United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
Hannah Lauck, United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on non-party David George
Sweigert's Second Amended Motion to Intervene (the
"Motion to Intervene"). (ECF No. 93.)
matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral
argument because the materials before it adequately present
the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid
the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. For the reasons that follow,
the Court will deny Sweigert's Second Amended Motion to
Procedural and Factual Background
Relevant Procedural Background
September 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint
(the "Original Complaint") against Jason Goodman,
Patricia A. Negron, and "Queen Tut, a woman believed to
be known as Carla A. Howell." (Original Compl. 1, ECF
No. 1.) Goodman, proceeding pro se, filed an Answer
(the "Original Answer"), (ECF No. 14), and Negron,
by counsel, filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Original
Motion to Dismiss"), (ECF No. 21). Plaintiffs opposed
the Original Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 24), and Negron
replied, (ECF No. 29).
January 23, 2018, Plaintiffs requested entry of default as to
"Queen Tut a/k/a Susan A. Lutzke." (ECF No. 30.)
Because the Original Complaint did not name "Susan A.
Lutzke" as a defendant, the Court denied Plaintiffs'
request for entry of default. (See Mar. 9, 2018
Order, ECF No. 35.) On March 25, 2018, Plaintiffs moved to
amend their Original Complaint, (ECF No. 36), and on April
11, 2018, the Court granted the motion, (ECF No. 38).
Amended Complaint names three defendants: Jason Goodman,
Patricia A. Negron, and "Susan A. Lutzke a/k/a/
'Queen Tut'" (collectively,
"Defendants"). (Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 39.)
Plaintiffs stated eight counts against each defendant as
Count I: Defamation per se (the
Count II: Insulting words, in violation of
Virginia Code § 8.01-45 (the insulting words claim);
Count III: Business conspiracy, in violation
of Virginia Code § 18.2-499 and Virginia Code §
18.2-500 (the statutory conspiracy claim);
Count IV: Common law conspiracy;
Count V: Tortious interference;
Count VI: Intentional Infliction of
Count VII: Personal trespass by computer in
violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-152.7and computer
harassment in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-152.7:
1(the computer claim);
Count VIII: Unauthorized use of name and
picture in violation of Virginia Code §
8.01-40 (the unauthorized use claim); and,
Count IX: Permanent injunction.
seek $6, 000, 000 in compensatory damages; $18, 000, 000 as
"[t]hree-fold [d]amages in accordance with §
18.2-500" of the Virginia Code; $350, 000 in punitive
damages; prejudgment and postjudgment interest; and
attorney's fees and costs. (Am. Compl. 96.)
response to the Amended Complaint, Goodman filed his Motion
to Dismiss. (ECF No. 45.) Negron filed a Motion to Dismiss.
(ECF No. 47.) Lutzke did not respond to the Amended Complaint
and has not made an appearance of any kind. On March 31,
2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part
Negron's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 86.) The following
claims survive against Negron: Count I (defamation); Count
III (business conspiracy); Count IV (common law conspiracy);
Count V (tortious interference); and, Count VI (intentional
infliction of emotional distress). (Mar. 31, 2019 Mem. Op.
38.) The Court also denied Goodman's Motion to Dismiss,
meaning that all nine original claims survive against
Goodman. (Id. 39.)
Sweigert's Filings in This Case
May 22, 2018 and June 13, 2018, George D. Sweigert, a
non-party proceeding pro se, filed seven
declarations. (ECF Nos. 51, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60.)
The Amended Complaint makes no allegations about Sweigert,
referencing him only once in a footnote that identifies him
as one of several other people in a photo of Steele that
allegedly defames Steele. (Am. Compl. 65 n.14.) Sweigert also
filed two Notices of Change of Address, (ECF No. 63, 67), and
a Notice of Related Litigation, (ECF No. 68).
February 19, 2019, Sweigert filed a "Notice of Motion to
Intervene," (ECF No. 72), and his first Motion to
Intervene, (ECF No. 73). Sweigert subsequently filed copies
of several letters with the Clerk's Office. (ECF Nos. 75,
77.) On March 18, 2019, Sweigert filed a "Notice of
Intent to File an Amended Motion." (ECF No. 81.) On
March 28, 2019, Sweigert filed a document titled
"Preliminary Notification to the Government of
Canada." (ECF No. 84.) On March 29, 2019,
Sweigert filed an Amended Motion to Intervene. (ECF No. 88.)
On April 11, 2019, Sweigert filed the Motion to Intervene now
before the Court. (ECF Nos. 93, 94.) Plaintiffs, Goodman,
and Negron all oppose the Motion to Intervene. Sweigert has
replied to each response. (ECF Nos. 110, 111, 116.)
Summary of Allegations in the Amended Complaint
action arises out of a series of allegedly defamatory
statements that Defendants made about Plaintiffs beginning on
June 15, 2017. (Am. Compl. 20.) The Court first provides
context about the relevant parties to the action, followed by
a summary of Defendants' actions and statements.
Plaintiffs: Steele and the Earth Intelligence
describes a long list of professional accomplishments,
presenting himself as a former Central Intelligence Agency
("CIA") operations officer, a former civil servant,
and the recipient of various advanced degrees. (Am. Compl.
6.) Steele works to "redirect the craft of
intelligence away from spies and secrecy enabling war and
waste towards open sources and methods favorable to peace and
prosperity." (Id. 8.) Plaintiffs assert,
without elaboration, that "[f]or over twenty (20) years,
[Steele] has dedicated himself to teaching individuals and
organizations about the value of holistic analytics, true
cost economics, and Open Source Everything Engineering."
(Id. 7.) Steele "was nominated for a Nobel
Peace Prize" for this work. (Id. 8.)
2006, Steele founded Earth Intelligence Network
("EIN"), a Virginia 501(c)(3) not-for-profit
corporation, and a plaintiff in this action. (Id.
9.) "The original purpose and long-term focus of Earth
Intelligence Network is to teach citizens the urgency of
demanding holistic analytics, true cost economics, and Open
Source Everything Engineering (OSEE) as the foundation for
enlightened self-governance." (Id. 9.) In order
to fulfill this purpose, EIN started the #UNRIG (sometimes
UNRIG) project, "an educational campaign to communicate
to all citizens the possibility of an ethical, legal,
non-violent restoration of integrity to the United States
Government." (Id.) In support of this mission,
Plaintiffs "acquired and professionally wrapped an RV,
and began a national tour of the [c]ountry in furtherance of
the 'Summer of Peace' campaign." (Id.
donations fund the #UNRIG campaign, and EIN "is fully
transparent and accountable to its donors."
(Id. 9.) Plaintiffs aver they "account for
every penny spent in a budget that was posted online."
(Id. 86 (providing a weblink).) Using the donations,
Plaintiffs "actively promote the mission of #UNRIG and
communicate with all donors." (Id.)
Defendants: Goodman, Negron, and Lutzke
to Plaintiffs, Goodman operates "various social media
properties" under the name "Crowdsource The
Truth" or "CSTT." (Am. Compl. 11.)
Plaintiffs quote Goodman, without attribution, describing
CSTT as "an independent news organization dedicated to
truth in media and integrity in government. Our process is
driven by a unique, open source fact checking 'truth
engine' that has been described as a combination of
investigative journalism, social media[, ] and reality
television." (Id.) Goodman creates and uploads
videos through the various CSTT media accounts, which have
thousands of followers. "Goodman solicits donations,
advertises products and derives revenue from" these
videos. (Id.) Goodman often hosts guest speakers in
these videos, including Negron and Lutzke.
aver that Negron "co-produced numerous videos uploaded
to the CSTT YouTube channel." (Id. 12.) She
"appeared and actively participated in virtually every
video at issue in this action, one of which was even filmed
at her home." (Id.) Negron allegedly has over
24, 000 followers on Twitter, where she allegedly republished
defamatory statements made by Lutzke about Plaintiffs.
(Id. at 13.)
to Plaintiffs, Lutzke adopted the pseudonym "Queen
Tut" as her online persona, using an image of an
Egyptian bust to represent herself. (Id. 16.) Lutzke
participated in numerous CSTT videos speaking as Queen Tut.
In the videos, Defendants refer to Lutzke as Queen Tut and
display a picture of the Egyptian bust to represent Lutzke.
Defendants' Alleged Actions Before September 1,
planned to appear in a CSTT live-stream broadcast on June 15,
2017, in which Goodman and Negron would interview Steele.
(Am. Compl. 18.) The day before the scheduled interview, on
June 14, 2017, Goodman and Negron posted a video that
reported, seemingly falsely, that a dirty bomb was present on
a ship. (Id. 18-19.) As a result of
this event, and the ensuing FBI investigation, Steele
"immediately canceled the planned interview" and
informed Goodman via email that he no longer wished to
associate with Goodman. (Id. 19.) According to
Plaintiffs, "in retaliation and reprisal for
[Steele's] decision to no longer have anything to do with
Goodman and CSTT, Goodman, Negron[, ] and Lutzke began an
unprecedented smear campaign against Plaintiffs."
June 15, 2017 and September 1, 2017, Goodman, Negron, and
Lutzke allegedly produced and published at least a dozen
videos as part of this "smear campaign." (Am.
Compl. passim.) In a June 20, 2017 video, Goodman
and Negron appear together in a London hotel room, and
Goodman accuses Steele of stealing from the CSTT audience at
least three times. (Id. 23.)
26, 2017, Lutzke appeared in a CSTT video as Queen Tut,
accusing Steele and his UNRIG campaign of fraud.
(Id. 24.) From then through September 1, 2017,
Goodman, Negron, and Lutzke posted dozens of similar
videos. Steele contends that Defendants'
exact statements vary over the course of the videos,
sometimes focusing on personal insults against
Steele and sometimes making accusations against
Steele and his organizations, including Plaintiff
addition to these videos, the Amended Complaint describes
several other online platforms through which Defendants
allegedly publish disparaging comments regarding Plaintiffs,
including Twitter and email. In essence, Plaintiffs claim
that Defendants persistently accuse them of perpetuating a
scam and defrauding CSTT viewers who donated to EIN's
#UNRIG campaign by stealing donors' money to personally
enrich Steele or his allies rather than using the funds for
the #UNRIG mission.
Defendants' Alleged Actions After September 1,
allege that a shift occurred after the filing of this action.
While Goodman and Lutzke intensified their attacks against
Plaintiffs, Negron ceased to participate in any subsequent
video productions or appearances (with one exception).
(Id. 48.) Although Plaintiffs concede Negron ceased
her improper activities regarding video production with
Goodman, Plaintiffs maintain that Negron and Lutzke continued
to conspire to defame Plaintiffs through Twitter
publications. Negron limited her role to reposting some of
Lutzke's statements. (Id. 13.)
allege that, between September 1, 2017 and December 2017,
Goodman and Lutzke produced and published about ten videos
containing defamatory statements about Plaintiffs. Many of
the videos reiterate the same kinds of statements made in
previous videos. Defendants apparently acknowledge and
discuss the ongoing litigation in these videos. Goodman
describes himself as "happy" about the lawsuit
because it will expose "charity fraud and tax
fraud," of which he claims to have "very solid
evidence." (Id. 60, 62 (quoting September 30,
2017 and October 7, 2017 videos).)
contend that some of the videos incite violence against
Steele. In one video featuring Goodman and Lutzke, Lutzke
directly addresses Steele: "you're a person who
needs to be put down." (Id. 57 (quoting a
September 23, 2017 video).) According to Plaintiffs, Goodman
interjects to say "legally speaking," and Lutzke
then says: "legally speaking[J absolutely legally
speaking[, ] that you need to be put in a place where you can
no longer affect human beings." (Id. (quoting a
September 23, 2017 video).) Goodman and Lutzke posted a
different video displaying an image of an RV exploding.
(Id. 59 (displaying an apparent screenshot of a
September 30, 2017 video).) The side of the flaming RV
displays a picture of Steele and McKinney. Plaintiffs aver
that Goodman and Lutzke "disclosed [Steele's] home
address to their viewers and subscribers, and used Google
Maps to show a photo of [Steele]'s home."
December 2017, Goodman, acting alone, has continued to make
allegedly defamatory statements against
Plaintiffs. Lutzke has also disseminated, through
Twitter and videos, negative commentary about Plaintiffs
since December 2017. Negron has neither produced nor appeared
in any more videos since December 2017.
Sweigert's Allegations ...