A Lake County judge has denied an attempt to block an abortion opponents group from distributing disturbing literature about executives with a medical waste disposal company that does business with Planned Parenthood.
In denying a temporary restraining order request Monday, Lake County Judge Margaret Marcouiller ruled Created Equal could continue to use the image or likeness of Stericycle Inc. CEO Charles Alutto of Lake Forest and any members of the company's board of directors on literature and electronic communications.
However, Marcouiller warned the group to be cautious of what it distributes about Alutto and other Stericycle officials due to the "possibility of damages."
"This is an expression of speech that, arguably, could create damages down the road," she said. "I want to emphasize that both sides should meet and come to an agreed upon resolution."
The restraining order was part of a civil complaint filed by Stericycle claiming "an unlawful campaign of harassment, intimidation, and invasion of privacy" against the CEO and the company, court documents show.
In those documents, Alutto and Stericycle claim Created Equal has distributed to houses in Lake Forest and Lincolnshire postcards and mailers containing photos and contact information for Alutto and graphic images of mutilated fetuses.
They claim the abortion opponents group has driven a billboard van featuring similar photos through neighborhoods where Alutto and Stericycle's board of directors and their families live. The group is alleged to have mailed postcards and fliers containing graphic images and photos of Alutto to his residence and to the houses of some Stericycle board members, and other unrelated third parties.
Attorneys also claim Created Equal published Alutto's home address and phone number on at least one social media website it operates, and encouraged visitors to contact Alutto and demand Stericycle discontinue its business relationship with Planned Parenthood.
Stericycle has been accused by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and others of disposing of aborted fetuses at Planned Parenthood sites. Company attorneys did not dispute those claims when Created Equal attorney Peter Breen, of the national nonprofit law firm Thomas More Society, brought up the issue in court.
Created Equal National Director Mark Harrington said the group will not change its tactics.
"We're not going to be censored from telling the truth about Stericycle," Harrington said. "We're reasonable people. If they have a proposal for us, we'll listen to it."
Despite the restraining order denial, the lawsuit against Created Equal continues. The two sides return to court June 2.