MOUNT VERNON — After Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater openly discussed a settlement offer from John Doe, et al., in the civil case against him, at the May Mount Vernon School Board meeting, Judge Gregory L. Frost placed a gag order on the case.
“The offer was made in conjunction with ongoing settlement negotiations directed by this court. Freshwater’s conduct violated several principles applicable to settlement negotiations,” stated the gag order filed last week in U.S. District Court following the Does’ request for the order.
According to the order, settlement negotiations resulting from the alternative dispute resolution process are to remain confidential and are not admissible in court.
“Because of Mr. Freshwater’s conduct, plaintiffs asked this court to issue a gag order preventing Freshwater from disclosing any further confidential settlement communications,” the document stated.
The order stated the court “explained to Mr. Freshwater that, aside from the privilege issue, his behavior jeopardizes the court’s ability to seat an impartial jury in this matter, which it has a duty to do so.”
Neither party is permitted to release, or allow someone else to release, confidential information regarding the case. Any violation, according to the filing, will result in “serious consequences,” ranging from monetary sanctions to jail time.
Also relating to the civil case, Freshwater and his attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, were required to produce specific evidence, but failed to do so. In documents filed on Tuesday, the court ordered the following:
•Hamilton must produce billing records relating to 15 affidavits.
•Freshwater and/or Hamilton is to provide a 10 Commandments book cover along with previously requested information, including handwritten notes, religious materials and textbooks. If that information is not available for discovery, an affidavit is required to explain why.
•Freshwater and/or Hamilton must provide copies of all materials copied at Freshwater’s church.
•Freshwater and Hamilton are required to pay the Doe family’s reasonable attorney fees related to Freshwater’s failure to produce such evidence, as well as the costs to prepare the Motion to Compel.
The court denied the Does’ request for evidentiary inferences, but left the door open to revisit the request if Freshwater and his attorney fail to produce the requested materials, many of which are due by June 16.