Australian man Serge Isaac Benhayon, who a jury discovered earlier this yr leads a “socially dangerous cult”, used his superior monetary place to try to exhaust and inflict “ache” on the lady he sued for defamation, a courtroom has heard.
The choose within the case stated a 31-page authorized letter despatched to blogger Esther Rockett on the day of her father’s funeral was “disgraceful”, and described one other request for paperwork as “harassment and unreasonable”.
Benhayon, a 54-year-old former tennis coach who went on to discovered non secular therapeutic enterprise Common Drugs, misplaced his defamation case in opposition to Rockett, a former acupuncturist, within the New South Wales Supreme Courtroom earlier this yr.
A jury of 4 discovered Rockett’s allegations that Benhayon had indecently touched her as he carried out an ovarian studying at a therapeutic session in 2005, and that he had indecently touched various purchasers, have been considerably true.
It additionally discovered as true imputations that Benhayon is the chief of a socially dangerous cult; is sexually manipulative of his cult followers; persuaded followers to shun family members who would not be a part of the cult; is a charlatan who makes faux therapeutic claims; preys on and swindles most cancers sufferers; and is dishonest, amongst others.
In a listening to on Thursday, attorneys argued over whether or not Rockett must be awarded indemnity prices for her victory within the case, which might see a bigger proportion of her prices than typical lined by Benhayon.
Her barrister Tom Molomby SC advised the courtroom there have been two causes Rockett must be granted indemnity prices: Benhayon had used his monetary place to inflict “ache” on Rockett that went past the unusual stress of authorized proceedings, and Benhayon had refused an affordable provide to settle.
Rockett stated in an affidavit filed to the courtroom that she requested Benhayon’s solicitor, Paula Fletcher, to not ship her pointless authorized correspondence as she cared for her dying father in late August 2017.
“My father’s funeral is to happen later this week and I request that out of regular human decency and respect for my household that you don’t badger me with pointless correspondence till subsequent week,” Rockett wrote to Fletcher on September 6, in line with her affidavit.
However, Rockett stated, on the day of her father’s funeral, she acquired a 31-page authorized letter from Fletcher in regards to the case. Justice Julia Lonergan described the letter as “disgraceful” in courtroom on Thursday.
The courtroom additionally heard proof about defamation proceedings in opposition to Rockett in Queensland introduced by two folks related to Common Drugs.
Lonergan stated one request for Rockett to supply numerous paperwork within the Queensland case inside 14 days was “utterly preposterous” and “harassment and unreasonable”.
Molomby stated the monetary positions of Benhayon and Rockett have been “very completely different” and famous Rockett didn’t have a solicitor for a big a part of the authorized proceedings.
Rockett filed for chapter in December 2017 after she was requested to pay $20,000 in pretrial prices within the Queensland case, the courtroom heard.
“That is any person who’s on her personal. She’s not a lawyer. No solicitor,” Molomby stated.
Benhayon’s barrister Nicholas Olson agreed there was a “very acrimonious relationship” between Benhayon and Rockett, however stated indemnity prices have been meant to compensate folks, not be used as a punitive measure.
Olson stated he was not there to defend Benhayon’s conduct, besides to say that Rockett’s affidavit didn’t show Benhayon’s actions had hindered the decision of the case.
The courtroom heard that Rockett had made a proposal to Benhayon to settle the case on February 2, 2016, however he rejected it, sending her a counter-offer six days later.
Olson stated the provide was cheap, however argued it was not unreasonable for Benhayon to reject it. It contained a prompt apology that was two and a half strains lengthy and didn’t acknowledge the harm suffered by Benhayon over the alleged defamation, Olson stated.
“It may pretty be described as tight-lipped or by gritted enamel,” he advised Lonergan.
Molomby stated the counter-offer Benhayon despatched again to Rockett on February eight sought a “grovelling and humiliating apology” from Rockett.
In accordance with courtroom paperwork, the prompt apology required Rockett to confess she had falsely accused Benhayon of varied issues “with out proof, with out justification” and that she printed the weblog and tweets “intentionally intending to harm and embarrass Mr Benhayon and hurt his private and enterprise status”.
“That’s asking for greater than any verdict would ship,” Molomby stated.
Lonergan stated: “I wouldn’t name it an apology. I’d name it a declaration of prison conduct on the a part of Miss Rockett.”
Olson stated it was “not an apology I’d have written”, however stated the related authorized level was whether or not Benhayon acted moderately in rejecting the preliminary provide.
Over the course of the five-week trial, the jury heard proof on a variety of points, together with what constitutes a cult, relationships that broke up after one individual acquired concerned with Common Drugs, an “ovarian studying” and different energy-based non secular therapeutic theories and practices, and sexual misconduct.
On the second day of the trial, Benhayon testified that he’s the reincarnation of Renaissance painter and thinker Leonardo da Vinci.
Lonergan has reserved her resolution on prices.