Plaintiffs in a convoluted lawsuit involving the last wishes of a charismatic religious leader have posted a draft copy of a proposed judicial remedy in the dispute.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Leslie Roberts had previously ruled against the defendants in the case, who included a splinter group of Oregon followers of a group called Sikh Dharma. After the death of their spiritual leader, Yogi Bhajan, the defendants took control of the sect's nearly $1 billion corporate and non-profit empire and began enriching themselves while cutting out the group's New Mexico-based religious leaders.
WW laid out the details of the case in a cover story last summer.
The judge's remedy would leave the defendants in positions of legal authority but render them personally liable for misappropriated funds. It also addresses an unresolved question, tangential to the lawsuit itself but central to WW's reporting: The true last wishes of Yogi Bhajan.
Roberts' draft opinion on remedies notes that the corporate structure established after Bhajan's death may have been based on invalid or fraudulent documents, as alleged by the plaintiffs.
"The private plaintiffs may be very correct that all is not as it seems with the corporate documents," Roberts writes.
The court noted the highly suspicious chain of events whereby the controlling corporate documents for [Unto Infinity an umbrella company set up after Bhajan's death] were amended and amended again in final days of Yogi Bhajan's life, supposedly at his direction, notwithstanding he was incoherent and often highly drugged during this period according to the credible testimony of his attending physician. It was difficult to comprehend why, if all these amendments had been ordered at the beginning of October 2004 (the approval having been witnesses and attested to only by a single individual who was favored by the changes), none were recorded until significantly after the fact; and when recorded, they were recorded at intervals in the order of execution, such that each of the first two was already superceded when at last they were recorded, by a document stil unecorded until several months after the death of the Yogi Bhajan. There is no satisfactory explanation, as well, for [Portland attorney] Roy Lambert's contradictory statements identifying a Yogi Bhajan appointed [successor corporate] board, and subsequently denying he had received any list of [successor corporation] designated directors form Yogi Bhajan.However, the allegations of the complaint and the basis upon which this litigation ultimately came to trial, and the issues litigated, were not directed to a remedy for what may have been shady dealings with the corporate documents, but to the misapplication of assets impressed with a trust.