Help a Leading Skeptic Fight Her Sexual Harasser

Photo of Karen Stollznow wearing a necklace by Surlyramics.Karen Stollznow has been harassed for years by an ex-boyfriend, who was eventually disciplined by his employer for it (CFI), and she finally wrote about her experience, and apparently to harass her further, he is suing her. It looks like he is counting on the fact that defending herself in court will bankrupt her and has used that to try and intimidate her into issuing a retraction, but she refuses to retract what she says is simply the truth. If you think this is appalling and want to help her, I would very much like you to. I am donating to her defense fund, and am ready to give more if it’s needed. Their target is $30k but legal experts say a case like this could cost $40k, and in any event, all money not used for the case will be donated to Colorado’s Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center, so no matter what, your donation goes to a good cause. I want to see this fund grow to equal what he is spending. So she can have her day in court, effect discovery (and thus get a hold of documents he and CFI may have been keeping from her, and depose witnesses under oath), and be fairly represented and not unfairly trumped by wealth.

I think it is a fundamental injustice in this country that people have to pay for their own legal representation in courts. This is not only the case in civil trials, but contrary to popular myth, you even have to pay for your own legal defense in a criminal trial–if the government “decides” you can afford it, you have to pay. This is appalling. It thus turns especially civil cases, but even many criminal trials, into a plutocracy where the one with the most money wins (and in criminal cases, that’s the state), rather than the one with justice actually on their side. But alas, this is the system we are stuck in. So please support the justice our government won’t: help someone get a fair trial. And in the process help fight sexual harassment: because if the precedent is set that harassers can intimidate their victims into shutting up by exploiting the injustice of our wealth-based justice system, well, I’ll let you do the math on that…

Read Karen’s explanation and appeal here.

Donate to her legal defense fund here.

And for backstory on the case, read this (and this).

Update 2015: Radford and Stollznow have reached a settlement of some unspecified kind. Radford and Stollznow have not been very forthcoming about the details, but a signed statement has been produced which does not deny any of the things Stollznow claimed Radford did were false, but claims that they were “misunderstandings” and therefore not “harassment.” See links and commentary by Rebecca Watson and Hemant Mehta. More information from PZ Myers, Stephanie Zvan, and Greta Christina.

Update Addendum: So far the best article on this development yet is the analysis of Dubito Ergo Sum.


    1. You have to pay for legal advice. So if you are genuinely curious, you can pay the consultation fee to any lawyer who handles such cases and ask them what’s typical for a defamation case that goes all the way to trial.

      But off-the-record, people in the profession have told me $30-50k is typical. As corroboration, $40k is what the legal costs were for deposition and discovery when CFI investigated the exact same case (and they weren’t being faced with a hostile legal team forcing their expenses up with malicious motions and hearings). Stollznow’s lawyers may have to reproduce all of that work for the trial (since the CFI’s findings weren’t taken in formal legal proceedings), and possibly much more, if Radford’s attorneys attempt every tactic to stonewall, file motions, force issues, and otherwise increase her costs (one of the reasons money can win cases more often than the truth).

      For example, a common slime tactic is to ask extremely personal and impertinent questions on deposition to attempt to force someone to either embarrass themselves on a completely unrelated issue, or file a motion to disqualify the line of inquiry (since impertinent questions are technically verboten), but trying the motion costs money: you have to pay your lawyers to prep and litigate the motion (entailing many hours of legal time), and whether you recover that when the motion is won (if it is won; again, the justice system doesn’t always operate rationally or fairly) is often uncertain (depending on byzantine rules that vary state to state) and might not matter (since you still have to have the money to pay, even if technically you can claim reimbursement from the other party later–which reimbursement the other party can stonewall you on for years, and even force you to take them to court again to claim it, which costs even more money–or they declare bankruptcy to stick you with the bill).

      In short, litigation can become extremely expensive when faced with a litigious asshole paying tons of cash to shameless lawyers. So one has to have a deep pocket even to risk it.

      But even if she is lucky, and her costs turn out low, the money raised that in the end it turns out she doesn’t need goes to a worthy cause. So it’s win win.

  1. Off Topic re: Dr. Stollznow / On Topic: re the injustice of the system.

    The sliminess you describe is egregious enough, but it can be even more so in support cases in which the aggrieved party is broke due to the very lack of support they’re suing over and the scumbag on the other side is that much richer because they’re refusing to pay the support/settlement. This is what happened to my mother when her ex husband suddenly stopped paying what he’d agreed to in their separation settlement. She ended by giving up and settling for a small portion of what he actually owed her after several years of litigation.

    This also is one of the multitude of reasons I hate the current Conservative government. They defunded the Court Challenges programme which provided money for people to sue the government and others over human rights issues (e.g. pay equity in the public service).

    1. Yep. That too. Hence the rich can abuse the poor and the poor can rarely afford to sue them (or have to settle for unfair judgments). One difference perhaps is that a lawyer who smells blood will take a poor person’s case on spec, knowing there will be a payout. So only tough or ambiguous cases, or cases where the amount litigated even if won won’t be enough to justify the lawyer’s working on spec, get ground under by the plutocracy. But that’s a lot of justice getting ground under. Because, for example, a thousand dollars can be a huge loss to someone on the low end of the economy, but peanuts to a lawyer. Thus, even then, our system mostly protects the interests of the wealthy.

    1. Her bills could still exceed $30k (some estimates say it could come to $50k all told, I hope meaning worst-case-scenario). But she at least has enough now that a lawyer will take the case (you often have to prove you have a minimum amount first). And any excess now will provide more security and investigative capabilities. And anything left over goes to a valuable cause all the same.

  2. eigenperson March 27, 2014, 5:54 pm

    I would expect the total cost of the defense to be much higher than $40,000 if the case goes to verdict.

    Of course, plaintiff’s costs would be similarly high. As usual, in drawn-out cases, only the lawyers win.

  3. Latverian Diplomat March 27, 2014, 6:39 pm

    Great post, but one small point of contention:

    “a plutocracy where the one with the most money wins (and in criminal cases, that’s the state)” is true except in cases where the defendant is wealthy, in which case the contest of resources is often in the defendants favor.

    I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t be able to hire and pay for their own counsel. I just wish our legal system was less of a dollar based boxing match.

  4. You seem to be the type of person who measures twice and cuts once. So I almost don’t have to worry about whether or not this issue is ‘complicated’. I will read the links provided nonetheless. I hope somebody has the time to get interviews from philanthropists and like-minded people. For many philanthropists, $40K is not a huge amount.

  5. estraven March 29, 2014, 9:35 am

    Thanks, Richard; glad you are on board with this. I sent in my donation as soon as I heard about the fund. So sick of women getting harassed and punished with threats of litigation etc.

  6. I have never before seen the claim that the alleged harasser would have been a former boyfriend at any time. Not that this would make any difference to the merits of the legal case, but you may want to double-check since it might cause some confusion if it is false.

    1. She has publicly confirmed they had a former relationship (and the harassment began after she left him; and continued even after she got married). He describes himself as being her “former lover”; I prefer the less loaded term “former boyfriend.”

  7. jet April 8, 2014, 5:39 pm

    looks like Radford has his own crowdfunding campaign for legal expenses (though not nearly as successful as Stollznow’s).

    I haven’t had time to look this case over in detail. The thing is, I get at least two calls a day for funds for some cause or another, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to fully investigate every one of them. I typically donate to a cause when it’s brought to my attention by a source I can trust. It’s a useful rule of thumb, and seems to work more often than it fails. In this case, Radford’s release of evidence that the timestamps on his emails were tampered with is enough (for me) to muddy the issue. I’m no longer confident enough in her account to contribute to her legal fund.

    1. It doesn’t concern me so much who will win the case, only that neither be disadvantaged by money.

      If he has the evidence he claims (he actually didn’t present any–not a single email with the alleged doctoring was shown) then he can’t be harmed by her being able to afford a lawyer. But I am skeptical he has that evidence. Because he would have pointed this out and proven it when CFI was doing its investigation originally…so that he only now “suddenly discovers” that the emails that that investigation found against him were meddled with is prima facie hard to believe. And his data dump was so grossly immoral (including near-naked in-bed pictures of the two of them against her permission, ironically itself an act of harassment according to CFI policy…and it hardly helps his case that he isn’t harassing her, when in his very defense against that charge he does it even more egregiously), I find it very difficult to trust anything he says at this point. His entire case is “she’s a crazy bitch, therefore I can’t have harassed her,” which besides being a non sequitur (so, no good skeptic he), is also a stock example of sexist victim blaming.

      Conspicuously missing from his narrative is any substantive account of their communications in 2011, the actual year in the middle of which his own timeline reports she and her husband told him to stop harassing her. He instead handwaves at vast length about what happened in the year 2010. This is suspicious. Because it means the relevant evidence is in 2011. Yet he tricks you into only focusing on 2010. That looks manipulative. Moreover, his account implies a stock MRA-style women-are-property narrative: that it is impossible to have harassed someone or touched them against there will during a period in which they occasionally have sex with you (I assume then he would have to agree spousal rape is impossible, which maybe even he would concede would be despicable).

      He also lies. In his data dump narrative he claims there is a video of a panel, which he implies is the one in which Stollznow reported he was fondling her under the table without her permission, that shows his hands are above the table the whole time. And he links to that video. I watched it. Not only does the camera not show him fully half the time (so, plenty of opportunity for his hands to have gone under the table, and indeed that is precisely most likely when they would have, when neither of the two of them were speaking and thus both occupied and being observed), when it does pass by him, several times one or more of his hands are below the table. And on top of that, Stollznow increasingly is seated turned away from him as it goes on, most peculiarly, but consistent with a woman trying to get away from under-the-table touching.

      So I’m not all that alarmed by his data dump. Overall, it actually makes him look worse.

    2. I’m not following your meaning here. If you’re convinced one party is in the right, wouldn’t you be concerned about who won in court?

      Anyway, I do agree that neither side should be disadvantaged by money, but that just motivates me to donate to Radford, him having less of a legal fund and everything else being equal (as I’m not sure which party is in the right).

      1. Why do you assume I am convinced of anything? I do agree the evidence strongly favors one party. But that’s not the same thing as being 100% certain of it. Not all evidence is on the table. My article here is about helping a woman not be coerced into yielding by money, in other words, allowing fair justice to occur. If she loses (and is proven to have been in the wrong), justice will have been done. And I will sleep soundly knowing it wasn’t because she lacked equal access to our system of justice, but it was because of the merits (assuming the court rules justly, but we can’t assess that until it happens). Certainly, if I thought the evidence strongly favored Radford, I wouldn’t endorse donating to Stollznow. But as long as it’s unclear, or favors her, money shouldn’t decide the outcome.

        Meanwhile, it would only make sense to donate to Radford’s fund if you actually think he is telling the truth. Because he can easily reduce his expenses to zero: don’t file a lawsuit. Stollznow doesn’t have that luxury. Remember, he is the legal aggressor here. He chose to do this. She did not. All she did was exercise her freedom of speech. He could simply match speech with speech and be done with it. Instead, he is trying to use money as a lever of power. She is not. That creates an imbalance. A balanced response would be to simply refute what she said (which, as I noted, he has still not done…so it’s unlikely he can do so in court, so it does not seem likely this case will go well for him).

        If, however, you are persuaded he is probably telling the truth, then his lawsuit makes sense and deserves your donation. Otherwise, you have no reason to believe he is the one financially disadvantaged here.

        But as to the meta-level point: The state should pay for both sides. Then bill the loser.

    1. Tumbleweeds.

      She can’t do anything until he does something. He’s done nothing. Statute of limitations runs out in maybe a year (depending on what state has jurisdiction).

  8. Update 2015: Radford and Stollznow have reached a settlement of some unspecified kind. Stollznow has not been very forthcoming about the details, but a signed statement has been produced which does not deny any of the things Stollznow claimed Radford did were false, but claims instead that they were “misunderstandings” and therefore not “harassment.” See links and commentary by Rebecca Watson and Hemant Mehta. More information from PZ Myers and Stephanie Zvan. See also the closing comment of Greta Christina. And the following…


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