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Journalist's lawyer waits on John Furlong to agree to lawsuit court date

The lawyer for the journalist John Furlong is suing for defamation said he has reserved dates for a British Columbia Supreme Court trial in early 2015 and is waiting for Furlong to agree.

Bryan Baynham told The Tyee on Nov. 13 that Furlong's lawyer John Hunter has not yet asked for court dates or scheduled examination for discovery in the lawsuit, which was filed almost a year ago.

Furlong sued Laura Robinson and the Georgia Straight on Nov. 27, 2012, two months after the newspaper published Robinson's "John Furlong biography omits secret past in Burns Lake" expose on the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. On Oct. 29, 2013, Furlong discontinued the action against the newspaper so he could "escalate" his action against Robinson despite the lack of apology from the Georgia Straight, which continues to publish Robinson's story on its website.

Baynham said Robinson is eager to go to court and defend her story, which said eight ex-Furlong students signed sworn statements alleging he abused them in 1969 and 1970 when the Irish-born Furlong worked as a gym teacher at a Catholic elementary school for aboriginal children. Furlong has denied the abuse accusations.

Repeated queries by The Tyee to Furlong, his public relations agent TwentyTen Group and Hunter about court scheduling have not yielded a reply.

Baynham said he has reserved Jan. 19, 2015 to begin a B.C. Supreme Court trial, but it is ultimately the plaintiff's responsibility to bring a case to court. Baynham said Furlong has 30 days to agree to the dates.

"We're doing everything to force them to set the case for trial that we can," Baynham said. "Whoever sets the trial pays the fees. My client's resources are stretched for now."

Baynham said he is also preparing to ask a judge as early as next month to quash Furlong's lawsuit based on want of prosecution.

Baynham also released a Nov. 13 letter he sent to Hunter that said Robinson is threatening to sue Furlong for defamation over statements he made in a series of interviews from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3.

"Mr. Furlong's false statements and the latest media assault he unleashed are very damaging for Ms. Robinson's hard earned reputation for independence and journalistic excellence," said Baynham's letter to Hunter. "Mr. Furlong's deliberate strategy to attack Ms. Robinson so as to divert attention from his own misconduct has severely affected Ms. Robinson's ability to earn an income both as a lecturer and as a freelance journalist."

Baynham's Nov. 13 letter cites statements made by Furlong on Oct. 28 on Global's BC1, Oct. 29 on and Oct. 30 on CBC Radio's Early Edition, claiming Robinson has a personal vendetta against him.

"The fact is that Mr. Furlong refused numerous requests from Ms. Robinson for an interview prior to publication of the story in the Georgia Straight," Baynham wrote. "Further, Mr. Furlong's lawyer (Marvin Storrow) was provided with copies of eight affidavits filed by former students of Mr. Furlong which set out in detail the verbal and physical abuse inflicted upon them by Mr. Furlong."

Baynham's letter demands Furlong remove the "Enough is Enough" statement from his website and apologize and retract the rest of the statements he made against Robinson. The letter said Robinson reserves the right to "sue for defamation for each and every defamation statement made and published by Mr. Furlong."

A prepared statement issued late Nov. 13 by TwentyTen Group on behalf of Furlong said: "No apology is merited nor will be made; my "Enough is Enough" statement at stands.

"This activist is once again attempting to use the media to broadcast and publish highly damaging, untrue and defamatory allegations that are before the courts and that have wrought severe and sustained damage against me and my family," said the Furlong statement. "I have been told by the RCMP that there is no merit to the allegations that have been made by Laura Robinson and Beverley (sic) Abraham."

On Oct. 28, Furlong released an April 12, 2013 letter from a senior Prince George RCMP officer that said the Mounties would not proceed on the criminal complaint filed in 2012 by ex-Immaculata student Abraham. The RCMP subsequently said that the investigation of Furlong remains open.

Abraham and two others filed civil lawsuits against Furlong alleging physical and sexual abuse in 1969 and 1970. Their lawyer, Jason Gratl, has asked the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate the Mounties for what he said is a half-hearted investigation and a bias in favour of 63-year-old Furlong, who now chairs the Vancouver Whitecaps, Own the Podium and Rocky Mountaineer.

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Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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