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A bizarre and oft-delayed lawsuit is playing out in a Los Alamos courtroom this week. Jury selection and opening arguments began Monday in the case that has dragged on for more than a year. The combatants in this protracted legal battle include a convicted sex offender and a self-styled crusader who have crossed swords on more than one occasion.
Thomas Edward (Ted) Vives, a registered sex offender, filed a complaint in early 2008 charging Los Alamos resident Linda Hull with intentional interference with contractual relations, infliction of emotional distress, false light invasion of privacy and malicious abuse of process for speaking out publicly and writing e-mails alerting people to his sex-offender status.
Hull filed a counterclaim in April 2008 charging Vives with malicious abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and injunctive relief for allegedly harassing and intimidating her and costing her some $100,000 in legal fees to defend herself, not including the cost of the current case.
Her assault claim against Vives stems from an incident in Coffee Booth when it was inside Cookin in Style on 15th Street and Central Avenue. Hull was having coffee with local resident Marthe Sims when, according to her testimony Monday; Vives enter the store and put his face four inches from hers in an intimidating manner. He slammed a table tent advertisement of a Community Winds concert, which he directs, on her table saying in a “menacing tone” that he hoped they would attend the concert.
“I believed he would hit me,” Hull said to which Vives’ attorney Paul Mannick suggested she added the hitting part to the episode for it to fall under the legal definition of assault.
Hull disagreed insisting Vives was “very angry.”
Hull also claims that Vives, posted her name in the personals section of an X-rated Web site, ordered pornographic magazines in her name, placed cat litter in her mailbox and intimidated her daughter at a high school concert.
Hull alerted then-superintendent James Anderson that a registered sex offender was hired by the Band Booster parents’ organization and was going on campus to work with band students and arranging marching music for them.
Anderson informed Hull that the district had no policy in place to prohibit a sex offender from being on school grounds. Hull pushed the school board to create a policy, which ultimately passed and has been implemented.
Hull explained that then-school board member Morrie Pongratz responded to her in an e-mail that “the Lord has forgiven him” (Vives) and she should, too.
Hull’s attorney Paul Grace described Vives’ lawsuit against Hull as frivolous. He praised Hull’s courage for continuing to fight to ensure the safety of children in the community.
“Mr. Vives is a very angry, self- involved man — He blames Linda Hull because he can no longer go on school property without an escort,” Grace said. “He wants to shut her up ... He needs to take responsibility for his own life and for deciding to engage in sex with a student. He was director of a high school band and he touched the penis of a student who was changing into his band uniform before a performance. After the performance he took the boy to his home and engaged in oral sex and he masturbated the boy.”
Mannick told jurors Vives is making no excuses for his actions, that he was 26 at the time and the boy was 17 and that Vives has led an accomplished life for the last 19 years since. He also explained that Vives has been married three times since then and that his first two wives died.
Vives had a son by his second wife and a child by his third wife Paula Vives who sat with him in court during the morning Monday.
First District Court Judge James Hall expects the trial to wrap up by late Thursday.