit. “Mikovits
stated that she was in charge of the research at WPI so technically it
was her research and she could move it somewhere else at any time."
This last quoted claim, I
think a judge can fairly claim dr. Mikovits could and should have known
to be a false claim, at least as stated by Pfost. (If she had said
"morally" instead of "technically" it may be different. Then it would
be just a personal judgment of value, and not a claim counter to
existing legislation, viz. that the institution generally owes the
research, not its PI. Also, she had contracts with the WPI, which
undoubtedly gave the WPI rights and claims to the work she did while
The following has all been detailed last
year e.g. here ME: WPI vs Mikovits - documents in the
Pfost said he went to WPI on Sept. 30
and took between 12 and 20 notebooks for Mikovits. He gave them to
Mikovits on Oct. 16, he said, and then she drove to Southern California.
“Mikovits informed me that she was
hiding out on a boat to avoid being served with papers from WPI,” Pfost
said in the affidavit. She was arrested Nov. 18 in Ventura, Calif.,
after the Washoe County District Attorney’s office filed a criminal
complaint alleging she stole computer data.
Mikovits’ lawyer filed a trial
statement last week in the WPI case asking the judge to ignore the list
of costs associated with salary and research when considering damages
in the case.
This seems fair to me -
salary anyway (if dr. Mikovits didn't function as she should, according
to the Whittemores, they should have dismissed her before) and research
at least now, since the monetary value of the ME/CFS research dr.
Mikovits did for the WPI is quite uncertain, and as far as XMRV is
concerned, is probably not much worth, financially, at the present date.
"WPI does not allege that Dr. Mikovits
did anything to harm WIP while she was employed," the statement said.
"All of the alleged tortious conduct occurred after WPI terminated Dr.
This also seems fair to me
- though "technically" one can object that she seems to have entered a
conspiracy with Pfost on the last day she was legally and gainfully
employed by the WPI, though after being dismissed.
also said that people who decided to stop making donations to the
institute did so only after Mikovits was fired. To support that claim,
Jones attached 20 emails from former supporters who said they opposed
the firing and would no longer make donations to the institute.
True, and even if not:
That people decide not make donations is their right, including
deciding so for false or stupid reasons.
"I would like to explain why I ceased
donating to the Whittemore Peterson Institute," said Paul Kayes in one
email. He said he donated every month "but when Dr. Mikovits was sacked"
he said he lost faith with WPI and decided he would no longer support
Another former donor, Annabel Luery,
said the Whittemores were to blame for WPI problems.
"If the WPI is suffering from a lack of
revenue then it is because of the actions of the Whittemores and
certainly not because of anything Dr. Mikovits either said or did,"
Luery said in an email to Mikovits’ lawyer.
Actually, that may be
false, in several ways also: Dr. Mikovits did write mails after her
dismissal, and so did her husband; she spent a lot of time on emailing
with patients that I think she should have spend on research; and she
may have falsified data. Then again, any fall in donations by
patients since the WPI dismissed dr. Mikovits is due to that
Anyway... it's all very ugly business. Also, it seems not very likely
that the truth ("all the truth, nothing but the truth") will be
revealed through court cases of this nature.
2. "Truth Is An Absolute Defense To Libel"
And then there is a new X Rx Blog by
Jamie Deckoff-Jones MD on her new site, with the title as provided
(also a link), dated February 28. This starts thus:
I keep thinking that I am done writing
about the WPI and will get back to writing about my real life, but the
noise from Reno continues to be deafening. Like everyone else, I was
waiting to see what happens with the FBI investigation, when I got an
email from Annette Whittemore. Publishing personal email is
distasteful, but after serious consideration, I’ve decided that said
email was written by a CEO of a non-profit, still begging my readers
for donations. Their final communication, included below, is from Carli
West Kinne, Annette Whittemore’s niece, who works for the WPI as an
attorney. This blog is my answer.
I shall not quote all - you have the
above link - but I will quote the mails, if only for the purpose of
having the documents in the case, or some of them. All between the
following two horizontal lines has been copied and pasted:
The first email from Annette Whittemore,
dated February 20.
Subject: Civil discourse
Jamie and Heidi,
I have seen what you have written about
me. It is very painful
and ugly. Obviously you think it is ok
to libel me and try to hurt my reputation and that of
this institute. You should know that there are
innocent people who come to work every day to try to help this
institute and help patients like you. They are hurt by your
words. Our researchers work six and seven days a week for
you. They are hurting because of you. You should know what
your actions are doing to innocent people, like my family members, all
because you have decided you know something about me or think
that I have done something wrong. I would like to know what
you think I’ve done or said so that we can clear the air once
and for all.
I don’t believe in writing mean and
ugly things about other people. I would like to
settle this in a civil manner. We can start
wherever you’d like. If I can’t answer your concern, I can find
someone in our organization who can. If you’d prefer we
can email individually. Please let me know.
Here is my response of February 22.
If you want to work things out with me,
there are a few things that need to happen first. Otherwise I will
continue to believe that the WPI is a black hole that you use for your
own purposes, to benefit your family and friends, without regard for
the patients to whom the institute professes to be dedicated.
1. Drop both the criminal and civil
suits against Judy. Give her a reasonable severance package so she can
get back on her feet. Apologize for your hideous public display of
2. Step down as CEO in favor of someone
competent, someone with a prayer of retaining real talent.
3. Appoint a real Board of Directors,
who are not your friends, but rather people with something to
contribute other than pleasing you.
4. Account for the money and return
what wasn’t used for research. I assume that the actual sum is likely
larger than what I know about, which is at least $8 million: grant
money already received, fundraisers, donations, contest money, UNR
money? ear-marked for SPECT scanner and other medical equipment (I
heard the figure $5 million on more than one occasion, a million for
the scanner), $150K/month for almost a year from a private investor
(yes, I do remember that you told me who it was, as well as the terms
and, no, I didn’t name them publicly, though I don’t know why I am
being kind to you). For all that money, I see one paper about cytokines
that still stands, and Judy wrote it.
5. Return the small donations, from
people who could ill afford them, that were earmarked for research or
specific things for which they were not used.
Your newsletter was disgusting. It is
time for you to justify your existence with more than propaganda. Why
should anyone trust you? It is not possible to accomplish anything in
the field without a reputation for integrity. If you cannot reclaim
yours, it is better for the patient community if the WPI closes its
doors. Why throw good money after bad?
P.S. Thank you for firing me.
I received this the day before yesterday,
with an attachment, the letter from Carli Kinne.
Subject: harmful and damaging
You are completely misinformed and your
continued online communications full of false and misleading
information are damaging to my reputation and to that of this
non-profit institute. Please stop now and apologize for the
personal harm that you have caused me and this institute.
February, 24, 2011
Dear Deck-off Jones,
It has come to my attention that you
are sharing incorrect information on your blog and encouraging others
to write the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding Whittemore
Peterson Institute’s NIH grant. While your most recent blog is
full of erroneous and harmful information, I am only interested in
correcting the record related to WPI’s grants. WPI is in full
compliance with the NIH Grants Policy Statement, including but not
limited to, all cost principles and reporting requirements. As I
am sure you are aware, claims against Annette Whittemore and/or WPI in
a civil complaint are mere allegations that must be proven in
court. There is no “evidence in the public domain that the CEO of
the WPI is a liar and fraud,” as stated in your blog. There is
also no evidence that WPI has misused grant funds, which you continue
to allege in your blogs. Furthermore, the NIH grant will continue
under the guidance of a qualified principal investigator (PI).
There was no “pull involved” in order to change the PI, and to guess at
such action taking place in your blog is damaging to all parties
involved. In addition, Dr. Lombardi does not have a financial
conflict of interest as you continue to allege in connection with his
relationship with VIP Dx, a company that is no longer in
business. As for the Department of Defense (DOD) grant, the DOD
was pleased to approve Dr. Lombardi as the PI. Please stop
sharing false information and discontinue encouraging others to use
this false information in correspondence to the NIH or any other
granting agency such as the DOD. These actions interfere with
WPI’s business and harm WPI’s reputation.
Vice President and Legal Counsel
Whittemore Peterson Institute
Civil dis-course? Someone in the Comments
section of Ms. Deckoff-Jones blog warns her that it well may be the
beginning of litigation, which is indeed what I thought.
What do I think of it? Neither mail
should have been written, or at least: should not have been sent, but
then it's now accomplished fact. I merely documented. (My advice?
be - take up knitting or study philosophy.)
Just one thing: If you do a search -
one may also use e.g. Yahoo - with "Truth Is An Absolute Defense To
Libel", which is a nice and quite old phrase, you'll find that it may
be not, in US law as practised, while in Dutch law it seems explicit it
may not be, but indeed I am not a lawyer.