Orcas couple sue online writer for defamation

An Orcas couple has sued an investigative writer for libel just months after the release of an online article insinuating their involvement in both a physical and sexual assault and murder.

Janis Pederis Briedis, Jil Lisa Peterson-Briedis and Sambodha, Inc., all of Deer Harbor, brought a civil suit to San Juan County in April against Be Scofield for defamation – libel and libel per se; false light invasion of privacy; intrusion invasion of privacy; injurious falsehood; tortious interference; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Briedis, also known as Aarvindha Himdara, is an author and the founder of spiritual organization Sambodha.

The plaintiffs are represented by Stephen Brandli of Friday Harbor. The lawsuit was filed on April 24, with an amended complaint made on April 29.

Scofield is a writer known for regularly “exposing” spiritual gurus as being cult leaders and committing crimes. She visited Orcas in November 2018, during which time she spoke with locals regarding the death of Carla Jean Shaffer and her supposed connection to a cult on the island.

In an article she released on her website, www.gurumag.com, Scofield suggested that Orcas resident Carla Jean Shaffer — who reportedly died in an accidental drowning on Jan. 5, 2006 — was involved in Briedis’ spiritual community and wanted out. Scofield alleged in her article that Shaffer was attempting to leave the community and was murdered by fellow members. Shaffer’s death came two weeks after an alleged assault wherein Shaffer was stabbed several times. The sheriff’s office concluded the wounds were self-inflicted.

“The Article maliciously and falsely accuses Plaintiff Janis Briedis of, among other things, being a cult leader, sexual predator, and murderer, and engaging in abusive and criminal behavior, and other acts of moral turpitude,” the lawsuit stated.