Hundreds who posted views on sex assault trial targeted in Tarrant suit

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by Shogun, Feb 10, 2009.

  1. Shogun
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    Shogun Free: Mudholes Stomped

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    FORT WORTH — Hundreds of people who posted their opinions of a sexual assault trial in an online forum are now the targets of a lawsuit.

    The authors of those comments on a Web site thought they were anonymous, but this week, a judge ruled their names should be revealed.

    Mark and Rhonda Lesher lived quietly in northeast Texas; Mark practiced law, Rhonda ran a beauty salon.

    Then, last year, a woman accused the couple — along with another man — of sexually assaulting her. That's when the anonymous comments started appearing on Topix.com.

    An estimated 1,700 statements were too graphic to be included in this story, going far beyond the criminal charges.

    "They were perverted, sick, vile, inhumane accusations," said Mark Lesher in a telephone interview from Clarksville, Texas.

    The Leshers' attorney, William Pieratt Demond, labeled the comments "a form of persecution."

    Last month, the couple got their day in court. A jury found the Leshers, along with their alleged accomplice, not guilty. But in the online forum, it seemed, the trial had no end.

    "It just ... basically made us both feel like common criminals," Lesher said. "It's like someone had basically raped us of our reputation and our standing in the community over and over and over again."

    And so this month, the Leshers sued 178 anonymous posters on the Web site. A Tarrant County judge ordered Topix to turn over potentially identifying information about the users listed in the lawsuit.. The site has until March 6 to comply with the ruling.

    "We do not just give up people's privacy," said the Web site's CEO Chris Tolles. "We're very, very careful about that."

    But Tolles said the discussions are not necessarily a license to run people through the mud. "If there is a line that's been crossed from a libel standpoint — and it seems reasonable — we do, in fact, cooperate with the courts."

    This lawsuit was brought in Tarrant County because it appears at least one anonymous poster lives here.

    Internet libel suits have had success in the past. A few years ago a North Dakota professor was awarded $3 million over claims a student Web site defamed him.

    Hundreds who posted views on sex assault trial targeted in Tarrant suit | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Breaking News for Dallas-Fort Worth | Dallas Morning News


    :cuckoo:
     
  2. auditor0007
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    auditor0007 Gold Member

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    Freedom of speech is one thing, but continually dragging someone falsely through the mud is another. If it can be proven that these people were the topic of the false statements, then the case would seem to be valid. At the same time, it seems that many of these people were followers. Who started this, and continued it, and for what purpose?
     
  3. Tech_Esq
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    Tech_Esq Sic Semper Tyrannis!

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    If a criminal case is in the public eye, which all of them are because they are all part of the public record and available to the public for review, then people have a right to express their opinion of that case. They can freely express in however vulgar a manner is allowed by the site or forum they render their opinion in whether by speech or by the written word, their opinion of the facts or law related to the case.

    I think that people cross the line if they start saying things about the individuals involved and start making accusations about other incidents that they "probably" engaged in or other salacious remarks. Hopefully, the court will walk that line. There is nothing wrong with publicly commenting on court cases before, during or after the case is finished. Think OJ.
     
  4. Andrew2382
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    Andrew2382 Gold Member

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    Lets say I am in the paper one day and people read it online and all the comments are negative stuff about me that isn't true or what not...does that mean I have the right to sue each of those people?
     
  5. Tech_Esq
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    Tech_Esq Sic Semper Tyrannis!

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    The answer is: it depends. Sorry, I'm a lawyer. You can't have a straight answer....LOL.

    It would depend on the story in the paper and what it said. Whether you were in the paper all time or otherwise some person in the public eye. Then it would depend on what the people said that was negative and how they said it.
     
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  6. Andrew2382
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    Andrew2382 Gold Member

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    you know...all my childhood friends became lawyers....after reading that...I'm so glad i didn't join them
    lol
     
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  7. michiganFats
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    michiganFats BANNED

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    In order for the Lesher's lawsuit to be successful, do they have to prove that they have been damaged in some way? And I'm not talking about hurt feelings.
     
  8. Tech_Esq
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    Tech_Esq Sic Semper Tyrannis!

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    Here is a brief primer on defamation and the elements of the tort. (What must be proven at trial. 51% standard it is more likely than not that each element is true or present.)

    That's why the old saw is that, "Truth is an absolute defense to defamation."
     
  9. michiganFats
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    Thanks Tech. The Leshers' better hope that none of the defendants have any dirt on them.
     
  10. Ravi
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    Ravi Diamond Member

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    Wow.
     

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