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Sulser Bryant’s imaginary media conspiracy

Other articles in this series:


NOTE: This three-part update is based primarily on new court filings and judicial decisions.

 

The accuracy, context and content of these articles are improved because our previous coverage of prompted multiple knowledgeable and current winery sources not connected with the litigation to contact Wine Industry Insight (WII) with additional information.

 

All source attributable information is confirmed by court documents or multiple independent sources not connected with the litigation. Wine Industry Insight adheres to the Associated Press rules on anonymous sources.


UPDATE: 6:08 p.m., 10/14/ — Bryant Winery lawyer issues wandering letter filled with vague claims and asks for a retraction. (Rejected)


Court documents verify that Bryant Family Vineyards CEO Bettina Sulser Bryant had all the facts about Lauren Ridenhour’s New York lawsuit, but sat on them for more than four months  until Wine Industry Insight (WII) published an article about it on June 3, 2019.

 

In addition to court documents, current winery sources in a position to observe Sulser Bryant’s reactions to the article, tell WII that she was extremely angry and determined to retaliate.

 

“But she realized that she had been caught with her pants down because she hadn’t done anything so far about Lauren’s statements in New York,” said one source. “That was when she decided she should be a victim of some evil conspiracy to make her look bad …. She doesn’t need a conspiracy to make her look bad. She’s good at that all on her own.”

 

After four months with no objections from either Sulser Bryant or the Bryant Art Trust’s New York law firm, Ridenhour’s previous filings miraculously became so laden with confidential information that Sulser Bryant felt compelled to hire a new Los Angeles-based law firm to file a legal complaint against the former financial consultant who had saved her more than $3 million.

 

The confidential nature of Sulser Bryant’s allegations have been discredited by the actions of the Bryant Art Trust attorneys in Ne York.

 

The manufactured conspiracy

By all accounts, Sulser Bryant and her California legal team manufactured the fictional conspiracy between Ridenhour and Wine Industry Insight.

 

“She [Sulser Bryant] knew that, as CEO of the winery, she should have read the [New York] court filings.” said a source currently associated with the winery.

 

“If she didn’t, that was sloppy management,” said another source close to winery operations. “If she did [read the documents], and didn’t object to anything,  that means the San Fran lawsuit in San Fran came about her embarrassment from your article….She didn’t want to admit incompetence, and had to make up something so that she looked like the victim of a plot.”

 

Legal documents filed in support of Sulser Bryant’s conspiracy charge included a copy (below) of a Wine Industry Insight article —  Bryant Family Vineyards facing serious financial accusations in federal court.

 

That article was written entirely from documents filed in New York federal court. The article was researched and written  without any information from — or contact with — Ridenhour, her attorney or any other person involved in the litigation.

Sulser Bryant’s logic runs off the factual rails – “mostly false” allegations?

Sulser Bryant’s complaint in San Francisco charges that the only reason Ridenhour sued the Bryants in New York was to launch a PR campaign.

 

However, the California lawyers hedged their side of things a bit by characterizing Ridenhour’s allegations as “mostly false.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-02 at 12.45.42 PM

“On information and belief, Ridenhour thus facilitated press coverage and took other steps to publicize the (mostly false) allegations about the Winery in the lawsuit.

 

“For example, on information and belief, Ridenhour sent copies of the lawsuit anonymously to entities with which the Winery interacted. 

 

“On information and belief, Ridenhour or those acting on her behalf contacted various press outlets, including winery industry publications, in an effort to spread the defamatory statements about the Winery.

 

Indeed, in one such publication, Ridenhour is quoted as standing by the allegations in the lawsuit, saying “I think the facts as expressed in my legal documents make a compelling case.”

 

Since no other publication had covered the trial, the reference would have been obvious, but just to make sure everyone knew the identity of the the offending co-conspirator, a lengthy 86-page declaration filed by one of the Bryant attorneys, Keith J. Wesley, included a screenshot of the WII article.

Sulser Bryant’s SLAPP at Ridenhour

Of course, the filing avoided any details about which parts were true because that would involve getting as specific in their filing as Ridenhour did in hers.

 

The failure to cite any credible evidence that Ridenhour’s allegations were false is a prime indicator that there is “no there there.” And that lends further credence that Sulser Bryant’s San Francisco lawsuit was  a revenge attempt to silence Ridenhour.

 

It’s unlikely that the San Francisco lawyers are eager to get into a courtroom discussion about which specific allegations by Ridenhour are true or false.

“On information and belief” = Imaginary PACER conspiracy

The phrase — “On information and belief “– is supposed to have some connection to reality. The expectation is that the party using it should present evidence of its veracity. But often — as in this case — the phrase is used without facts or proof to safely defame someone in retaliation for a perceived slight.

 

Below is an image from PACER which Wine Industry Insight uses frequently to cover federal court cases. In contrast to Sulser Bryant’s “On information and belief,” PACER makes it unnecessary to engage in imaginary conspiracies in pursuit of an article.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-01 at 10.10.21 AM

PACER is a government web site available to anyone with a valid credit card who is also willing to pay $0.10 per page for court documents.

 

Those documents often contain information and allegations that are unpleasant to litigants. It is important to know that a filing is not proof, and often contains information that is an an accusation and would be defamatory if not in an official document.

Previous WII coverage:

 

29 Full Ridenhour and Bryant litigation court documents for premium Wine Executive News Premium subscribers

  1. Ridenhour complaint-032219
  2. Ridenhour complaint-Amended-042219
  3. Ridenhour complaint-Amended-Exhibit-042219
  4. Response to defendant srequest for premotion conference-060619
  5. Bryant-V-Ridenhour-Complaint- 073019
  6. Bryant-V-Ridenhour-Complaint-Exhibita-073019
  7. Second amended complaint-Ridenhour-073119
  8. Complaint amended-Exhibita-073119
  9. Complaint amended-Exhibitb-073119
  10. Complaint amended-Exhibitc-073119
  11. Complaint amended-Exhibitd-073119
  12. Complaint amended-Exhibite-073119
  13. Declaration Of Bettina Sulser Bryant In Support Of Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application For (1) Temporary Restraining Order And (2) Order To Show Cause Regarding Preliminary Injunction-081919
  14. Request For Judicial Notice In Support Of Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application For (1) Temporary Restraining Order And (2) Order To Show Cause Regarding Preliminary Injunction-081919
  15. Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application For (1) Temporary Restraining Order And (2) Order To Show Cause Regarding Preliminary Injunction-081919
  16. [Proposed] (1) Temporary Restraining Order And (2) Order To Show Cause Regarding Preliminary Injunction 1322660.1-081919
  17. Declaration Of Keith J. Wesley In Support Of Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application For (1) Temporary Restraining Order And (2) Order To Show Cause Regarding Preliminary Injunction-081919
  18. Order Re Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application For Temporary Restraining Order-081920
  19. Defendant-Ridenhour-Memorandum Of Law In Opposition To Plaintiff-Application For A Tro-08/21/19
  20. Judge order-Ex parte application for TRO-082319
  21. Stipulation-On-Confidential-Information-09-03-19
  22. Plaintiff’s-Bryant-Ex-Parte -Application-Etc-091119
  23. Plaintiff ridenhour-Memorandum-Of-Law-In-Opposition-To-Defendantbryant-Motion-To-Dismiss-09/13/19
  24. Second-Amended-Complaint-Exhibits-Ridenhour-Opposition-To-Dismissal-09/13/19
  25. Order-Denying-Plaintiff-Ex-Parte-Application-091319
  26. Declaration-Of-Bettina-Sulser-Bryant-Opposition-To-Defendant-Lauren-Ridenhour-Motion-To-Dismiss-Complaint-09/20/19
  27. Declaration Of Pearl Zuchlewski In Opposition To Plaintiff’s Application For A Tro- 09/20/19
  28. Defendant Ridenhour Reply Memorandum In Support Of Motion To Dismiss The Second Amended Complaint-092719
  29. Defendant-Bryant-Reply Memorandum Of Law In Support Of Motion To Dismiss The Second Amended Complaint-092719