A judge has placed a temporary gag order on women who have sued influential labor leader Mickey Kasparian, preventing them from sharing some information about their cases with the public.
At a hearing Wednesday morning, San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn ordered the three plaintiffs and their lawyers to stop giving third parties, including the media, transcripts of sworn testimonies given outside of the courtroom. Court records show that the terms of the order were discussed during Wednesday’s hearing, but a transcript was not immediately available. Manuel Corrales, a lawyer representing the women, described the nature of the order.
Corrales said Kasparian and his attorneys are trying to step on his clients’ free speech rights.
“That seems to be their modus operandi, to gag everybody,” Corrales said over the phone.
A long-term order will be considered on Feb. 2. Corrales said he’ll argue against it by detailing how Kasparian, head of both the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 and the San Diego Working Families Council, has spoken with the media, his union’s thousands of members, and other parties about his case.
Kasparian did not respond to a request for comment, but his lawyers said in a legal filing that the transcripts contain untrue allegations, and that sharing them with third parties hurts Kasparian’s and Local 135’s reputations and their right to a fair trial.
“The allegations are an attack on Mr. Kasparian’s character and morality intended to taint the general community’s view of him,” Kasparian’s lawyer wrote in the filing. “The dissemination of such allegations is an unwarranted annoyance, embarrassment and oppression of Defendants and violates, or is at least an attempt to violate both Defendants’ rights to a fair jury trial and Defendant Kasparian’s right to privacy as well.”
Corrales said the judge’s order will not have any real impact because the transcripts can still be included in court filings that are available for public inspection.
“I got around it. And if it’s filed with the report, it’s included and that’s fair game,” he said. “They really didn’t accomplish anything.”
A limited number of third parties, including law enforcement officers and other attorneys involved in the case, can also have unfettered access to the transcripts, Corrales said.
The documents the women and their lawyers are now prohibited from sharing, formally called “depositions,” are given under penalty of perjury during the discovery phase of the lawsuit and often include discussions about the allegations against Kasparian.
Recorded and transcribed by a court reporter, lawyers from both sides question and cross-examine defendants, plaintiffs and witnesses. The details in the depositions range from ordinary biographical details to serious allegations.
In one instance, Melody Godinez said that Kasparian pinned her onto his office’s sofa and groped her on several separate occasions. Kasparian denies all the allegations.
“I felt like I was being raped,” Godinez said in a deposition.
Vasquez, a 15-year employee at Local 135 until she retired, also sued Kasparian and alleged that he pressured her into an unwanted sexual relationship during her tenure at union. Kasparian denies any intimate contact with Vasquez, but Vasquez described a distinct mole on the labor leader’s penis.
Kasparian, also in a deposition, said Vasquez did not see his penis or moles, but suspected she heard about the markings from her fiance, Terry Hunt, whom he told about the markings because he was concerned they might be cancerous. Hunt, in his own deposition, said Kasparian never mentioned the moles to him.
Another woman, Sandy Naranjo, has also sued Kasparian, alleging that she was fired from Local 135 in retaliation for a stance on a political matter taken by her husband’s rival union. Kasparian denies her accusations as well.
Kasparian, an ally of Democrats who support organized labor’s interests, resigned from his position in the San Diego Democratic Party’s Central Committee just after the Union-Tribune reported on Godinez’s allegations of sexual assault. Kasparian made no reference to his legal troubles in his resignation letter but rather cited commitments with Local 135.