A Washington County court transcript, just released today, shows that Range Resources was afraid of what children might say about their operations near the family’s home so they insisted the children be gagged for life.
Confidential agreement should have been part of Washington County Marcellus Shale case record
Newly released transcript also reveals details of lifetime gag order on Hallowich family
July 31, 2013
The hearing transcript, which provides details of the $750,000 settlement paid to the family, shows the Hallowiches reluctantly agreed to the terms of the settlement to remove their children from what they considered an unhealthy environment. They also raised questions about how the lifetime “gag order,” as the judge called it, included in the settlement that required the entire family to never discuss Marcellus Shale or fracking would be enforced against their then 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.
Background: Judge Debbie O‘Dell Seneca questioned the handling of the case by Judge Paul Pozonsky who has been charged with theft and tampering with evidence. In March, Judge O’Dell ordered that the documents be unsealed but Exhibit B was missing from the official court record.
The signing of these non-disclosure agreements amounts to extortion.
The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.
How can minor children be forced to give up their 1st amendment rights for their entire lives?
Of course, the companies involved have appealed Judge O’Dell’s decision because they can’t allow the truth to slip out of a cherub’s lips.
UPDATE: The transcript has been posted.
When asked if they understood that the gag order means they can never discuss what happened to them:
MR. HALLOWICH: Unfortunately, yes.
The Hallowich attorney:
MR. VILLARI: I would correct for the record, I did not draft this totally. There is an agreement that was drafted with all counsel involved. You understand that —
THE COURT: It was just my reference that the petition was submitted by you as their attorney. I stand corrected for the record.
Is that agreement the missing Exhibit B?
When asked if they accepted the terms as in the best interest of their children and family:
MR. HALLOWICH: Yes, and health reasons.We needed to do this in order to get them out of this situation.
Then the attorney asked Stephanie Hallowich specifically if she understood that no matter what is said about her on the internet she cannot respond.
Finally their attorney explains, “no one from this point forward will ever be able to review this record or have any understanding of what has happened here today or in the past lawsuit in which you, yourselves, were the defendants.”
And to that Chris Hallowich responds:
MR. HALLOWICH: In order to protect the children, yes.
They went off the record for some counsel. Then on the record, Stephanie states:
MRS. HALLOWICH: We have agreed to this because we needed to get the children out of there for their health and safety. My concern is they’re minors. I’m not quite sure I fully understand. We know we’re signing for silence forever, but how is this taking away our children’s rights being minors now? I mean, my daughter is turning 7 today, my son is 10. How — I guess that concerns me that we need to keep them safe, but —
Then the Hallowich attorney explains to the judge how bizarre and whacked it is to try and forever silence 7 and 10 year old children. But the Range attorney is insistent that the children be silenced forever and ever, Amen.
But the Hallowich attorney tried once more to express the gravity:
MR. VILLARI: …Again, I will say I have practiced 30-some years. I will say on the record I’ve never seen a request like this nor in my research that I can find anything that says it can be done…
And then the Range Resources attorney stays characteristically classy and lets everyone know that if the Hallowich children ever speak of what happened to them or anything at all to do with Marcellus drilling they will sue them–the children. Range will sue the 7 and 10 year old children.
MR. SWETZ: I guess our position is it does apply to the whole family. We would certainly enforce it.
Then as a CYA Chris says:
MR. HALLOWICH: If I may, no matter where we live, they’re going to be amongst other children that are children of people within this industry, and they’re going to be around it every single day of their life, that if they, in turn, say one of the illegal words when they’re outside of our guardianship, we’re going to have difficulty controlling that. We can inform them. We can tell them they cannot say this, they cannot say that, but if on the playground —
So the Hallowich children have words that are now illegal for them to say. What? Is there a list of these illegal words? Do they have to memorize which words are illegal?
At the end, the judge has one of his clerks go with the court reporter to file the sealed documents. So what happened to Exhibit B?
UPDATE: Matt Pitzarella, Range Resources spokesperson and psyops specialist has spoken. He claims Range does not agree with suing children.
Don Hopey, July 31, 2013Mr. Pitzarella said today that Mr. Swetz’s comment about enforcing the nondisclosure agreement “is not our understanding, not something we agree with.” Mr. Swetz could not be reached for comment.
If you believe that, I have something for you HERE.
- Firstly, I know a little something about how Range operates legally and they are a very hands on outfit. If I had to bet, I would bet that someone at the very top wrote every word of the non-disclosure agreement including whate ever the “illegal words” are.
- Secondly, note in the transcript that most of the time was spent talking about the children’s gag. Mr Villari took great pains to carefully explain to the family what they were signing.
- Thirdly, why would a gag be carefully constructed to include the children and their “illegal words” if the company had no intention of trying to enforce it? If they didn’t agree with the court order gagging the children, why include that?
- Lastly, I remembered something that Don Hopey had written previously on the day the Hallowichs signed the agreement–Allison’s 7th birthday. It only took me a few moments of Googling to find it.
Ms. Hallowich has been a vocal critic of the drilling industry, but on Tuesday as she left the judge’s chambers with her husband and children and their attorney, Peter Villari, she said she was sorry but couldn’t comment.
This is not the normal way a family celebrates a 7th birthday. If I had to bet, I would bet that the children were commanded to attend.
Here is a picture of the Hallowich home with their new neighbors.
The truth about fracking resides in these non-disclosure agreements. These secret agreements are why the fracking industry can give sworn testimony to Congress saying that there is no documented proof of contamination.
UPDATE: A round up of some of the news.