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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/23/2010 :  22:19:46  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is surprising. Richard Dawkins is suing his own forum administrator and online store manager for embezzling nearly $350,000.

Dawkins claims that in the three years that Josh Timonen was running the RDF online store, Timonen claimed they only took in $30K, but the actual figure was more like $375K.

Certainly, nobody has ever claimed that atheism prevents greed or theft, but wow!

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/24/2010 :  06:05:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Josh Timonen responds.

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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 10/24/2010 :  07:01:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This could get interesting -- three hundred-plus grand missing from the cookie jar is a lot of cookies, and that could inspire a lot of hate and discontent amongst the cookie bakers. Looking forward to see how it all ends up.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


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The Rat
SFN Regular

Canada
1342 Posts

Posted - 10/24/2010 :  07:04:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit The Rat's Homepage Send The Rat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The theotards will be all over this, saying that it totally destroys atheism and evolution.

Bailey's second law; There is no relationship between the three virtues of intelligence, education, and wisdom.

You fiend! Never have I encountered such corrupt and foul-minded perversity! Have you ever considered a career in the Church? - The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Blackadder II

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  11:18:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A PDF file of the complaint.

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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  14:00:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Wow. That was some heavy reading.
Obviously, I don't know the full story behind this. Therefore it is not my place to sit judgement over who is right and who is wrong. But it worries me that so many (reading from the various blogs and story comments sections) have already decided who is the villain.
How about letting the court decide? That's what it's for, isn't it?

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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  14:11:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
But the way, Timmonen(?) turned of his comment section to the blog he wrote (linked by Dave above). There could be several reasons for doing so (legal issues has been proposed), but the comments were getting pretty nasty, and didn't do much of anything productive except causing ulcer. I read them up until a few hours before they were taken down. A pity people couldn't stay civil.

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  14:42:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A lot of the people who "couldn't stay civil" were those who lost hundreds or even thousands of hours of work due to Timonen's RDF forums purge back in February. These same people aren't exactly happy with Dawkins, either (because of the same incidents), so they don't really care about who's the villain, because from their point-of-view, the lawsuit is two villains engaged in a squabble. And those people are still looking for answers to the February mess.

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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  16:02:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was a registered member on Dawkin's forum, but I only went there to read sporadically. I even failed to recognize it was gone until this thread started. So, what was the scoop of the forum purge? Timmonen claims he acted on orders from the Board of Trustees, if I understood it correctly. Since I didn't write or read much of the forum, I have/had no invested interest in it, and not much to be upset about.

The Google cashe confirms that the copyright notice of the articles Timmonen wrote (which are published on Dawkin's website) was changed back and forth. Which seems peculiar, but support the idea that RDFRS decided to disown Timmonen but later realised they needed a court order to lay claim to the copyright, and so changed it back.

What a mess.

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  16:55:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dr. Mabuse

I was a registered member on Dawkin's forum, but I only went there to read sporadically. I even failed to recognize it was gone until this thread started. So, what was the scoop of the forum purge? Timmonen claims he acted on orders from the Board of Trustees, if I understood it correctly. Since I didn't write or read much of the forum, I have/had no invested interest in it, and not much to be upset about.
Whether Timonen acted on orders or not isn't tremendously important to these folks (I paid less attention to the RDF forums than you, Mab). Timonen and Dawkins both tell stories about the events in February which aren't in proper chronological order to reality, the people claim, and so look like post-hoc excuses instead of an explanation of a well-thought-out plan. "Botched" is a word heard frequently about how the whole thing was handled. These folks aren't even angry that the old forums were closed, they're pissed about how that closure occurred. One volunteer moderator, for example, had her account and all her 13,000+ posts deleted without warning. Timonen's response to the suggestion that those posts could have been saved and sent to the people who wrote them was that the RDF held copyright on them (like, technically, we do here on SFN), and so had the right to simply vaporize them. Legally true, but morally atrocious. Dawkins wrote a notpology about the whole crappy situation, losing much respect in the process.

Note also that some people are waiting impatiently for PZ Myers to make a comment about the lawsuit, since he strongly defended Timonen back in February, too. Hell, Dawkins dedicated The Greatest Show on Earth to Timonen. It'd be odd, to say the least, for this lawsuit to have occurred just because of some misunderstanding when Timonen was obviously widely respected and highly trusted. Could it be that he's just a scapegoat for someone else's malfeasance? Sure, but then we're drifting into conspiracy territory.
The Google cashe confirms that the copyright notice of the articles Timmonen wrote (which are published on Dawkin's website) was changed back and forth. Which seems peculiar, but support the idea that RDFRS decided to disown Timmonen but later realised they needed a court order to lay claim to the copyright, and so changed it back.

What a mess.
Yup, no argument there.

More links:

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  17:23:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Whoops, my mistake, PZ Myers has commented:
There's not much that can be said. Richard Dawkins and the RDF are going to be rightly silent on the case. Josh Timonen has unwisely commented, while failing to refute the major facts of the accusation. I'm not going to say much myself, because while I liked Josh personally, the case against him looks awfully damning. But it will have to work its way through the courts before anyone involved can say more.
Don't know how I missed that.

And here's a statement from the RDF lawyer:
The Complaint does not contain any quotes from Professor Dawkins or anyone at RDFRS and should not be attributed to anyone else but me. (At least one online news source has already mistakenly suggested the language of the Complaint is Richard Dawkins' language. It is not.)
This is only important because the complaint says that Dawkins is "the world’s best known and most respected atheist," which got a lot of guffaws all around (neglecting the word "perhaps" preceding the quote, of course).
Despite the public interest in this case, I have asked Professor Dawkins and the staff and Trustees of RDFRS not to comment on this litigation while it is still pending.
And if he's smart, Timonen will have shut up on the advice of his lawyer, too.
I hasten to emphasize, however, that the scope of this suit is narrow. Richard Dawkins' only role is as plaintiff in a single cause of action seeking the return of unearned money he personally paid Mr. Timonen. The Foundation's claims seek the return of profits from the sale of merchandise from the Store on the RDF website that defendants failed to remit to RDFRS.
That's an important distinction: Dawkins just wants his $14 grand back, while it's the Foundation that's looking for $875,000 and a house. One wonders if Dawkins recused himself from board discussions about the lawsuit.
NO DIRECT DONATIONS TO THE FOUNDATION OR NON-BELIEVERS GIVING AID HAVE BEEN MISAPPROPRIATED.
That is very comforting.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/25/2010 :  17:36:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From commenter Simon Gardner, the RDF forum saga:
http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/the-end-of-an-era-richard-dawkins-forum-to-close/
http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/death-of-an-atheist-forum-the-lessons-of-history/
http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/richard-dawkins-on-changes-at-the-forum/
http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/in-praise-of-josh-timonen/
http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/dawkins-net-meltdown-new-forum-for-exiles-rationalskepticism-org/

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/26/2010 :  04:14:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The whole thing seems odd to me. If he stole money then why haven't they also given the complaint over to the police?

The entire complaint is a civil one, but you don't steal $875K from people and not face criminal charges.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/26/2010 :  04:57:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

The entire complaint is a civil one, but you don't steal $875K from people and not face criminal charges.
Actually, there are a bunch of sections in the complaint in which they detail which criminal statutes they think Timonen has violated. Now that those have been filed, it's going to be up to the DA to press charges, isn't it?

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podcat
Skeptic Friend

435 Posts

Posted - 10/26/2010 :  08:19:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send podcat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From what I read in the complaint:

$14.5K owed to Dawkins ($25K for the year advanced, 5 months work performed) plus interest.

$405K profit earned from RDFRS web store, $30K reported and contributed, $375K kept and spent by Timonen, Norton and "CSL" (named as "[John/Jane] Does 1-50 in the complaint].

$500K sought for actual damages to the foundation as a result of the $375K kept and spent (fraud and embezzlement).

Punitive damages for the above (fraud and embezzlement).

RDFRS wants intellectual property rights to the website and logos created for them.

RDFRS advanced money towards film production for them which was not repaid, so they want either their money back or the film.

At least $100K of the $375K was used to improve the girlfriend's house, so RDFRS wants the property.

“In a modern...society, everybody has the absolute right to believe whatever they damn well please, but they don't have the same right to be taken seriously”.

-Barry Williams, co-founder, Australian Skeptics
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/26/2010 :  09:38:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Originally posted by Dude

The entire complaint is a civil one, but you don't steal $875K from people and not face criminal charges.
Actually, there are a bunch of sections in the complaint in which they detail which criminal statutes they think Timonen has violated. Now that those have been filed, it's going to be up to the DA to press charges, isn't it?


One of the comments on ERV says the reason is they want to get to his bank accounts before he ends up in prison, civil trials have a greater ability to get evidence in this kind of thing, and that the criminal charges might stick better with the added evidence (and judgement) from the civil case.

That sort of makes sense.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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