Costa Mesa -- A South County man being sued by a religious sect for allegedly harassing its members countered with his own accusation that the organization is smearing him with lies on its Web site. According to the Costa Mesa-based Piecemakers' Web site-www.piecemakers.com-Tom Halliburton "has a restrainer on him [from the group] at the present." Halliburton, 26, and his attorney, Joseph Donahue, said the posted statement is nonsense.
"It's another one of their series of head trips," Donahue said. "They're desperate to do anything to assert their self-righteousness." Halliburton blames the Piecemakers because his mother, Donna, did not attend his college graduation a couple years ago.
His mother joined the group 20 years ago and has since severed all family ties. Marie Kolasinski, the Piecemakers' unofficial leader, denied she did anything wrong by posting the statements on the Internet.
On Wednesday-after delaying the lawsuit four times because the Piecemakers had insufficient evidence against Halliburton-Superior Court Judge Sheila Fell ruled the trial should proceed.
The Piecemakers initially accused Halliburton of slander-an allegation omitted in the most recent court filing. The Piecemakers allege that Halliburton threatened their members and drove away many customers from their Adams Street crafts store by picketing in front and sending e-mail messages to their Web customers. He is accused of portraying the group as a mind-controlling cult in his e-mails and picket signs. Kolasinski said members felt threatened by Halliburton's campaign against the group.
The Piecemakers, also known as the Body of Christ Fellowship, are a group of 31 adults who live communally in six Mesa Verde homes. They reject marriage, abstain from sex and have a history of violating city health, fire and building codes.
Kolasinski recently posted the Web statement that condemned Halliburton. In addition to calling attention to the "restrainer," she apologized for "the harassment some received from a very disturbed individual." Kolasinski, 78, said Thursday she wasn't sure Halliburton actually had a legal restraint against him. But she denied the Web site was misleading. "His lawyer said he better stop writing the e-mails," she said. "To me, that could be considered to be a legal restraining order."
But Donahue said Kolasinski deliberately posted the false statement to portray Halliburton as a villain. "First, I would never restrict my client's First Amendment rights," Donahue said. "And even if I did, she would never know about it. That's attorney-client privilege."
Donahue said Thursday the Piecemakers still don't have enough evidence against his client. He will argue against proceeding with a trial Wednesday. Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times