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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