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Publisher Says Suit Will Tap Him Dry

The owner of Valley Wide Newspapers says he may lose a $4-million defamation case to wife of S.B. County sheriff.

October 13, 2005|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

The publisher of a High Desert weekly newspaper that made allegations against the wife of San Bernardino County Sheriff Gary Penrod has filed for bankruptcy protection, saying he expected to lose a $4-million defamation lawsuit.

Raymond Pryke, 82, said he wanted to protect his assets because he expected Penrod's wife, Nancy Bohl, to win the suit against the Hesperia Resorter. The judge, Christopher J. Warner, is reviewing the case and is expected to issue a judgment soon, a court official said. Pryke, who plans to appeal any decision against him, says he expects Bohl's attorney, John D. Rowell, to freeze his assets after the judgment.

Bohl's civil lawsuit cites three articles published in Pryke's newspaper in 1999 and 2000 that included allegations concerning Bohl's role as a psychological counselor for the Sheriff's Department.

In at least one of the stories, unidentified sources said Bohl gave Penrod, her boyfriend at the time, private patient information from sheriff's deputies whom she counseled. The newspaper also alleged Bohl's San Bernardino-based firm, the Counseling Team International, received preferential treatment in the county bidding process.

In her lawsuit, Bohl said the articles were false, left her emotionally distressed and invaded her privacy. Bohl married Penrod in May 2000.

Pryke, who owns Valley Wide Newspapers, listed assets between $10 million and $50 million in his filing to the California Central Bankruptcy Court in Riverside.

In addition to the weekly Hesperia newspaper, Valley Wide also publishes the weekly Apple Valley News, Adelanto Bulletin, Victorville Post Express and the Lucerne Valley Post. Pryke said he printed 20,000 newspapers each week.

"Their whole point is to stop me from publishing what they believe are scurrilous stories," Pryke said. "Much to their dismay, I will not stop.... I don't do this to make money."

Calls to Bohl and Rowell were not returned Wednesday.

Pryke said he sought bankruptcy protection six months ago, but was told by a judge that he didn't have enough debt to merit such a filing.

In his recent filing, Pryke listed a $4-million debt to Bohl. He said the expected judgment would "tie up all my assets and keep me from publishing, because I won't have any money to pay my printer."

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