FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ACLU of Ohio Offers to Represent Anonymous Defendants in Jefferson County Defamation Case
Defendants Have a First Amendment Right to Anonymous Online Speech and Should be Protected from a CyberSLAPP Lawsuit
STEUBENVILLE, OH – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio announced that it has offered to represent a number of “John Doe” defendants in a defamation lawsuit and subpoena request currently pending in the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas.
“We believe the real goal of this lawsuit is to discover the identity of anonymous online commenters so that they, and future commenters will be intimidated and discouraged from voicing their opinions,” said ACLU Volunteer Attorney Scott Greenwood. “This is just an updated form of a classic Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) which is typically used to silence speech that is protected under the First Amendment.”
The case in question, Cody Saltsman v. Alexandria Goddard, began after two teenage football players at Steubenville High School were accused of raping a female from a near-by town. Alexandria Goddard, a former resident of Steubenville blogged about the incident, allegedly because she felt that others involved in the incident should be charged. Others also posted online opinions about the case anonymously.
A juvenile student at Steubenville High School named Cody Saltsman was a target of some of these postings, which alleged that he had been involved in the incident but had not been charged. Additional postings mentioned other football players and focused on suggestions that some of the people involved in the rape were not charged and should be brought to justice. Through his parents, Saltsman responded with a lawsuit and a request to issue subpoenas to obtain the identity of the anonymous internet commenters. Goddard’s counsel then involved the ACLU of Ohio, in hopes that the organization could provide representation to other still-anonymous defendants and fully address the First Amendment implications of this cyberSLAPP lawsuit.
“If subpoenas are honored and the identities of these commenters are revealed, the First Amendment damage is done,” said Greenwood. “Even if the lawsuit is ultimately unsuccessful, the Plaintiff will have discouraged others in this small community from engaging in online conversation which they believed to be anonymous. This would have serious implications for other forms of anonymous free speech on the internet.”
John Doe #7 has been dismissed from the case with prejudice! AWESOME!
Tonight on Twitter a conversation was going on about missing children and specifically about Elizabeth Johnson, mother of missing 8-month old Gabriel who disappeared nearly three years ago. Some history on the case for those not familiar, but Elizabeth Johnson initially told the baby’s father that she killed Gabriel and dumped him in a trash bin. She later recanted and told police that she gave Gabriel to a couple at a San Antonio, TX park. She never provided the couple’s names and refused to do so during Friday’s hearing where she was sentenced and Gabriel’s body has never been found. It is unlikely that Elizabeth Johnson will ever tell the truth about what happened to her son, and another child joins the ranks of missing in a case that may never be solved.
The conversation turned to how specific groups online pick and choose which high profile case they adopt as their own and oftentimes these people go completely overboard in their “following” of said cases. I have written extensively about the mania within the true crime genre online and the lunatic fringe who “e-adopt” missing and murdered children and carry on as if they were their own child. It’s rather frightening to watch and no doubt there are DSM-IV descriptions for MANY of these people who insert themselves into these cases and go above and beyond batshit.
I want to issue a very heartfelt thank you to Paul Alan Levy, Esq. of the Public Citizen group for his organization’s successful efforts in negotiating the dismissal of John Doe Defendants #9, #10 and #13 from the defamation lawsuit.
You can read about his efforts here:
I find it very disheartening that many missing non-Caucasian children oftentimes never cross our television screens. Sadly, for a missing child to attract widespread publicity and to improve the odds of the child being found, it is better if the child is white, wealthy, cute and under the age of 12. In 2005, Scripps Howard News Service did a first of its kind study which found that white children were the subjects of more than two-thirds of the dispatches appearing on the Associated Press’ national wire during a 5-year period and accounted for three-quarters of missing-children coverage on CNN.
According to the Scripps Howard study “162 missing-children cases reported by the Associated Press from Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2004. Forty-three CNN reports were also studied. Scripps Howard determined the race of the child in each case by checking records maintained by missing-children organizations or by contacting police investigators.
White children accounted for 67 percent of AP’s missing-children coverage and for 76 percent of CNN’s.
Black children accounted for 17 percent of the AP stories, 13 percent of CNN’s, 19 percent in the Justice Department’s study and 23 percent of cases reported to the National Center. The discrepancies for Hispanic children were greater, accounting for just 11 percent of AP’s reporting and 9 percent of CNN’s stories“ Source: Capitol Hill Blue
Those statistics are very upsetting. ALL children should elicit the same type of coverage in the process for locating them. Emilliano Terry is one that as far as I have seen has not made national coverage. The 3-year-old was reported missing by his
I first became aware of the Mallory Owens case on the Justice for Mallory Facebook page. The page contained graphic photographs of the victim after she had been beaten while attending Thanksgiving dinner at her girlfriend’s home in Mobile, AL. She suffered multiple skull fractures and crushed bones. Her attacker? Her girlfriend’s brother, 18-year-old Travis Hawkins Jr.
Hawkins was arrested on second degree assault charges. Initially, it was reported that Travis beat Mallory Owens because she is gay but Mallory is now stating to the media that it was not a hate crime. Alabama does not consider sexual orientation a hate crime – perhaps they should. Everyone else does.
Mallory was released from the hospital yesterday and has returned to the Hawkins’ home. Regardless of whether the attack was spurned because of her sexual orientation or not, one has to ask what kind of man beats a woman to the extent that Travis Hawkins beat Mallory? It is alleged that his family stood by and did nothing as he beat her. What type of person stands by as another human is violated and does nothing? Wait…don’t answer that. It happens far too often in our society.
Petition for Travis Hawkins to be tried for attempted murder here: http://www.change.org/petitions/mobile-county-alabama-prosecutor-bring-travis-hawkins-jr-to-justice?utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=6826624
I wanted to quickly put up a post thanking everyone for their overwhelming response and support. It means a lot.
Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the home of the Petit family in July 2007. The only survivor from the attack on the family was Dr. William Petit, Jr. who was beaten with a baseball bat and left to die in the basement. Steven Hayes raped and strangled Dr. Petit’s wife, and the daughters Haley and Michaela were assaulted, restrained, and doused with gasoline. They died in the fire of smoke inhalation.
It is a case that many followed and when both defendants were convicted and sentenced to death for the murders, many breathed a sigh of relief that these men would never walk the streets a free man ever again. I am very much torn when it comes to the death penalty. There are definitely cases that are so egregious and horrific that cause me to yell “Take them to the gallows!”, but at the end of the day I question the absolute right of government to exact death. I’m really not sure how I feel about the death penalty and it is a subject that causes much turmoil when discussed.
Steven Hayes was sentenced to death for his crimes and has been sitting in a Connecticut prison for years. He has recently declared that he wishes to waive direct appeal and go straight to the death chamber. Why is he ready to call it a day?
Tonight on Behind the Yellow Tape the discussion will be the Steubenville case and litigation against anyone who made commentary on the case. Join Joey Ortega tonight at 10PM EST on Behind the Yellow Tape.
Also, you are encouraged to call in to voice your opinion. When you call in, Joey will not be referring to the digits of your phone number so that there is anonymity and protection of identities, just start talking. If he responds to you – you are on the air!