A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Ashton Technology Group, Inc. and its CEO, Freddie Rittereiser, against a frequent online message board critic of the company and its CEO. The lawsuit was filed by Rittereiser and Ashton after the internet poster uploaded documents and other information connecting Ashton and Rittereiser to individuals who work for the Mafia, and who have been arrested by the FBI and indicted by the U.S. Attorney on charges of securities fraud, money laundering, and other Mafia-related activity. In the lawsuit, Rittereiser and Ashton sought court intervention to prevent the defendant, a self-employed Southern California business woman, from posting her research findings and opinions about the plaintiffs to investors on a Yahoo! stock message board.
The allegations were published in the midst of FBI and SEC investigations of Ashton’s financial partners. Earlier this year, Ashton (symbol: ASTN) received notice that its stock would be delisted by Nasdaq by the end of the year. Following the investigations, several former Ashton consultants were indicted and jailed on the fraud charges. Ashton has never derived a profit from its operations since its launch in 1994, but instead relies on revenue from the sale of stock to feed its cash-hungry operations and management. Recently the company announced that it would be relying on death-spiral financing to meet its financial needs for 2001, thus sealing for good any hope that ASTN investors may have of ever recovering their losses. Death-spiral financing usually involves severe dilution of the outstanding shares, causing share value to plummet amidst short perks of market manipulations. Since Ashton filed the lawsuit against the Yahoo! board posters, its stock price has fallen approximately 90% from about $3 to 30 cents, the price at the time of this writing.
The Pennsylvania court ruled that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania held no personal jurisdiction over the defendant, because she had no minimal contacts within the state which would permit jurisdiction under Pennsylvania’s “long-arm” statute. The defendant, who represented herself pro se, relied on the well-publicized case Barrett v. Catacombs Press in which a Philadelphia federal court had previously ruled that Pennsylvania held no jurisdiction in a similar internet case. That ruling by Judge Antwerpen has been cited by state and federal courts in many different states as a model for determining jurisdiction in states which have “long-arm” statutes similar to Pennsylvania.
Frequently companies such as Ashton file so-called SLAPP lawsuits (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) claiming “defamation” when the real intent is to somehow prevent the person from exercising his/her constitutionally protected right of free speech. The Ashton case follows a familiar pattern we have seen repeatedly, that is, that the corporation (we call them “bully corps”) will file suit outside of the state of residence of the defendant, making it difficult of the defendants to defend and to object to discovery. That is because it is known to the company that the suit is frivolous from the outset, and the plaintiffs are counting on the inability of defendants to hire sufficient legal counsel due to economic and other circumstances. For example, one California law firm will not even make a telephone consultation to a defendant without first receiving a $10,000.00 cash retainer. Therefore, many SLAPP plaintiffs are relying on the odds that a defendant will not have the cash resources to launch a substantial defense and counterclaims, and therefore the plaintiff may win by default.
The John Does Anonymous Foundation provides a free legal referral service for anonymous defendants in jurisdictions where lawyers have made their services available to defend on a pro bono or reduced fee basis. In situations where the Foundation is unable to make a referral, or, in cases such as Ashton where the Defendant wanted to represent herself, the johndoes.org web site provides various networking tools where pro se defendants can share information and experiences with one another.
Ashton Technology Group and Freddie Rittereiser were represented by the Pennsylvania law firm of Frank & Rosen. The lawyers for the plaintiffs have requested that the judge in the case reconsider her ruling. The defendant, Mary Cummins, a commercial real estate appraiser in southern California, represented herself pro se.
November 10, 2001
UPDATE: Plaintiff appealed and lost again. Plaintiff can never refile case against Cummins. After the stock scam finally unraveled Ashton Technology went bankrupt.
SEC action against Ashton Technology
March 8, 2001 SEC initiated action against First United Equities who pump and dumped Ashton Technology’s IPO. They pled guilty in 2003.
October 14, 2005 they impose sanctions and slap Winston’s wrist
January 2006 they do the same to Hirsch.
Mary Cummins to be interviewed about “busting” stock scams on public message boards, on the French Connection tonight November 6
LOS ANGELES –Nov. 6, 2002–Mary Cummins an internet “scambuster” will be interviewed tonight on the French Connection radio show. The show will deal with her experiences with public company Ashton Technology now called Vie Financial Group (OTCBB: VIEF). Listen to her talk about being threatened by the CEO and ultimately sued by the company for her honest message board posts. Hear about how she represented herself pro se and ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit. Learn how to avoid stock scams on the internet and how to protect yourself from being sued for posting the truth about dishonest companies. JohnDoes.org will be the host. Tonight at 9:00 PM ET, 6:00 PM PST. Please see **** for other air times and more information. Be sure to download your radio player.
The French Connection airs every Wednesday night, “two hours of passionate empowerment of common people with uncommon valor.” The show is broadcast on over 100 public radio stations and on the internet on Fair Network on Live365, the world’s largest internet broadcaster.
Wall Street Journal interviewed me and Fredric for an article. They were putting it all together when 9/11 hit, end of article. More important things to write about.
I can’t seem to find the case in Pacer any more so I will copy/paste what I have of the old docket. I have all docs on disc. I may post some docs.
I just checked again. All negative lawsuits against Fredric Rittereiser and Ashton Technology are gone from the Pacer system. Very strange. His lawyer did offer me money right before our last hearing if I would just shut up about Freddy. He told me I could speak about the company as much as I liked but he wanted me to leave Freddy alone. I didn’t take the offer. I won that hearing and the case was dismissed. I only appeared once in Philadelphia in person at that hearing.
Right before the hearing the plaintiff’s lawyer swore “on the eyes of my wife and child” that I will lose the hearing. He told me if I went into the hearing, I’d lose. He told me not to go into the hearing. What an awful lie to tell. Why are some of these lawyers so ruthless? They also refused to send me a copy of anything they filed. Thank god it was all on Pacer quickly. I’d end up only getting a day to reply because of this. The judge reprimanded the lawyers at my last hearing.
Some documents. I don’t know if these were my final documents because I see a lot of typos, grammatical errors and mistakes. I had to dig up a CD from over ten years ago. Some formatting may have fallen apart. I can’t open some files because they are old .doc files.
My first appearance
Letter from their lawyer. They promised to send me copies of what they filed but they didn’t
My old due diligence page on Ashton. Most links don’t work.
Request for deposition of Fredric Rittereiser
Request for interrogatories from Rittereiser
Letter from Ashton to me about scheduling discovery
My objections, answer to their complaint.
A proposed order. I meant “with prejudice.”
My request for documents from Ashton Rittereiser
A sample post which they called “defamatory.” This is not defamatory at all. It’s the truth.
|Fredric Rittereiser aka Freddy.|
|Freddy speaking on one of those fake stock promotion “interviews.”|
I found some interesting audio files while I was going through my old disks. I did indeed call up “Fridays with Freddy” and ask him about the status of his lawsuit against me. I wanted him to publicly state why he was suing me. I did not make any other calls or send any other letters to him. And FTR I never had an affair with John Westergaard. He was 75 when I was 25. I kept refuting his paid touts and reporting him to the SEC while he threatened to sue then “destroy” me. I still have my dd page on WBN and Westergaard if anyone wants it. I never met him in person. He later died of prostate cancer which spread to his spine, karma. Here’s the audio from that portion of Freddy’s audio show 1.6MB. Keep in mind Freddy was an ex-NJ cop who’d gotten friendly with the mob. There’s an in depth article about this on Silicon Investor. It may be linked in my dd page. He then got involved in mob stock scams. This audio is pretty funny.
Many people were indeed pretending to be me. I’d threatened to fly to NY for the shareholder meeting if someone would pay my fare. I didn’t go but a woman dressed in a red dress showed up and everyone thought that was “the” Mary Cummins. If I were there, I would have asked the tough questions during the Q&A as I did at the Easyriders and Ultra shareholder meetings. They actually tried to lock me out of the Ultra shareholder meeting. I went because I was local. Other out of state investors asked me to go to ask questions for them.
Freddy also sued John Does 1-5. They were anonymous posters. I posted in my own name. I had prepared motions to quash for them so their identities would not be revealed. Freddy didn’t even try to go after them. He just wanted me because I had my dd page with evidence of his illegal activity. I just went through some files. He only attached posts by marycummins, notrealbright_2000 and seersucker_for_sheersuckers. I think he also sued blitz_bud and oily_kittens, not sure. I did not know the names of any of the other posters. They stopped posting after the lawsuit was served on me. They returned when I won. Of course by then the company was toast.
Here are two message boards about ASTN. I am user MMMARY and was_mmmary I think. The Yahoo and Raging Bull boards for ASTN are gone. It was the posts on Yahoo that bothered Freddie the most.
ASTN on Silicon Investor
I just checked up on Freddy. He’s 75 y.o. and still doing the same thing. He’s still in a public company with his old scam buddy Ivan Gothner! He now calls himself Van Gothner. Chinese AgFeed, I should have known. He has not changed. AgFeed is the new stock scam. Few years back it was anything nano. Before that it was anything having to do with cell phones. CVGC trading on the pinks at .28 These Chinese companies held by US public companies are the new scam du jour. The Chinese companies generally don’t exist or have no real assets. The unsuspecting US investor can’t tell because he doesn’t speak Chinese. There is a shorter named Left who got some translators and has been Googling the companies and outing them for a nice profit. You can only view CVGC on otcbb.com Last trade was a month ago. Look at the numbers.
You can probably see a theme in my last three defamation lawsuits. I tell the absolute truth about bad people who are breaking the law and harming people. I turn them in to authorities. They sue me for defamation. I end up doing a ton more research showing them to be truly bad people. In the end I end up winning the case. Notice all three of these people have huge egos and have personality issues. All three attack other people viciously. Here is a letter Freddy sent to a shareholder. He basically said “quit moaning!” when asked why the company wasn’t doing well as promised. Generally CEOs of scam companies say “have faith, just believe, sooooon, great things are happening…” they don’t attack the shareholder.
Part of old Pacer docket