Oct. 9, 2002 – Lawsuits, counter-suits, allegations and general ill will stemming from Innovative Telephone's investigation of Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg are holding their own in the headlines amid the electoral campaigns and territorywide strikes.
Donastorg last Thursday added Holland Redfield II, Innovative Communication Corp. vice president for corporate affairs, as a defendant in his defamation suit against ICC and others. And ICC on Monday added Donastorg and his attorney, Lee Rohn, as defendants in a suit the company filed on Oct. 2 against Dennis Sheraw & Associates, the firm that conducted a private investigation of the senator.
On Wednesday, Rohn vehemently denied an allegation in ICC's lawsuit that she told attorney Joel Holt she would not release private files from Sheraw's office if ICC would agree to Sheraw's settlement demands in an unrelated suit he has against ICC. "That is nowhere near what I told Joel," she said.
It was the most recent development in a barrage of legal maneuvers involving Donastorg and ICC since the senator publicly announced last week that Innovative had conducted a private investigation of him and his family and associates. Donastorg subsequently amended the defamation lawsuit that he had filed earlier this year after hearing remarks Redfield made about him on the radio. (See "Donastorg adds Redfield as defendant in suit".)
In its Oct. 2 suit against Sheraw & Associates, ICC charged that Sheraw illegally gave Donastorg his private files. On Monday, ICC amended the lawsuit to include Donastorg, Rohn and her law firm as defendants.
Rohn said in a letter sent Wednesday to ICC attorney Paul Ruskin in New Jersey that she alone had give Donastorg access to the private files, and she said she would sign an affidavit to that effect once Sheraw retains an attorney.
Among other things, ICC is claiming invasion of privacy. The suit alleges that the actions of Donastorg, Rohn and Sheraw "are so oppressive and detrimental to plaintiff, its property rights, and its business reputation that there is no fully adequate remedy at law, and plaintiff is entitled to a permanent injunction that defendants and their agents stop release of all files and return them to plaintiff."
ICC contends that Donastorg, by publicly releasing the files on the investigation, has "injured ICC and its reputation as a means of garnering votes." (See "ICC executive: Investigation of Donastorg justified".)
The suit claims that because of "breach of duty" by Sheraw, "ICC was injured per se, in its reputation, and the loss of confidentiality." Even if Sheraw didn't know the investigation files were being released to Donastorg, he "breached his duty by not trying to recover said files," the suit states.
In her letter to Ruskin, in reply to a letter he had written Oct. 3, Rohn denied having threatened to release any files, adding, "I do not intend to release any files unless there is a court order to do so." She termed the ICC lawsuit against Sheraw "malicious prosecution," charging that the action slandered the private investigator "by falsely claiming to Sen. Donastorg that Mr. Sheraw violated laws and engaged in criminal conduct."
Rohn told Ruskin that she had pointed out to Holt "that in the course of Mr. Sheraw's lawsuit it might well come out as to what work he did for Vitelco, and who else he investigated on behalf of the company." [Vitelco — V.I. Telephone Corp. — is now known as Innovative Telephone.] And should that happen, she said, any such investigations would become public knowledge, and the persons named would then have a right to demand access to information from the investigations against them.
On Oct. 1, Ruskin had told Sheraw, via Rohn, not to discuss the investigative files with anyone. That letter stated: "Yesterday ICC was notified (quite suddenly and in person) by Sen. Donastorg that he was in possession of what he characterized as old, 1998 investigative files which he stated had been provided to him by your mutual counsel." He advised Sheraw not to contact him or "anyone from the company." He said, "I have advised ICC employees not to participate in any further such 'unannounced visits' from the senator, or discussions with you."
In response to Ruskin's allegation that "ICC was notified suddenly," Donastorg said on Wednesday that he had stopped by the Law Offices of Joel Holt "looking for my old friend Edwin Callwood," who works for Holt. Donastorg said he saw Holt there and brought up the investigation but did not say how he had learned of it. "Why would I give him specifics, when I know who he works for?" Donastorg said, referred to Jeffrey Prosser, ICC president and owner.
In a further development, Donastorg wrote to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday asking for advice on "how best to proceed at this time in order to ensure the safety of my family and associates." Citing the ICC investigation, the senator said he was seeking the FBI's help as an "elected official."
The FBI office on St. Thomas referred a call for comment to Eric Rivera, its public information officer in San Juan, who did not return a call Wednesday afternoon.
Sheraw, reached Wednesday afternoon, said only that he could not comment on any aspect of the matter.
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