Bellingham, WA Private Investigator Molly Monahan of Sirius Investigations is willing to work for cults. She’s been hired by cult leader Aaravindha Himadra to find negative information and intel about prominent cult reporter Be Scofield. Aaravindha teaches in Bellingham, where many of his followers currently live. The town is just a few hours from his home on Orcas Island.
Monahan is using her position in UU institutional leadership circles to find and contact former classmates of Scofield from Starr King looking for dirt and intel. Several report being called by Monahan, who claims on her website that she “can talk even the most reluctant sources into supplying details.” She has also discussed her ability to locate people. It was made clear she didn’t want Scofield or the general public knowing about her investigation.
In 2019 Scofield exposed Aaravindha’s cult and the suspicious death / potential murder of his student Carla Jean Shaffer on Orcas. The story sent shockwaves through San Juan Island communities. Both the Island Sounder and San Juan Islander covered Aaravindha’s frivolous $250,000 lawsuit against Scofield which he subsequently lost. Aaravindha also hired a ghostwriter to create a smear campaign against Scofield which failed. Now he has employed the services of Monahan, a professional private investigator to find dirt on Scofield.
Both Scofield and Monahan have long been affiliated with Unitarian Universalism. Monahan is a lifelong UU who served on a UUA executive committee about the youth movement in 1972. Scofield graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry, a Berkeley based UU seminary in 2014. There she studied closely with author Rebecca Parker and taught a graduate course on Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s creepy to know that someone is tracking you and harassing former classmates to dig up dirt,” Scofield said. “And then to learn that it’s being done by a fellow UU is really disappointing.”
Scofield’s cult reporting has led to the shutting down of some of the largest cults and exposed numerous rapists in the tantra / sacred sexuality communities. Her journalism has garnered over 1 million views in the last year or so and stories based on her work have appeared on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, CNN, the New Zealand Herald, VICE and Playboy.
Monahan is also the executive director of the Bellingham non-profit Pass the Hat and has done work for a Netflix drama called Evil Genius and has been “hired by CNN for work used by Anderson Cooper.”
Janis Briedis also known as Aaravindha Himadra and his lawyer Nadeen Hayden of Minc Law in Clevland Ohio were handed a defeat today when they were compelled to dismiss their defamation lawsuit against prominent cult reporter Be Scofield.
In February, Aaravindha hired Nadeen Hayden of Minc Law to bring a $250,000 lawsuit against Scofield for her investigation into Aaravindha’s Orcas Island cult and the suspicious death of his student. Two attorneys, Tim Cunningham and Ambika Doran from Davis Wright Tremaine represented Scofield pro bono. Once the lawsuit was filed it garnered local media attention with both the San Juan Islander covering it and the Islander Sounder as well.
No specific defamatory statements were ever listed in Minc Law’s lawsuit, however, a classic sign that it was a frivolous lawsuit also known as a SLAPP. Rather, they argued that the article in its entirety was defamatory. These types of lawsuits are designed to harass and intimidate journalists, often causing stress and financial strain.
After several months of motions and legal moves, Aaravindha and his attorneys were forced by Washington state law to list the specific statements which were defamatory in the article. It was at that crucial juncture that they chose to withdraw the lawsuit, proving that they had no actual grounds to file in the first place.
Aaravindha and Minc Law was previously dealt a loss in the case when Aaravidha was ordered by the court to pay Scofield’s legal team $2,500 for failing to abide by proper legal procedures. Cunningham and Doran sought to move the lawsuit from state court to federal court. In order to do so two criteria had to be met: Scofield had to not live in the state of Washington and the lawsuit must be for more than $75,000. While the initial letter to Scofield stated $250,000 Aaravindha’s legal team wouldn’t officially declare the amount they were seeking, a move Scofield’s lawyers argued was designed to frustrate their efforts moving to federal court. The judge agreed and ruled Minc Law’s effort was in “bad faith,” penalizing Aaravindha $2,500. The case was successfully moved to federal court.
Nadeen Hayden also filed a bogus claim that because Aaravindha had brief email contact with an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine that there was a conflict in other attorneys from that firm representing Scofield. There is no relationship established however from simply replying to an email, otherwise, this would be a very easy tactic to get lawyers dismissed from cases. Hayden’s attempt was a disingenuous effort to remove legal support from Scofield’s case.
This victory for free speech will hopefully deter future SLAPP lawsuits against journalists and help make reporters aware that there are legal firms willing to represent them at no cost.
Sounds True author and spiritual teacher Aaravindha Himadra has filed a frivolous $250,000 SLAPP lawsuit against prominent cult reporter Be Scofield in San Juan County. The article in question explored the events surrounding the mysterious death of one of his students 13-years ago on Orcas Island in Washington.
Attorneys from a high profile Seattle based law firm are representing prominent cult reporter Be Scofield at no cost in a frivolous $250,000 defamation lawsuit. The firm is known for its staunch defense of First Amendment rights.
A frivolous lawsuit is also known as a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). They are not designed to win but rather to “censor, intimidate, and silence critics” by overwhelming them with legal fees. Corporations commonly use them to harass and intimidate their critics. SLAPP lawsuits “directly attack First Amendment rights” according to attorneys Peter Kurdock and Mark Goldowitz. Economist Robert Reich says they are one of the “biggest threats” to activists today.
Several attorneys contacted by The Guru Magazine stated the article in question is not defamatory and agree that the lawsuit filed by Aaravindha and Minc Law is frivolous.
The suit stems from a January 2019 article written by Scofield about the events surrounding the mysterious death of Carla Jean Shaffer 13-years ago on Orcas Island. Scofield spent a month researching the story on the island in November and interviewed family and friends of the victim, police and county coroner Randall Gaylord for the story. She also obtained the full police report of the incident. Shaffer’s death was ruled an accidental drowning but friends and family never accepted the official version of events. The article reveals that Carla was involved in a group known “Children of the Light” (now Sambodha) and may have been trying to leave at the time of her death.
Nadeen Hayden, Aaravindha’s lead attorney, accuses Scofield of lying in the lawsuit. “Defendant knew that many of the statements made in and impressions created by the article are false or Defendant acted with reckless disregard as to their falsity.” However, Scofield says “like any other article I’ve written, I used professional discretion, carefully researched the story and used critical judgment when interviewing people. It’s standard journalistic method. If I were to ever lie in a story I would lose all credibility.” The suit also states that Scofield accused the group leader Aaravindha Himadra (Janis Briedis) of assault, murder and of being a sexual predator but no such statements are found in the article. The 10-page lawsuit doesn’t name any specific libelous or false statements made by Scofield, a tactic one attorney said is common for these types of frivolous actions.
Minc Law of Cleveland Behind Frivolous SLAPP Lawsuit
Aaron Minc’s online defamation law firm Minc Law of Cleveland, Ohio is responsible for the lawsuit against Scofield. Family Law attorney Steven Brandli of San Juan Island filed the suit in Washington State for Minc. Attorney Nadeen Hayden of Minc Law is the lead counsel representing Aaravindha in the case. During a panel discussion in May, Aaron Minc stated that he does not support Ohio’s proposed Anti-SLAPP measure known as the Ohio Citizen Participation Act, authored by attorneys Jeff Nye and Thomas Haren. Both Nye and Haren are known for their strong first amendment rights advocacy.
Minc is demanding that Scofield permanently remove the article, never speak or write about Aaravindha or the case again and enter into a monetary judgment of $250,000. Minc Law also warned, “our clients’ damages only increase as long as the defamatory Article continues to be published.”
Scofield is being represented pro bono by Ambika Doran and Tim Cunningham of the prominent law firm Davis Wright Tremaine of Seattle. Most notably the firm won a one billion dollar judgment during the Exxon Valdez oil spill for 30,000 victims. They’ve won major legal victories for Greenpeace and regularly defend journalists and activists from frivolous lawsuits and police brutality.
Plaintiff is Sounds True Author
The plaintiff in the case, Aaravindha Himadra, is an author with the well-known spiritual publishing house Sounds True. Founder Tami Simon interviewed him in 2018. Himadra’s book Immortal Selfrecounts his spiritual journey through the Himalaya’s where he claims to have lived with beings known as “Amartya Masters.” Some of his followers believe Himadra is enlightened and refer to him as a master. Himadra traveled to the Himalaya’s in the summer of 2006, just months after his student Carla Jean Shaffer was found dead on Orcas Island.
Prominent Cult Reporter
Dubbed “the anti-cult hero of the digital age” by journalist Anke Richter, Scofield is one of the most prominent journalists in the world reporting on cults. As a result of her stories, three short documentaries have been produced (VICE, Barcroft, Jezebel) and articles have appeared on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Playboy, CNN, CBC, New Zealand Herald, Die Zeit and elsewhere. Her work has exposed widespread abuse and corruption by spiritual leaders and has led to the shutting down of several groups. Scofield’s articles have over 1 million views in the last 1.5 years.
FULL TEXT OF LAWSUIT
Note: Scofield’s former name is blacked out of the lawsuit. Her legal name is now Be Scofield.