Author claims sexual harassment fine means nothing

A recent state order fining author, conspiracy theorist and former Los Angeles cop Michael C. Ruppert more than $125,000 for sexually harassing a former employee is all bark and no bite.

"I don't owe a penny," Ruppert said. "This judgment is solely against my corporation, and I spent $4,000 proving in court that it no longer exists."

A press release issued Sept. 21 by the Bureau of Labor and Industries said Ruppert was ordered to pay his former employee, Lindsay Gerken, $2,713 in lost wages. State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian also ordered Ruppert to pay $125,000 in damages for the woman's mental and emotional suffering, for a total award of $127,713.

The release stated the BOLI judgment was against Ruppert individually and his former company, "from the Wilderness, Inc."

Avakian clarified on Tuesday that Gerken did not file against Ruppert personally in addition to his Web-based company — an oversight Avakian said is regrettable.

"This case was not done the way I like to see it done," Avakian said. "It limits our ability to attach his property."

Gerken could not be reached for comment.

She testified that she was fired a week after Ruppert asked her to have a sexual relationship with him and she refused. The most startling incident in the case occurred when Ruppert came to Gerken's office door "wearing only his underwear and a smile," according to a BOLI release.

Ruppert maintains his innocence and said he plans to appeal the ruling to a higher court. However, he said he does not have the estimated $25,000 necessary to pursue an appeal at this time. The BOLI case cost him $45,000, he said.

Ruppert has written several books, including "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil" and "Denial Stops Here: From 9-11 to Peak Oil and Beyond." He said last week and again on Tuesday that the timing of the ruling was intended to defame him just as a movie about his theories, "CoLLapse," was premiered this month at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.

"I'm getting trashed," Ruppert said, "but I've learned it's not about me any more. It's about me and the movie. They've behaved like absolute bullies."

Avakian said he rendered his decision based on an 84-page legal assessment given to him by an administrative law judge who heard the case. Gerken testified that she had become fearful that Ruppert might physically harm her after witnessing him in an altercation with another man, Avakian said.

"It was commonly known he carried a gun with him at work," Avakian said last week.

Ruppert said the case against him was based on false reports by Gerken and also on two articles published in the Ashland Daily Tidings in 2006 that portrayed him as "an out-of-control conspiracy theorist" who possibly faked a burglary at his own company and smashed his own computers. The articles were entered into evidence at the BOLI hearing, Ruppert said.

He claims Ashland police wrote inaccurate reports of the burglary and vandalism at his office, then leaked the reports to the Tidings after bungling the investigation.

"All of my computers were smashed beyond recognition," he said, adding that he originally suspected Gerken. He said he now believes the crimes could have been committed by a number of people who want to silence him.

Ruppert said he fled to Venezuela because he feared for his life after he published online a series of articles that exposed former NFL player Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan from friendly fire rather than the heroic narrative offered by government officials.

Since leaving Ashland, Ruppert has bounced between Venezuela and New York and now resides in California, he said.

On Tuesday Avakian said BOLI's ruling only affects property owned or income obtained by Ruppert in Oregon. BOLI has no ability to seek extradition of people or attach their wages, income or property outside of Oregon, he said.

Ruppert said there is little chance he will return to Oregon.

"I'd say the chances of that are slim to none," he said. "But there's a lot of wonderful people up there. Some of the best friends I ever had."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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