Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Jeffrey Parker of Rincon Georgia is Sentenced to Six Months in Federal Prison For Making False Statements

 

Jeffrey Parker

People who believe in the cancel culture philosophy of making up false statements to defame someone are going to have their moment in court when more cases similar to that of Jeffrey Parker are fought by victims in criminal or civil cases filed in state or federal courts.

We are starting to mend as a society when the rampant posting of anonymous and false statements on the internet is stopped.


City Has Lost Contact With 2,600 Students Since MarBetsy Combier

Richmond Hill man pleads guilty to creating scheme to frame former acquaintance with violations of patient privacy


RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WTOC) - A Richmond Hill man has admitted that he created fake email addresses and concocted other information to falsely accuse a former acquaintance of committing violations of patient privacy, according to the South District of Georgia.

Jeffrey Parker, 43, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of false statements. The charge carries a possible sentence of up to five years in federal prison.

According to court documents, Parker used an intricate scheme to claim a former acquaintance had violated privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In the news release from the Department of Justice, it states that Parker is accused of creating email addresses using names of real people and pretending to be them to make it appear as if his acquaintance committed a crime. Parker sent the emails to the hospital, the DOJ and to the FBI.

Parker claimed to have received threatening messages in retaliation for blowing the whistle, and FBI agents took steps to ensure his safety and investigate the alleged crime.

After an FBI agent interviewing Parker found inconsistencies in his story, Parker admitted the statements he made and emails he sent were false, according to the DOJ.

“Jeffrey Parker tried to portray himself as a ‘whistleblower’ while attempting to frame a former acquaintance,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “This fake complaint not only caused potential harm for an innocent victim but it also unnecessarily diverted resources from federal investigators whose diligent work shredded his web of lies.”

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.

DOJ: Rincon 'whistleblower' sentenced to federal prison in health care privacy law scheme

A Rincon man who portrayed himself as a 'whistleblower' while falsely accusing a former acquaintance of violating patient privacy has been sentenced to federal prison, the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday. 

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, David Estes, said Jeffrey Parker, 44, of Rincon, was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of false statements. Estes said Parker also was fined $1,200 and after completion of his prison term must serve three years of supervised release. 

There is no parole in the federal system.

Our law enforcement partners work tirelessly to protect the community by solving real crimes, and cases like this only divert time and resources from critical tasks,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Jeffrey Parker’s fake complaint needlessly alarmed the victim and health care workers, but his scheme ultimately unraveled under the questioning of a perceptive FBI agent.

According to court documents and testimony, Parker admitted that he “engaged in an intricate scheme” in October 2019 when he contacted the DOJ to claim that a former acquaintance had violated privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The DOJ said Parker created email addresses using the names of real individuals and pretended to be these individuals to make it appear as if the acquaintance committed a crime. 

The DOJ said he sent the emails to the hospital where the acquaintance worked, to the DOJ, and to the FBI, and then claimed to have received threatening messages in retaliation for acting as a whistleblower. 

The DOJ said FBI agents quickly responded by acting to ensure Parker’s safety and investigate his allegations, and following questioning, Parker admitted putting together the scheme in an attempt to harm the former acquaintance.

Many hours of investigation and resources were wasted determining that Parker's whistleblower complaints were fake, meant to do harm to another citizen,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Before he could do more damage, his elaborate scheme was uncovered by a perceptive agent and now he will serve time for his deliberate transgression.

The case was investigated by the FBI, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Schwedler.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fake whistleblower sentenced to federal prison for trying to frame a former acquaintance for violating patient privacy

Man created fake email accounts, used others' identities

SAVANNAH, GA:  A Rincon man who portrayed himself as a whistleblower while falsely accusing a former acquaintance of violating patient privacy has been sentenced to federal prison.

Jeffrey Parker, 44, of Rincon, Ga., was sentenced to six months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood after pleading guilty to one count of False Statements, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Parker also was fined $1,200 and after completion of his prison term must serve three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Our law enforcement partners work tirelessly to protect the community by solving real crimes, and cases like this only divert time and resources from critical tasks,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Jeffrey Parker’s fake complaint needlessly alarmed the victim and health care workers, but his scheme ultimately unraveled under the questioning of a perceptive FBI agent.”

As outlined in court documents and testimony, Parker admitted that he “engaged in an intricate scheme” in October 2019 when he contacted the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to claim that a former acquaintance had violated privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Parker created email addresses using the names of real individuals and pretended to be these individuals to make it appear as if the acquaintance committed a crime.  He sent the emails to the hospital where the acquaintance worked, to the DOJ, and to the FBI, and then claimed to have received threatening messages in retaliation for acting as a whistleblower. FBI agents quickly responded by acting to ensure Parker’s safety and investigate his allegations, and under subsequent questioning, Parker admitted concocting the scheme in an attempt to harm the former acquaintance. 

“Many hours of investigation and resources were wasted determining that Parker's whistleblower complaints were fake, meant to do harm to another citizen,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Before he could do more damage, his elaborate scheme was uncovered by a perceptive agent and now he will serve time for his deliberate transgression.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Schwedler.

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Identity Theft
Contact: 
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422
Press Release Number: 
29-21

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Alexandra Murphy, Daughter of New York's Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, Takes Seat as a Judge in the 9th District

 

Alexandra Murphy.  She is a state Supreme Court judge in the New York State’s
9th Judicial District.


DiFiore’s Daughter Secured Judicial Post in Wake of Cuomo Move

When a main opponent was elevated to a judgeship on the Court of Claims, attorney Alexandra Murphy sailed to a state Supreme Court seat in the Hudson Valley, political insiders say.

The daughter of New York’s top judge sailed to a state Supreme Court seat last fall after Gov. Andrew Cuomo elevated one of her main opponents to a separate judicial post, political insiders say.

Alexandra Murphy, 36, has quietly started a 14-year term as a state Supreme Court judge in the Ninth Judicial District, which covers five counties in the mid-Hudson region.

Murphy, who is the daughter of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, is set to make a salary of $210,900.

The governor nominated one of Murphy’s main competitors, court attorney Veronica Hummel, as a judge for the state Court of Claims in July 2020, according to party insiders. That move cleared the path for Murphy to receive the Democratic party nomination less than three weeks later, which earned her a spot on the ballot under the party line, they said.

“I felt that was an embarrassment to the party,” said one judicial delegate, weighing in on the maneuver that allowed Murphy an easier track to the nomination.

Murphy went on to receive more than 557,000 votes in the November general election, coming in second overall and securing one of the four open state Supreme Court judgeships.

Murphy, who was rated as “well qualified” by two county bar associations, had a 10-year career as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. She worked in a part-time role for more than half of her time there, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Running for the Bench

The Democratic Party nomination is key for state Supreme Court candidates running in the Ninth Judicial District, where Democrats hold a wide voter registration advantage over Republicans. 

Murphy had the least amount of legal experience among candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, even though she was qualified for the spot, according to several Democrats with knowledge about the race who spoke to the Law Journal under the condition of anonymity.

As a lawyer, she had only worked as an assistant district attorney but was running for a judicial position that dealt with a wide variety of civil cases, they said.

In the district, there’s a process for getting the Democratic nomination for a state Supreme Court seat, several insiders said. In general, past Democratic candidates spent several years attending political party events and interviewing with local political committees, they said.

That timeline appeared to not apply for Murphy, who gained the party nomination less than a year after becoming legally eligible for the judicial post, they said. Under state law, a person must be admitted to practice law in the state for at least 10 years before serving as a state Supreme Court judge.

Lucian Chalfen, a state court system spokesman, acknowledged that Murphy handles matrimonial and civil matters in Westchester County as a judge. 

“It is not unusual for a newly elected or appointed Judge to be assigned by court administrators to a new practice of law,” he said in a statement to the Law Journal.

Murphy’s campaign gained the endorsement of many local political committees and several party leaders, including Reginald Lafayette, a former Westchester County Democratic party chair.

Also endorsing Murphy was Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky, who is the chair of the Rockland County Democratic party. She described Murphy as someone who was smart, dynamic and perfectly capable of serving as a state Supreme Court judge.

The Westchester County Bar Association rated Murphy as “well qualified” for the position, as did the Dutchess County Bar Association.

Murphy did not run under her mother’s last name and many Democrats, even those who raised eyebrows about her campaign, said she never brought up her mother’s position during their interactions with her.

Some party members said the high-profile status of Murphy’s mother was unavoidable, raising questions over how her mother’s public prominence impacted the race.

There is no indication that DiFiore played a direct role in Murphy’s campaign, or the move that placed Hummel on the Court of Claims.

“The Chief Judge neither appoints nor anoints Judges, including her daughter,” Chalfen said in a statement.

DiFiore, who herself was nominated by Cuomo, is the head of New York’s judicial branch and the state’s top court. She also oversees a multibillion-dollar budget and a sprawling court system that includes judges and nonjudicial employees across the state.

Her reputation runs deeper in Westchester County, where she previously served as a county court judge and spent many years as the county’s district attorney, said one judicial delegate.

DiFiore and Murphy did not make themselves available for an interview.

Prosecutorial Career

A graduate of Fordham University law school, Murphy spent more than 10 years as a prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney’s office—an experience she highlighted during her run for state Supreme Court.

Murphy, who started as an assistant district attorney in September 2009, worked in a trial bureau for years before working in a quality of life unit, according to office spokesman Danny Frost.

Murphy worked in a part-time role for most of her employment at the office and had transitioned to that status in 2014, he said. When she left the office in early 2020, Murphy had less than five years as a full-time prosecutor, according to Frost.

Chalfen said Murphy went to part-time status when she had her first child and she did work as a supervisor at one point during her part-time status.

Knowing how to balance work and life, he said, allows her to have more empathy for litigants and to be part of a more inclusive judiciary. He implied Murphy “should be commended” for wanting to emulate her mother’s decades-long career.

In a campaign video, Murphy appeared to reference her prosecutorial experience and said she had dedicated her career to public service.

“The knowledge and experience I have gained over the last decade practicing in one of the busiest courthouses in the country have prepared me to serve in this next capacity,” she said.

The former prosecutor ran on the Democratic and Conservative party lines during last year’s general election.

Murphy was boosted by a well-funded campaign and received a $10,000 loan from her father, Dennis Glazer, in February 2020, according to campaign filings. Glazer is also DiFiore’s husband.

Chalfen said the $10,000 loan was used to kick off Murphy’s campaign. DiFiore and Glazer “maintain separate checking accounts,” he said in a statement.

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University who focuses on legal ethics, said DiFiore as chief judge has limitations on her political activity, but those do not apply to her husband. Glazer, he said, does not give up his rights as a citizen due to his relationship with DiFiore. 

Gillers also commended Murphy for not running under her mother’s last name.

Now that Murphy is on the bench, DiFiore should not sit on any case in which her daughter was a lower court judge, he said.

Political Jockeying

There were four open judicial spots in the Ninth Judicial District during last year’s general election. But before the Democratic party nominations were settled, political insiders say the main competition came down to three candidates—Murphy, Hummel and Robert Ondrovic—for two open state Supreme Court seats in Westchester County.

Another candidate, E. Loren Williams, was expected to fill an open position in Orange County and Judge Sam Walker in the Ninth Judicial District was an incumbent, making him likely to win reelection, they said.

Before the general election, Democrats in the Ninth Judicial District hold a judicial convention where they nominate candidates for state Supreme Court.

Last year, the Democratic judicial convention appeared to be headed for a contested convention, with Murphy, Ondrovic and Hummel competing for the two open positions, two judicial delegates said.

Hummel had been principal court attorney in White Plains for a state Supreme Court judge, according to a press release.

She had also served as the principal court attorney for a Westchester County Court judge and worked as the principal court attorney for a state Supreme Court judge in New York City, the release said.

Ondrovic conducted more than 300 jury trials and practiced for more than three decades in state Supreme Court, according to campaign material. Attempts to reach Ondrovic for this article were unsuccessful.

Many people wanted to back Murphy because they saw her as a younger candidate who was personable, said one judicial delegate from the district. It’s possible that Murphy could have come out with one of the two spots even with competition, the judicial delegate said.

“So what happened took away any risk from anybody,” they said, referring to Hummel’s nomination to the state Court of Claims.

Less than three weeks from the judicial convention, Hummel announced on Facebook that she was confirmed as a judge on the Court of Claims and expected to become an acting Supreme Court judge in the Bronx. 

While my application was first filed last year, this opportunity suddenly presented itself,” read the July 2020 post on her Facebook page.

Hummel expressed interest in a Court of Claims judgeship during the summer, according to the judicial delegate, and it was known that a Court of Claims nomination could resolve the issue of three candidates running for two open Westchester judgeships.

“In the heat of battle, it may seem like a consolation prize. But it’s not,” the judicial delegate said.

Yet Tina Volz-Bongar, a district leader with the Peekskill Democratic City Committee, said she couldn’t help but feel disheartened over Hummel taking the Court of Claims position—even though the move did get her on the bench.

To Volz-Bongar, it felt like the party didn’t do its job. Democratic voters trust the party to follow a process that puts forward the best candidate, she said.

“And it didn’t happen that way,” she said. “It’s so disappointing to me.”

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Law Firms Hired By Washington State Are Given Civil Immunity From Retaliatory Litigation

Washington State Supreme Court

The action by the Washington State Supreme Court in Leishman v Ogden Murphy Wallace that law firms hired by the government are "persons" under the State's anti-SLAPP statute and are immune from retaliatory litigation draws attention once again to the subject of placement of anyone, at any time, and for any reason, above the law.

We should be very careful to not overuse this placement, which allows agencies/groups/law firms who may abuse their obligations and responsibilities to protect the innocent to "get away with the malfeasance".

See more:

LOCAL SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY


Qualified immunity

Betsy Combier


State High Court Ruling Gives Law Firms Hired by Government Agencies Immunity
February 03, 2021

A split Washington state Supreme Court ruled that a government contractor—in this case, a law firm that was hired to perform an independent investigation of the Washington Attorney General’s Office—qualifies as a "person" under the state’s 1989 anti-SLAPP statute and is entitled to civil immunity from retaliatory litigation.

A split Washington state Supreme Court ruled that a government contractor—in this case, a law firm hired to perform an independent investigation of the Washington Attorney General’s Office—qualifies as a “person” under the state’s 1989 anti-SLAPP statute and is entitled to civil immunity from retaliatory litigation.

In a 5-4 ruling filed Jan. 28, the majority reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in Leishman v. Ogden Murphy Wallace. The court was asked whether to exclude an otherwise covered individual or organization from immunity under the state’s anti-SLAPP law—RCW 4.24.510—because it was paid under a contract with the government to conduct an investigation and report the findings to a government agency. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”

“We hold that a government contractor hired to speak to a government agency is a ‘person’ under the statute,” Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, who delivered the 21-page majority opinion, said. “RCW 4.24.510’s immunity unambiguously applies to organizations and individuals, and there is no language in the statute limiting its application when an organization or individual communicates under a contract with a government entity.

“We reverse the Court of Appeals and find that [defendants] OMW and [Patrick] Pearce are entitled to a reinstatement of the trial court’s grant of reasonable attorney fees and costs, as well as attorney fees and costs for their appeal,” Montoya-Lewis said.

Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson and Justices Mary Yu, Mary Owens, and Sheryl Gordon McCloud join Montoya-Lewis’ opinion.

Justice Barbara Madsen issued a separate eight-page dissent, joined by Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez and Justices Debra Stephens and G. Helen Whitener.

Madsen argued that the majority gave too broad of a definition of “person,” instead of narrowly construing the immunity law.

The anti-SLAPP statute was meant to blunt or prohibit such lawsuits, that the Legislature deemed are designed to intimidate the exercise of First Amendment rights and rights under Article I, Section 5 of the Washington state Constitution, when it passed the law in 1989.

“I disagree with the majority’s decision to give a broad meaning to the term ’person’ and extend protection to a government contractor that is neither exercising its First Amendment rights nor petitioning the government for redress of grievances,” Madsen wrote. “Precedent has established that immunities are to be narrowly construed.”

Plaintiff Roger Leishman, who represented himself, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Robert Sulkin and Malaika Eaton of McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren in Seattle, represented Ogden Murphy Wallace, one of two defendants in the case. Sulkin was also not available to comment.

The entities in question, in this case, were Ogden Murphy Wallace (referred to as OMW in court documents) and Patrick Pearce, the law firm’s lead investigator, who were hired as outside counsel to conduct an independent internal investigation of Leishman’s allegations of discrimination against his employer. The investigation also would include, unbeknownst to Leishman, his workplace conduct with a supervisor.

Leishman, an openly gay man, began working at the Attorney’s General Office in Bellingham as chief legal adviser to Western Washington University in June 2015.

Shortly after starting the job, Leishman began exhibiting serious trichotillomania, anxiety, and other symptoms, which he disclosed to his employer. In November 2015, Leishman’s physician diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and co-dependency. Leishman informed the office about his new diagnoses, according to court documents.

In January 2016, Leishman learned he did not receive a $3,000 raise given to other assistant attorney generals because of complaints his supervisor made about his conduct at work. Leishman contended his supervisor’s complaints were based on homophobic beliefs.

In February 2016 Leishman made a formal request for reasonable accommodation of his disability, which the office denied. A month later Leishman drafted a discrimination complaint.

During a March 1, 2016 meeting with his supervisor over the complaint, the supervisor denied wrongdoing in connection with her statements, accused Leishman of faking his disability, and refused to support his then-pending accommodation request.

Leishman admitted that during this meeting he became angry, restless, and agitated, and he raised his voice. Leishman formally submitted his discrimination complaint to the Attorney’s General Office.

Leishman’s supervisor complained to the office about Leishman’s conduct during their meeting, and the office placed Leishman on home assignment, where he remained until his termination three months later.

The office retained Ogden Murphy to conduct the independent investigation but never informed Leishman that it was also investigating his alleged behavior during the March 1 meeting with his supervisor.

The law firm’s report concluded that “Leishman has not established support for his complaint of discrimination against him based on sexual orientation” and that “Leishman’s conduct during the March 1 meeting violated expected standards of conduct for his position as reflected in his job description.”

The office moved to terminate Leishman on June 1, 2016, and Leishman subsequently sued the law firm and Pearce for negligence, violation of the Consumer Protection Act, misrepresentation, fraud, and discrimination. Leishman alleged that neither Pearce nor Ogden Murphy was acting as the Attorney’s General Office’s agent and, therefore, his claims against the law firm and Pearce are not barred by the settlement.

Ogden Murphy filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, under CR 12(c), arguing that it and Pearce had immunity under the anti-SLAPP law. The trial court granted Ogden Murphy’s motion, and Leishman appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that “government contractors, when communicating to a government agency under the scope of their contract, are not “persons” entitled to protection under RCW 4.24.510.” The high court was asked to review.

In her dissent, Madsen contended the type of work the law firm conducted wasn’t covered by the anti-SLAPP law.

“RCW 4.24.510 does not contemplate the type of conduct OMW engaged in here,” Madsen wrote. “Rather, the communication was sought and contracted by the government. OMW was acting as the government and not in a personal capacity.”

But Montoya-Lewis and the majority disagreed: “It is not for this court to narrowly construe an unambiguously broad statute in order to make it comport with our vision of who anti-SLAPP statutes should protect.

“If OMW and Pearce are ’persons’ under RCW 4.24.510, then they are immune from Leishman’s suit based on their communication to the [Attorney's General Office], and the case must be dismissed,” Montoya-Lewis wrote in the Jan. 28 opinion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

N.Y.P.D. Concludes That Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel Wrote Racist Posts Under Pseudonym

 

James F. Kobel

N.Y.P.D. Concludes Anti-Harassment Official Wrote Racist Online Rants

William K. Rashbaum and 

The official, James F. Kobel, who will now face a departmental trial, filed for retirement as the inquiry was winding down.

After two months of investigation, police officials have concluded that a high-ranking officer responsible for combating workplace harassment in the New York Police Department wrote dozens of virulently racist posts about Black, Jewish and Hispanic people under a pseudonym on an online chat board favored by police officers.

The officer, Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel, filed his retirement papers late last week as the departmental inquiry was winding down. But the officials said on Monday that they still planned to bring administrative charges against him as soon as this month for falsely denying that he had written the offensive messages.

“The evidence is strong,” said one senior police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. “We have no doubt that it’s him.”

The downfall of Inspector Kobel, who oversaw the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Division, began over the summer when an investigator with the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division stumbled across a series of disturbingly racist posts on the Rant, an infamous chat board.

Even by the Rant’s vitriolic standards, the messages, written by a poster who called himself “Clouseau,” were particularly vicious and racist.

One referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Muslim savage.” Another labeled Dante de Blasio, the Black son of Mayor Bill de Blasio, as “brillohead.”

By October, the council’s oversight division, led by then-Councilman Ritchie Torres, managed to identify “Clouseau” as Inspector Kobel. In a painstaking bit of online sleuthing, the investigators matched up hints that “Clouseau” had left online about his life with details about the inspector’s personal and professional biographies that were publicly available.

On July 1, 2019, for example, “Clouseau” left a message describing how he joined the Police Department on June 30, 1992, recalling it as an “unbelievably hot” night. Using city payroll records, the investigators determined that Inspector Kobel had joined the force on that same date.


Then last January, “Clouseau” wrote that he had once worked “in Housing” under “JJ,” whom he referred to with an obscene slur for women. According to Inspector Kobel’s LinkedIn page, he too served in the department’s Housing Bureau — from 2012 to 2014, at a time when it was run by a female chief, Joanne Jaffe.

In November, The New York Times presented police officials with a draft report of the council’s findings, prompting the internal investigation. At the time, Inspector Kobel denied the allegations and said he did not post on the Rant.

Inspector Kobel was placed on modified assignment. If he is convicted at his departmental trial, he could be fired. He will keep his pension unless he is convicted of a felony. He did not respond to a message seeking comment on Monday night.

Captain Chris Monahan, who heads the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents the inspector, defended him in a statement, saying he had served the city and the Police Department for 29 years.

“Given the current political climate and anti-police sentiment, D.I. Kobel did not see it as possible to get a fair administrative trial and decided to avail himself of the opportunity to file for retirement,” the statement said.

At the outset of the inquiry, conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau, Inspector Kobel voluntarily provided investigators with his personal cellphone and computer, and they believed the postings were not in keeping with his public persona and reputation.


See also:

N.Y.P.D. Anti-Harassment Official Accused of Racist Rants

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Defamation and Network Smearing Election Machine Manufacturers


What is defamation? One definition is character assassination:

the malicious and unjustified harming of a person's good reputation.

"all too often they discredit themselves by engaging in character assassination".

Currently, it looks to me like major social media service providers make statements that they "hope" will be taken as factual, but are not.

Facebook and Twitter should not be able to censor what people say because they - the people who have the power to click truth away at these media conglomerates - don't want anyone to read something that contradicts their beliefs. Their beliefs are their right to have, but not to force on others.

Betsy Combier, betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials


How defamation law is supposed to work: Networks couldn’t 
get away with smearing election machine manufacturers


 Edward Steinberg, NY DAILY NEWS, December 29, 2020

The late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” 

Last week, right-wing “news” networks Fox News, Fox Business, Newsmax and OAN got a painful, awkward lesson in the legal meaning of Moynihan’s phrase. 

Since the election, these networks have broadcast their opinion, and that of President Trump’s, that the 2020 election was stolen. Of course, they have a First Amendment right to state this. 

But, lacking any evidence whatsoever, Trump, our fabulist-in-chief, in tandem with these Trump-echo networks, made up “facts” to lend support to this opinion: conspiracies involving George Soros; midnight ballot dumps; biased poll workers; and electronic voting systems from Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic that supposedly switched votes from Trump to Biden in swing states. 

These conspiracy theories even forced one election systems worker into hiding because of death threats. 

And here is where the networks crossed a line. Moynihan’s famous aphorism actually describes defamation law perfectly. False statements of facts, even if mixed with opinion, can give rise to lawsuits by those reputationally injured, even against the press. 

And so, Smartmatic and Dominion merely threatened defamation lawsuits — and many of these networks caved, issuing not only specific retractions but also admissions that they possessed no evidence of ballot switching or of the dark conspiracies that they had been advancing. 

Normally, one would not think of corporations as the go-to defenders of truth and democracy, but in this case, it was their threat of defamation lawsuits that brought forward truth, and that hopefully will increase confidence in the outcome of our election. 

In the famous story, it’s a child who calls out the emperor for having no clothes; today, it’s voting machine companies. Tomorrow, it may be poll workers falsely accused of improperly scanning ballots, voters falsely accused of illegal registrations, not-for-profits falsely accused of illegal ballot harvesting and anyone in a news story, or a widely-circulated Facebook post or Tweet, who is falsely accused of illegal activity in connection with an election. 

Smartmatic and Dominion are on to something. The explosion of falsity by propagandist networks must be met with a flood of defamation suits. 

And while social media companies themselves might be — for now — able to escape such suits because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, individual users of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with large followings should know that they might be held liable for spreading specific lies that sully the reputation of businesses or individuals. 

Lawsuits for intentional infliction of emotional distress can be another tool in the fight for truth against right wing-conspiracies. Fox News found this out when the Second Circuit held that the parents of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich could sue over a segment purporting to link Rich to WikiLeaks in furtherance of an alt-right theory that his death involved leaked DNC emails. 

Legislators, too, can help. New York should consider laws to extend the statute of limitations for defamation suits, mandate double or treble damages in egregious instances, and protect whistleblowers who bring forward evidence of malicious and deliberate false reporting. 

The First Amendment would not be implicated by any of these laws, nor would there likely be much increase in the number of defamation suits filed. Falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater has never been protected by the First Amendment; falsely yelling that someone burned ballots is not protected either. 

Steinberg is the president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. 

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