Phila. Gun Club sues SHARK over campaign of harassment stemming from live pigeon protests
A Pennsylvania sportsman’s organization has filed a federal complaint against an animal welfare group over allegations that the defendant and its members have unleashed a pattern of harassment and intimidation against the plaintiff and its members. Philadelphia Gun Club Inc. and eight of its members filed suit in U.S. District Court last week against Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, and five of its members over an alleged campaign of “harassment, hounding, intimidation, trespass, invasion of privacy and intrusion” against the plaintiffs as well as club staff and members’ relatives, friends and businesses associates. The defendants are accused of taking the measures against the plaintiffs in part because the gun club conducts live pigeon shoots, an act the defendants deem unacceptable and barbaric. Pennsylvania is believed to be the only state left in the nation in which shooting pigeons strictly for sport is still legal. The lawsuit says that while SHARK claims a creed of physical non-violence, it openly advocates engaging in acts of “emotional violence,” and it further maintains internet postings on the website of the Animal Liberation Front, which the FBI has identified as a domestic terror threat. The complaint says that while SHARK’s tactics to date have not included violence, it does specialize in taking its video and photos and using them for an advanced form of “cyber bullying,” which “fails to qualify as outright hate speech only by virtue of its absence of race or ethnicity.” “SHARK’s diatribes however are a 21st century, internet-based version of incitement to riot and commit acts of violence against the PGC and its members,” the complaint reads. “They fall outside the bounds of protected speech and should be enjoined.” The Philadelphia Gun Club, which has been in existence since 1877, says that the defendants’ harassment actions relate to its live pigeon shoots, which it holds about 12 days out of the year. Among other things, the lawsuit accuses the individual defendants of violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act for following and conducting surveillance on each of the plaintiffs listed. The suit even links to one web video in which SHARK president Steven Omar Hindi, who lives in Illinois, followed a man believed to be a gun club member and then got into a confrontation with the man, which ended with the victim pulling a gun on Hindi and his passenger. The video, posted online by SHARK, says that the man, who the lawsuit says was not a gun club member, never faced any criminal charges for pulling out his gun and pointing it at the SHARK members. The incident apparently took place in Bucks County, Pa., home to the gun club. The complaint says the defendants also violated federal law when they stalked and harassed the plaintiffs and then created Internet videos of the encounters. The harassment acts took place against the plaintiffs within the past two years, the suit says, although the plaintiffs are not able to provide specific dates of the defendants’ DPPA violations because of the “clandestine manner in which defendants conduct this criminal activity.” The defendants are also accused of defiant trespass since, as the plaintiffs contend, many of the incidents of harassment apparently took place on a portion of the gun club’s property. “Despite requests and instructions, defendants have defiantly refused to remove themselves from the PGC property, causing PGC members to lose the use of said property as a result of defendants’ tortious acts,” the complaint reads. The lawsuit contains additional counts of libel, defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with prospective economic relations and tortious interference with existing contractual relations. The plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $150,000. The individual plaintiffs named in the complaint are Leo Holt, Edward Bruce DiDonato, Jordan Irving, Clark Travers, Karl Natriello, William Comly, Carl Badenhausen and John Ross. Aside from Hindi, SHARK’s president, the additional defendants named are Brandon Bohn, Stuart Chaifetz, Michael David Kobliska and Janet Enoch. The suit was filed by attorney Sean M. Corr of the Warminster, Pa. firm Corr Mitchell LLC. The federal case number is 2:14-cv-02012-JS.