Looks like there’s a troll on David Codrea’s blog that’s threatening a libel suit. For those of you who want a bit of background on libel law in the United States, you can read here:

And just what is malice when it comes to proving libel? Retired Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., who wrote the Sullivan decision, defined it as “knowledge that the [published information] was false” or that it was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” In other words, public officials no longer could sue for libel simply by proving that something that had been broadcast or printed about them was false. Now they would have to prove that a journalist had knowingly printed false information while making little, if any, attempt to distinguish truth from lies.

The Supreme Court later extended its so-called Sullivan rule to cover “public figures,” meaning individuals who are not in public office but who are still newsworthy because of their prominence in the public eye. Over the years, American courts have ruled that this category includes celebrities in the entertainment field, well-known writers, athletes, and others who often attract attention in the media.

The burden on the plaintiff to prove libel is pretty high, even higher when dealing with a “public figure”, which arguably being a board member of Pennsylvania’s prominent state anti-gun group would make him, if this troll is who it seems to be. That’s not even mentioning we’ve all agreed this evidence is circumstantial, and not something you could take to court.

Also, being an IT professional, I’m well aware of how IP spoofing works, and if someone is spoofing in order to frame Dr. Reily, this is something that should be investigated. I’m a bit skeptical anyone would go through that much trouble. Spoofing an entire blog and numerous comments isn’t an easy feat.

6 thoughts on “Libel?”

  1. Well, I don’t know if he’s a public figure, but truth is certainly a defense.

  2. The thing is, even if “NRAFOUREVER” is not Prof. Riley, we have not made a false allegation, because we have, as Sebastian mentioned, all stated that it looks as if they’re the same person. It does look that way–that’s a demonstrably true statement.

  3. If the ‘public figure’ status is, or seems to be, too high a bar, then simply use ATR’s stuff from *before* he was named to CeaseFirePA’s BoD.

    And don’t forget that his use of screen names was a voluntary and willful attempt on his part to avoid being a ‘public figure’, and the disappearance of all his blogs and commentary was again a voluntary and willful act taken when he became a ‘public figure’.

  4. He may sue his mother for not having him registered with the AKC, but he doesn’t have any intention of suing anyone else.

  5. Libel is a civil procedure, which means that his case would expose him to discovery. You cannot opt out of discovery without asserting a Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, and when you do that, there is a legal inference that you are asserting the right because the evidence would have weighed against you.

    So, let him proceed. The first thing demanded in discovery should be a forensic image of the hard drives on all his computers and the records of the ISP should be subpoenaed. Truth is, after all, an absolute defense to libel, and the defendants must be allowed to investigate that fully.

    In other words, “don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

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