Protester gets money, apology from Ashland man
An Ashland man sued for more than $1 million after allegedly assaulting a protester in the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2011 has settled the case with an undisclosed sum and an apology.
Stanley A. Shulster, 73, a former lawyer who lives on Pilot View Road and is a lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, formally apologized and paid an undisclosed amount to Rachel T. Abileah, 29, of El Granada, Calif.
"Mr. Shulster apologizes for any physical or emotional harm caused by him to Ms. Abileah," reads the statement, issued by both parties. Shulster maintains that he did not assault Abileah, the statement says.
Abileah is a Code Pink activist who staged an interruption during a May 2011 speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the House.
Abileah declined to reveal the exact amount she was compensated.
"Definitely it was more than I had expected to get," Abileah said. "I still have pain in my neck and reoccurring headaches."
In her complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Abileah requested no less than $500,000 for compensatory and consequential damages caused by the defendant, and $500,000 for punitive damages. Also, she requested compensation of costs for filing and pursuing the lawsuit.
The settlement was reached on July 10, said Lynne Bernabei, Abileah's Washington, D.C., attorney.
Abileah said she likely will donate at least $1,000 to an undetermined organization working with Palestinian and Israeli activists in the Middle East. The Palestine-based Popular Struggle Coordination Committee is one group she is considering, she said.
Abileah was sitting in front of Shulster during the May 24, 2011, assembly when she waved a banner that read, "Occupying land is indefensible," and yelled, "No more occupation, stop Israeli war crimes, equal rights for Palestinians." Shulster attempted to grab the banner out of her hands, video of the incident shows.
Abileah, who is the Jewish daughter of an Israeli, alleged Shulster pulled her down when she stood up in protest during the prime minister's speech and put his hand over her mouth while violently pulling her head back, injuring her neck.
"I wouldn't let go, and that's when things started to get violent," Abileah said. "He grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the ground."
Her action was part of Code Pink's "Move over AIPAC" demonstrations during the conference, she said.
"I hope that he (Shulster) really feels sincere about the apology and thinks before he commits and act like this in the future," Abileah said. "I was pursuing this case for myself personally to see justice done "… also because I think it's important to hold people like this accountable for violent actions against peaceful protesters.
"You have to speak up and see justice done," she said.
Shulster was unable to be reached Monday by calls made to multiple telephone numbers listing his name.
After the incident, physicians recommended that Abileah stay home and rest for about two weeks because of her injuries, according to the complaint.
"One thing I think that is so good about what this case represents is Code Pink are nonviolent protesters ... one of the things that frequently happens is their nonviolent protest is met with violence, and unjustified violence," Bernabei said. "This is one case where we had a good resolution."
Shulster declined to comment about the allegation when he was contacted in February.
He would not say why he was at Netanyahu's speech, but a short biography on the website of the Jackson County Republican Women listed Shulster as a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a national organization dedicated to strengthening the bond between the U.S. and Israel.
The website also listed Shulster as a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces Medical Service and an unpaid lobbyist, but none of those titles nor his AIPAC membership were confirmed by Shulster.
Shulster has not been charged with assault, false imprisonment or battery, which Abileah also requested in her complaint.
"Each party recognizes the right, as Americans, to agree to disagree peacefully," the joint statement from both parties states. Shulster "agrees that he should have let the Capitol Police handle the situation."
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.