Stun Gun, Pepper Spray Not Deposition Tools

[UPDATED] This is really bad behavior, even for lawyers.

Attorney Douglas J. Crawford was angry with the way JP Morgan Chase Bank had treated his elderly mother before she died, so he sued.  While representing himself he threatened the bank’s lawyer with pepper spray and a stun gun at a deposition, according to the state Court of Appeal.

When the bank’s lawyer asked the court for sanctions, Crawford filed an opposition “openly contemptuous” of the trial judge, the court said. (Crawford, in court papers, called the judge a ‘former D.A., currently masquerading as a superior court judge.’)

“Such conduct can have consequences,” according to Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.

Crawford’s case was tossed out. He appealed and on Wednesday the appeals court upheld the decision.

How it Began

It began in 2008 when Crawford, of Ventura County, went with his mother Ninion [Sheila Ninon] to the Chase bank with instructions that it not withdraw or transfer more than $5,000 from her account without contacting him [or his brother Matthew].  The bank agreed.

But in 2011, a Chase investment advisor suggested Ninion [Sheila] buy a 29-year annuity – she was 79 [76] years old at the time.  The advisor transferred $200,000 out of her account without contacting Crawford, according to the court.

Crawford sued and Chase rescinded the annuity, but Crawford contended the bank refused to reimburse him $2,000 in lost interest.

During the suit he served deposition subpoenas on three defendants and Chase’s in-house lawyer, setting the depositions to take place in Crawford’s home.

The defendants objected saying they feared for their safety, according to the court.  They cited another Crawford lawsuit in San Diego, in which he referred to the Oklahoma City and Boston bombings.

The bank employees did not appear for depositions.  Rather than filing a discovery motion in response, Crawford went to small claims court, filing actions against each of the Chase defendants and the bank’s lawyer, seeking $500 in damages for failing to obey a subpoena.

The Threats

Crawford’s brother, Matthew, was the sole beneficiary of the rescinded annuity.  The bank claims “Crawford’s true objection to the annuity was not that it was unsuitable for his mother, but that his mother excluded him,” the court wrote.

The two brothers walked out of a 2014 deposition by the bank saying they feared for their safety.

Repeated attempts by the bank to depose Matthew failed, even with a $1,600 sanction against Crawford.  Finally, the brothers appeared but immediately after Matthew was sworn in for the deposition, Crawford “pointed a can of pepper spray at counsel’s face from a distance of approximately three feet,” telling the lawyer it was in case “things get out of hand,” the court said.

Crawford then produced a stun gun, pointed it at the lawyer’s head, saying if that [pepper spray] didn’t quell you, “this is a flashlight that turns into a stun gun.”

“Crawford discharged the stun gun close to [Walter] Traver’s face,” Gilbert said.  Traver wisely terminated the deposition.

The bank asked for and won sanctions that included tossing the case based on Crawford’s threats of physical violence.

Gilbert wrote, “Crawford threatened opposing counsel with physical harm.  Yet he complains about the lack of opposing counsel’s attempt at informal resolution.  The irony is not lost on us. Crawford conclusively demonstrated that attempting an informal resolution of disputes with him is futile, if not dangerous.”

Case: Crawford v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, No. B257412

Editor: Corrections to Crawford’s mother’s name and age are based on Crawford’s information by email.  Changes appear in [ ]. In addition, his comments are provided in the comment section, but edited for length. The content is unchanged.


One comment

  1. Submitted on 2015/12/13 at 3:34 am
    I have read the corrupt Justices opinion and respond accordingly:
    First, my Mother’s names is: Sheila Ninon Teager Crawford. Her name is not and was never “Ninion”. Is a simple name to spell with only five letters, “N-I-N-O-N”.
    Additionally, my mother died at the age of 76 years old, therefore, she never reached the age of 79. The notes on all her accounts to not transfer more than $5000 before contacting me or my brother. Matthew, had been on her account for over three years because she was obviously suffering from dementia.
    As to the actual substance of the “opinion”, they got both the facts and the law wrong.
    The first depositions were held at the Musick Peeler & Garrett offices in Thousand Oaks on February 11, 2014. The first deposition was of Richard B. Davis, counsel for J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, aka “our Heavenly Father”. The Davis deposition happened in the morning and was relatively uneventful from my perspective.
    However, there was a white man sitting in on the deposition that looked out of place, in that, he had an ill-fitting suit and carried a folder that had nothing in it.
    On February 12, 2014, the deposition of Melissa A. Griffin was to take place. Again, John Doe was in attendance with his concealed weapon on his front hip. At the outset, I demanded to know the person’s actual name and his reason for being there. Traver refused to disclose his name and instructed John Doe to not reveal his name. I inquired as to whether or not he had a gun on his hip. Neither Traver nor Doe would answer either query. I informed both parties that I would be phoning 911 to report a man in an office building with a gun to which Traver responded “go ahead”. I asked permission from John Doe to exit the conference room and called 911.
    Four Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputies responded with sirens blaring and guns drawn and John Doe produced something to quell them. The Sheriff’s deputies were cryptic in their response by stating that “some people can carry concealed weapons”. I suspended the deposition because I was not going to take anyone’s deposition while having a gun, literally, pointed at me.

    Why did you pull a stun gun and pepper spray on opposing counsel during the planned deposition of your brother in the case against JPMorgan over your mother’s finances?
    Legally speaking, it was not a deposition because discovery had been closed. I had filed a motion to reopen discovery, Chase opposed the motion and Chase personal lap dog, Vincent O’Neill Jr., denied the motion to reopen discovery. Pelton-Shepard Industries v. Delta Packing Products, Inc., (2008) 165 Cal. App. 1568 is directly on point and noticeably absent from the corrupt justices opinion because it is not favorable to our heavenly father, Chase. Pelton-Shepard holds that before a Superior Court judge can order anyone to a deposition after the close of discovery, a concurrent motion to reopen discovery must be filed.
    I filed a motion to reopen discovery, Chase opposed the motion and corrupt Judge O’Neill denied the motion. Discovery was closed, period.
    Factually, I did not “pull” a stun gun and pepper spray on anyone. I informed Traver and company that I was in possession of the pepper spray and stun gun only after I went around the room to inquire if anyone in the room was in possession of any firearms or weapons and to stave off his erratic behavior. Prior to the meeting, I tried to confirm with Traver whether or not he was going to bring another gunman, but Traver refused to respond.
    On January 17, 2014, Traver threatened me in a written correspondence that he would report me to the State Bar if I proceeded with filing CCP 1992 actions against his non-appearing clients. Not only was his written threat a violation of the Rules of Professional Responsibility, but it was the crime of witness intimidation and I reported it as such to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
    I purchased the pepper spray and stun gun/flashlight a day before the deposition out of fear for my brother’s safety. As I stated to the Court, if the only price I have to pay is the dismissal of this case, whose outcome was inevitable, for possibly saving my brother’s life, it is a price I will pay every day and twice on Sunday.
    In its decision today, the appellate court said, “If ever a case required a terminating sanction, this is it.” Do you agree with that sentiment?
    If ever a case required a reversal it was this case! As previously stated, Pelton-Shepard is and was directly on point, both in the facts and the law. Not matter what egregious act I did or did not commit, the law required that discovery had to be re-opened before any termination sanctions could be issued. The Appellate Justices showed their hand of corruption, lack of integrity and favoritism for the law when they purposefully and intentionally ignored clear, unequivocal California precedent to reach a decision based on hyperbole and emotion rather than California law thereby subscribing to the Golden Rule. They had the opportunity to demonstrate that the rule of law trumps emotion, politics and the financial wealth of the litigant, but these corrupt Justices treated my mother’s case of elder abuse like the police greet unarmed African-American’s – with summary execution.
    There are several factual inaccuracies worthy of noting.

    The petition could not have referenced the Oklahoma City and Boston bombings because at the time filing the Petition for Rehearing the Boston bombings at not occurred yet. It did reference U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis’ statement, which was recited by Timothy McVeigh at his sentencing.
    I will be filing a Petition for Rehearing, mainly, to correct the spelling of my mother’s name. After it is summarily rejected, I will be filing a Petition with the California Supreme Court, which I predict will be summarily rejected.
    As a side note, despite the fact that I walked out of the State Bar proceedings and the fact that I am not opposing my disbarment, the State Bar is appealing their win?! From my perspective, this is pure harassment and retaliation for running against Ronald S. Prager and calling him the most corrupt judge in San Diego County. It trips the light fantastic to imagine that the State Bar has nothing better to do than to appeal a win in a case where the attorney does not even object to their own disbarment!
    Best regards,
    Douglas J. Crawford


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