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Blogger Fined $60K For Telling the Truth

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the you-can't-handle-the-truth dept.

Government 433

jfruhlinger writes "'Johnny Northside,' a Minneapolis blogger with less than 500 readers a day, revealed that a University of Minnesota researcher studying mortgage fraud had been involved in a fraudulent mortgage himself; the blog post was at least partially responsible for the researcher losing his job. The researcher then sued the blogger and won — despite the blogger having his facts straight. Johnny Northside plans to appeal the verdict."

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This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (5, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485950)

The title says it all.

Remember this while the government works hard to eliminate all anonymous speech on the Internet.

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485986)

mod up.

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (5, Insightful)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486006)

This is why we need a fast enough version of TOR such that the whole world can use it in place of the regular web.

I'm going to quote an old robot saying (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486032)

"Does not compute!"

How does this have anything to do with the government clamping down on free speech? This is a god who made a claim about a researcher. The researcher then sued him in civil court where a jury, you know as in regular people, found him liable. Now I'm not saying they made the right decision, but this is not the government trying to shut this guy up, it is another guy trying to shut him up and a jury agreeing. Like it or not that is actually our system working.

Re:I'm going to quote an old robot saying (3, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486098)

The one guy would have no power to do that to the other guy if the power of government didn't back the first guy up. This is a case of government interference, even if it's a civil matter.

Re:I'm going to quote an old robot saying (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486154)

I just read the summary and the entire page, no one said anything about "free speech" until you. (Except for another prick down further on the page doing the same, "inB4Da fr33 sp3ch assholes" routine you've got going on. Good job a hole.

Re:I'm going to quote an old robot saying (2)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486162)

The government makes the law, both civil and criminal. Civil law often favours the wealthy, powerful party, and it is arguably the case that the reason for this skew is the influence of rich and powerful lobbyists steering the government towards protecting their interests at the expense of the less wealthy majority of the population.

Re:I'm going to quote an old robot saying (3, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486256)

Like it or not that is actually our system working.

You're right. That's why we must rip its heart out. This is absolute insanity.

Re:I'm going to quote an old robot saying (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486464)

This is a god who made a claim about a researcher.

Can you even sue Zeus? Under whose jurisdiction does he fall?

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486080)

Having wikileaks is an effect of things like this. And it's not a good thing.

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (5, Interesting)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486092)

On a somewhat related note, the British government is apparently issuing "super injunctions" [telegraph.co.uk] . We don't know why, of course, because the hearings are sealed and (usually) even the existence of the injunction can't be reported on - the only reason this one became public is because one of the few decent MPs used their parliamentary privilege [wikipedia.org] to question it on the record. It's not even conceivably a matter of national security (their go-to excuse), since it's preventing the papers from reporting on the affairs of one of the key figures in the UK's banking collapse.

When this is how the governments are behaving, I honestly wonder whether there's a viable choice other than Wikileaks-style [vigilantism/civil disobedience]?

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486130)

On a somewhat related note, the British government is apparently issuing "super injunctions" [telegraph.co.uk] .

FFS. It's not the government, it's the judiciary. There is a difference, you know.

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486210)

well, yes and no, it's all 'government' in the eyes of the outside world (if it ever got to Strasbourg, for instance, the government would have to answer for the judiciary's actions). The judiciary issue the orders, Parliament is responsible for the law being in such a state that such orders can be issued, and the 'government' is responsible for not bringing up changes to the law. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Still, it's pretty old news, super-injunctions have been around for a number of years now.

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486336)

On the one hand, "super injunctions" themselves aren't news [wikimedia.org] in the sense of being "a new thing".

On the other hand, they aren't news because, you know, you aren't allowed to report their existence....

As to "not the government", I would have to disagree. Just as with National Security Letters [wikimedia.org] , there have to be legal underpinnings allowing such a concept. If the law didn't permit these "super-injunctions", they could not survive. Of course, I don't know that they have been challenged in court yet. Apparently the Trafigura order got nulled before it could reach court. And The Guardian has been served with almost one a month in 2009. That's a lot of court challenges it would have to undertake in the cause of freedom of speech. I imagine that they have to pick their battles. Perhaps the United Kingdom needs it's own version of the ACLU.

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486282)

Wikileaks=retreat

We should charge head on! Back this guy up. Campaigns, protests, just being load and annoying. Wikileaks is important, but it shouldn't have to come to that

Re:This is why we need sites like Wikileaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486310)

Yes. You caught us. We (The Government!) were secretly orchestrating this case in order to set legal precedent favorable to our own agenda. And we would have done it too if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

that will teach him! (3, Funny)

neo8750 (566137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485964)

The internet is no place for the truth! Serves him right for spreading that horrible stuff around.

Re:that will teach him! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486122)

"You want the truth?"
"You can't handle the truth!"

I love that quote.

Re:that will teach him! (4, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486138)

No you don't. Liar.

truth (1)

ixidor (996844) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485968)

i seem to remember from cyberlaw class that the truth was always a defense to a libel case. If, in fact he did tell the truth, and he lost this should be an interesting read.

Re:truth (4, Informative)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486040)

It's not a libel case, it's a "tortious interference" case. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortious_interference [wikipedia.org]

Invasion of Privacy (5, Informative)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486246)

As a lawyer I can also tell you the case may turn on invasion of privacy principles. The long-recognized tort of invasion of privacy gives a right of action for:

1. False Light -- you can't paint someone in a false light, ie photos with text suggesting that a virtuous person is promiscuous
2. Appropriation -- you can't take someone's image for advertising purposes (though photos taken in public are not invasion)
3. Invasion -- you can't burrow into someone's home life and expose embarrassing intimate detail
4. Disclosure --- you can't disclose even true facts about someone if there ensue unfair disruptive consequences, or if disclosure is done for malicious ends. "Unfair" is up to a jury.

It is (4) that is in play here.

These principles have lived long in the law. One imagines they became recognized as causes of action and continue to be because there is some justice in them, even if they may be occasionally misapplied.

Re:Invasion of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486320)

as a lawyer you are a total idiot. did you even read the article ? he was nailed due to the comments in the comment section not his own writing on the blog.

Re:Invasion of Privacy (2)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486394)

As a non-lawyer you are certainly entitled to your non-legal opinion.

From your post we might conclude you consider yourself a wit, and in fact, you may be half right.

Re:Invasion of Privacy (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486488)

I apologize for letting myself snipe at the hothead.

From the article (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486472)

District Judge Denise Reilly threw out four of the five statements, saying they were either opinion or the comments of others on the blog. With respect to the remaining statement, the jury agreed with Clark's claim that Hoff had committed "tortious interference" by meddling with Moore's employment. Clark pointed out to the jury that Hoff, in a later blog post, took partial credit for Moore's firing.

I will agree that close reading of a news source will pay.

Re:truth (2)

barrtender (1930830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486060)

Yes, telling the truth is a 100% defense to a libel case. Too bad we don't have a libel case here.

Jane Kirtley, a U of M professor of media law and ethics, called the lawsuit an example of "trash torts," in which someone unable to sue for libel, which by definition involves falsity, reaches for another legal claim.

It doesn't mention what it was filed under, other than "lost wages and emotional damage", but the article says that it's not being filed under libel.

Re:truth (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486414)

So if someone loses wages or feels bad because you told the truth you can get sued and actually lose.

For some reason that makes me feel worse than I thought he lost a libel case...

Re:truth (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486478)

check out Australia's defamation laws. truth doesn't mean dick there - it's not a defense at all.

this case would be morally better if our defendant were also able to successfully sue the state for the same thing if our blogger had merely reported to the authorities.

i think our blogger could try to use public interest as a defense though - i'm not sure if bloggers are given the same graces that traditional journalists are. they should be considering half the news these days is just copypasta from Twitter.

Re:truth (1)

ixidor (996844) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486062)

ok he sued him for "tortious interference" . wikepedia: "Tortious interference, also known as Intentional interference with contractual relations, in the common law of tort, occurs when a person intentionally damages the plaintiff's contractual or other business relationships. This tort is broadly divided into two categories, one specific to contractual relationships (irrespective of whether they involve business), and the other specific to business relationships or activities (irrespective of whether they involve a contract)." so how exactly did he interfere with any such contract? and what contract? most states are right to work, so it not likely an employment contract. under typical examples on wikipedia: "Tortious interference of business.- When false claims and accusations are made against a business or an individual's reputation in order to drive business away." the keyword there is fasle claims, but the underpinnings here are the truth. i r confused. is it 1984 already?

Re:truth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486430)

Surely the plaintiff, by perpetrating mortgage fraud, was the one that damaged his own business relationship with his employer.

The fact that it was someone else revealing the truth to the employer is besides the point. Clearly someone that partakes in mortgage fraud isn't a good candidate for the job he had. Or maybe he didn't disclose his criminal record to the employer when he should have...

If you truthfully point out the local school bus driver takes crystal meth and vodka binges before driving the kids to school, and he loses his job as a result, he can sue you for losing his job? That's just stupid.

Re:truth (1)

micheas (231635) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486484)

The Plaintiff claimed that there were five false and slanderous statements on the blog and sued.

Four of those statements were made by people other than the blogger, and the judge dismissed the actions based on those four statements.

The jury found, for what ever reason, that the statement that the blogger made, and claims to be true, was unsupported by evidence, and made with malice for the goal of getting the Plaintiff fired.

I am in California, and unlikely to get a copy of the transcript, but from several hundred miles away, it looks like the jury disagreed with the bloggers statement about there being evidence.

Change the legal system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35485974)

Make it more difficult to sue.

Re:Change the legal system (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486180)

Why pick on the plaintiff? Aren't defendants often guilty?

The problem is not frivolous lawsuits, it's frivolous juries that come from a frivolous citizenry.

Re:Change the legal system (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486294)

Why pick on the plaintiff? Aren't defendants often guilty?

The problem is not frivolous lawsuits, it's frivolous juries that come from a frivolous citizenry.

Why waste everyone's time on expensive frivolous lawsuits? There should be a preliminary hearing for a lawsuit where the case has to pass a sniff test before an actual trial can proceed. If the plaintiff cannot provide sufficient evidence in the hearing, no trial with fishing expeditions can commence.

Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485976)

In before "free speech being repressed!". Even if Northside had his facts straight, he should have gone to the police, not to the public. Sure, we may know now that the researcher was guilty, but what happened to due process?

An accusation such as that is not fact before it has been legally confirmed.

Re:Libel (3, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486002)

what happened to journalism ? was watergate confirmed ?

Re:Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486066)

Is this a public or a private case? Was Watergate a public or a private case? Who can call themselves journalists and who can't? When are you able to throw around direct accusations of such weight, instead of going to the police, and expect not to be sued?

Re:Libel (0)

geek (5680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486090)

We the citizens make those decisions. Perhaps the USSR was more to your liking? I hear North Korea is nice this time of year.

Re:Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486144)

Ah. So essentially it is fine to yell about, say, a teacher being a pedophile. After all, you're quite sure. Nevermind the police. Oh! It turned out that you WERE right! Lucky! Wonder what consequences your actions could've had for the teacher if you had been wrong... Nevermind that, you was right, nothing wrong with the process!

Fair process? What's that?

Re:Libel (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486222)

ok. with your 'fair process' nixon would never be tried. or the tapes would never come out. or, the filth wouldnt get exposed before the elections.

Re:Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486262)

Please see elsewhere in the thread regarding Watergate.

Re:Libel (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486434)

why.

Re:Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486480)

Because I already addressed that strawman? It is not the same kind of case by a long shot.

Re:Libel (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486358)

So essentially it is fine to yell about, say, a teacher being a pedophile.

That's right. And the people who whould believe the accusation without checking are a bunch of dumbasses, pricks, and gossips. He should sue the people who fired him, not the guy talking about him.

Re:Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486420)

So lets say for a second that in this hypothetical case the person was wrong and the teacher was not a pedophile. The teacher should sue the people believing the liar, but not the liar? I can see how that makes sense,
  in Narnia.

Re:Libel (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486440)

So essentially it is fine to yell about, say, a teacher being a pedophile.

If you have proof--like say, photos--, yes.

Wonder what consequences your actions could've had for the teacher if you had been wrong.

Well, then you would be guilty of libel, and would probably end up regretting having jumped to conclusions without sufficient proof, because he would be in a position to sue you into a cardboard box while in the process of vindicating his name.
Look, nobody is saying that it's right to go around spreading our slightest suspicions as fact. We are just saying that a jury isn't the sole arbiter of truth, and that not everything is libel until a court has decided otherwise.

Re:Libel (5, Informative)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486228)

The guy worked for the University of Minnesota - a public school funded in part by tax payers. It is therefore absolutely a public case.

Who can call themselves journalists is irrelevant. The 1st amendment does not say "freedom of speech only if you are a journalist."

And whether it is a public or private case is and should be immaterial. If Northside told the truth, then he should be absolutely protected from retribution. Legal trickery should not trump the 1st amendment.

I assure you that if I were a blogger, and I found out that someone who I was for whatever reason covering was up to his ears in criminal activity, I would rightfully expect to be able to tell people about it without being held liable for it.

Put another way, what this case really says is "don't say anything negative about anyone, ever, whether it's true or not, because if they have to face any consequences for what they did, it will be your fault." That's a(nother) direct attack on the first amendment.

Re:Libel (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486324)

The police involvement in Watergate was the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The real question is would the follow up investigations and resulting impeachments happen if it wasn't for the efforts of Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's reporting in the Washington Post?

While the Watergate scandal involved public figures, the DNC is a private organization tasked with coordinating the political agenda of the Democratic Party and raise funding for their elections, therefore it's not as clear cut as you think.

Contrast that today with the abundant use of contractors for consultants and university professors getting involved in public policy debates, I just don't see how we could consider using a "public versus private" litmus test for this story.

Re:Libel (2)

geek (5680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486018)

It's only libel if it is false and the person saying it knows that it is false. He has every right to say what he did, this is exactly why we have the 1st amendment. Whistleblowers like him are a good thing.

Re:Libel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486024)

Do I need to wait to be legally confirmed as a troll before being modded down? What kind of standard is that? A judge has to look at something AND make a ruling before we're aloud to tell other people things?

Re:Libel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486026)

The researcher wasn't caught by the blogger. The blogger just revealed his conflict of interest. The police wouldn't have appreciated their time being wasted. And libel is false by definition.

Re:Libel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486068)

If he was not somehow involved with the fraudulent mortgage, why would the police do? It is not as if many or most would actually care about this enough.

From the police perspective I can't see it being much more than stumbling into their office to tell them, "I heard a guy when I was at a bar that he was lying about someone!"

He really has 2 options here. 1. The best method to this is to find out who was the victim of the fraud and talk to them directly with the evidence on hand, and let them decide how to handle it. 2. Publish the information as a news type article, which this seems to be.

Re:Libel (1)

lostmongoose (1094523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486074)

I dunno about you but, where I live, we don't have to run to the police to publish *fact and truth*. It's called journalism, get over it. It was verified fact and not an accusation, btw. RTFA.

Re:Libel (1)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486086)

...but what happened to due process?

Last I checked, the blogger didn't convict Moore of anything. He simply stated facts that he could back up with proof. Besides, part of the lawsuit was because Moore was fired. The blogger didn't force Moore's boss to fire him, so why was the blogger sued for this? Shouldn't Moore be suing his boss?

Re:Libel (1)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486184)

No, but he presented explicit accusations before he was convicted. About a case that was very much private. That's basically convicting him in public before checking with the authorities.

Re:Libel (1)

micheas (231635) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486368)

The lawsuit was about five other statements that were not supported by facts.

Four of them were not made by the blogger and hence those four statements were struck from the civil action.

Re:Libel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486124)

From the article " the jury agreed with Clark's claim that Hoff had committed "tortious interference" by meddling with Moore's employment". Please read the article. No libel involved.

Re:Libel (2)

Lazareth (1756336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486240)

"Tort cases therefore comprise such varied topics as auto accidents, false imprisonment, defamation, product liability (for defective consumer products), copyright infringement, and environmental pollution (toxic torts), among many others."

Defamation? Where have I heard that before? Hmmm...Oh yes! "Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)".

"No libel involved" indeed.

Re:Libel (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486242)

An accusation such as that is not fact before it has been legally confirmed.

Bullshit. Pure bullshit.
If it is true it is true. And as long as it can be confirmed it isn't libel.
If you shoot someone in front of a crowd and there are multiple clear pictures of you doing it plus dozens of witnesses, do we have to wait for you to be found guilty before you are a murderer and can be called such?
Just because all big media outlets are extremely conservative about making accusations--so they don't have to deal with libel suits--doesn't mean that not being super-paranoid is libel.
Due process is about goverment doling out punishment; Not about the people calling a spade a spade.

Re:Libel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486268)

wait..so if something isn't defined by law it can't be true? or if it was determined by legal process, then it is?? what about those innocents rotting in jail right now? you lawyer types are just as bad as the archetypal star wars nerd thinking that everything relates to star wars somehow.

Re:Libel (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486460)

Pi is defined by no law except in Kentucky. Today is not Pi day. Pi day is 3/0, not 3/14.

Re:Libel (4, Interesting)

Rollgunner (630808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486316)

The article very clearly says that the defendant was *not* sued for libel. "The truth is an absolute defense" in cases of libel, so the ex-teacher had no ground to stand on for a libel case. He chose a civil tort instead, which allows you to sue for pretty much anything you like, so long as you can get a judge and/or jury to agree.

Also, i'm not sure what the police would have done. It seems from the article that the ex-teacher had been involved in some capacity in a bad mortgage scandal, the results of which did not cause him to face any legal sanctions. However, any university wishing to appear credible is *not* going to have someone studying mortgage failures that was implicated in even a tangential way with an actual mortgage fraud. "Avoid even the illusion of impropriety."

What I'd want to know as a jurist was whether the ex-teacher disclosed that past incident to the university before he was hired. If he had, I'd be far more likely to find in his favor, because an individual caused him to be terminated for reasons that the university initially did not find objectionable, but he was "Tried in the public courts" as they say. If he had *not* disclosed, I'd likely find against him, as it seems that he was merely caught being dishonest.

yes the truth is out there (1)

fregare (923563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485984)

Somewhere over the rainbow I think?

1st (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35485990)

First POST!!

Re:1st (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486020)

I'd tell you that it wasn't, but I don't want to be sued.

First Amendment (2)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 3 years ago | (#35485992)

This ruling is unlikely to survive a single appeal. Can you imagine the impact on journalism? Report the news, get slammed with a [successful] defamation suit?

I have to wonder what sort of judge feels that this ruling follows case law and current legislation.

Re:First Amendment (4, Insightful)

Zugok (17194) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486308)

Truth is a defence against defamation tort, however truth might be the very thing that a plaintiff wants to protect from the tort of a breach of privacy. Maybe the real question is whether the fact a fraudulent (thus criminal) activities can be protected by the privacy torts in civil cases.

Re:First Amendment (1)

micheas (231635) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486448)

The jury found that the statement was unfounded by facts, despite the claims of the blogger to have proof.

The case was fairly good in that the four statements said by other people were struck from the lawsuit, and the blogger was not held accountable for the comments made by others on his blog.

Did the bloggers lawyer fail to present evidence to support the bloggers claim that the statement was based on facts? yes

Is it possible that the blogger hired an incompetent idiot to represent him? yes

Is the moral of this that if you are sued you need to find competent legal help? yes

Go MN court system! (1)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486012)

Hennepin and Dakota county courtrooms are a freaking mess. I'm so proud of our Minnesota "justice." I'm glad I live a couple counties south. Far enough to not personally be afflicted, but close enough to hear the horror stories.

Zenger Case (1)

Arch_Android (1989386) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486034)

I suppose we need a 21st centery version of the John Peter Zenger case. Shame. And of course, also shows that perhaps judges should actually read the Constitution.

What crime? (0)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486038)

The linked article doesn't clearly say what crime the blogger is supposed to have committed (tortuitous interference?), and "having your facts straight" doesn't indemnify you from everything.

I'm not taking sides and criticizing the blogger, but the reporter could have done a better job of explaining how a jury found him guilty and of what crime.

Re:What crime? (2)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486134)

Well, as bad as the summary is, it did use the word "sued," not to be confused with "prosecuted." Crimes are prosecuted. Beefs between people ("He made me lose my job and ruined my reputation!") are the stuff of civil suits.

Re:What crime? (2)

rgriff59 (526951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486378)

Tortious interference [wikipedia.org] doesn't involve truth, just interference with intent to disrupt a business relationship without privilege in that relationship. When Hoff went directly to the employer, the University of Minnesota, the line was crossed, and it stopped being journalism and turned into tortious interference. I'm not attempting to justify this as right, morally or otherwise, but it does follow the logic of the law.

If I were to be looking for a real villain, I'd pick Don Allen, who involved Hoff's blog in his personal shot at Moore, the mortgage fraudster, via the U of M, then as co-defendant, settled with Moore and turned witness against Hoff. There is no integrity to be found in those actions. It appears both Allen and Moore both deserve to burn in their own hells. But, good luck Johnny Northside; you're going to need it.

Re:What crime? (1)

yelvington (8169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486400)

I'm not taking sides and criticizing the blogger, but the reporter could have done a better job of explaining how a jury found him guilty and of what crime.

As the founding editor of startribune.com, I'm going to agree with you. The story doesn't take you by the hand, assuming that you know nothing whatsoever, and walk you gently through the facts. There's a significant backstory that isn't provided (or linked). The story doesn't explain the nature of civil proceedings (as distinct from criminal), which obviously is confusing many Slashdot commenters, including you.

I'm not picking on Abby Simons, the writer. These shortcomings aren't unusual. Most journalism -- print or online -- doesn't attempt to provide such context. In my view, this contributes to the general ignorance of the population, which journalism is supposed to alleviate.

A Web-centric report that was fully developed would link to previous coverage and external resources that explain the legal points that are at issue. Very little journalism, whether initiated on the Web or otherwise, is so Web-centric. We can blame time or other resources, or our ancient content management systems, or journalism education ... the fact is that journalism is failing to fully inform a public that desperately needs a more coherent and comprehensive form of storytelling.
 

Re:What crime? (1)

HuntingHades (2010088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486424)

He wasn't guilty of any crime, he was found liable for Tortious Interference in a civil suit (I'm pretty sure tortuitous is an error in the article). There are two flavors of Tortious Inteference - 1) interfering with a business by making false claims against the business or individual's reputation to drive business away. 2) Interfering with a mutual contact between two parties by committing "tort" (a wrongful act)

Basically he can be found liable for Tortious interference because he knew of the employment contract between U of M and Mr Moore, and intentionally induced U of M to breach the contact while he himself has no privilege to induce a breach of contract. Really the key element that the jury has to decide whether or not the blog post constituted tort.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortious_interference [wikipedia.org]

Elements
Although the specific elements required to prove a claim of tortious interference vary from one jurisdiction to another, they typically include the following:
1. The existence of a contractual relationship or beneficial business relationship between two parties.
2. Knowledge of that relationship by a third party.
3. Intent of the third party to induce a party to the relationship to breach the relationship.
4. Lack of any privilege on the part of the third party to induce such a breach.
5. The contractual relationship is breached.
6. Damage to the party against whom the breach occurs.

I'm just posting to read what I write (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486042)

"I find it really hard to believe that there was a degree of emotional distress caused by this reporting that outstrips that suffered by [a Marine's] family," Kirtley said.

The verdict also surprised U of M law professor William McGeveran, but he wasn't so certain that it will be easily overturned. Appeals courts tend to give a lot of credence to jury verdicts, he said.

This will be an interesting case to watch. How the appeal will be handled will be very interesting. What I'm really curious about is how the lawyers of Jerry Moore convinced a jury that "Johnny Northside" was liable monetarily for Jerry getting shit-canned for his own fuck up. Either the jury collectively lost it's goddamn mind, or the Slashdot summary may be lacking in pertinent information!

In Soviet Slashdot, website trolls you!

Needs more details (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486052)

It was not the government vs a blogger but rather an individual who sued them for causing him to lose his job. It was also a jury trial NOT the government who made the decision.

Evidently the reason for the lawsuit was the blogger accused him of being involved in a fraud mortgage fraud and Moore was fired for it. So it was based upon a libel claim(I am guessing).

Last week there was a post about a 12-year accusing a teacher of being a "pedophile". A number of people came out of the woodwork to chastise this child for potentially ruining the teacher's career and life. I wonder if people are going to speak up against this blogger as he caused Moore to lose his job and impacted his reputation accusing him of being a crook.

Re:Needs more details (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486102)

More proof that juries are solely made of idiots. Hence the 90% conviction rate or whatever it is these days.

Kind of falls in line with a lot of stuff these days where if you're suspected then you're guilty and that's the end of that.

Re:Needs more details (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486286)

Last week there was a post about a 12-year accusing a teacher of being a "pedophile". A number of people came out of the woodwork to chastise this child for potentially ruining the teacher's career and life. I wonder if people are going to speak up against this blogger as he caused Moore to lose his job and impacted his reputation accusing him of being a crook.

The claim the teacher was a pedophile was untrue.

This case deals with when you may and may not disclose even true facts about someone's past.

Re:Needs more details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486356)

The blogger told the truth, the liar child did not. Big difference, no hypocrisy detected. Instead, I sense a false equivalency.

You want the truth? (1)

cloakedpegasus (1761746) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486136)

You can't handle the truth!

Kudos (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486148)

Interesting article. Thanks a lot for this bright and intense analysis. The environment for the said page is so pleasing to the eyes because it uses colors that are light. Such a nice article that is worth reading for.

http://www.epestcontrol.com.au/

Is it really his fault? (1)

ashvagan (885082) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486164)

How can you fire someone based on a "rant" of a blogger? If the blogger didn't suggest termination of Mr. Moore from the university, how can it be his fault? Even if he did, it's not like he's head of the university's board making all these decisions. If I declare in my blog that Mr. Moron is really a moron (which in all probabilities, he is), and his company fires him saying, "Surely, we don't want any moron to be in our ranks", is that really my fault?

Clear Cut Case Of .... (1)

ChasmCoder (1818172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486172)

Mularky,

The fact that the researcher lost their job, should not have prompted them to pursue the blogger, rather they should have pursued the establishment that "released" them.

The only reason the researcher should have been let go in the first place, due to their fraudulent mortgage, would be if they were skewing the data in some fashion so as to make it unreliable, or un-empirical.

I sincerely believe this is a repercussion or such organizations as WikiLeaks and clearly demonstrates their effects on individuals who do not know how to think for themselves.

The charges against this individual should certainly be dropped on appeal.

That is, however, merely my opinion.

Johnny Northside is not a victim. (3, Interesting)

FlapHappy (937803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486178)

Doing just 5 minutes of research, I confirmed what I suspected. Northside is a blogger-activist-vigilante. Really, he is a total jerk who spends a considerable amount of time attacking anyone he doesn't like. Basically, he is a troll who took off the mask. I'm not real happy with the legal precedence this might set but no one should think he is some perfectly innocent blogger who is getting bullied around. Really, it is the other way around - he is getting fined for his own bullying, aggressive, tactics.

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (2)

pclminion (145572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486212)

So, if you're a jerk, we get to twist the law to hold you accountable for things that aren't illegal? That's how it works?

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (1)

Tigger's Pet (130655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486248)

The way things seem to be going, it doesn't matter if you are a jerk, a terrorist, a fine upstanding member of the community, or even a citizen of a different country - 'They' get to twist the law in whatever way they want to achieve whatever aims suit them at the time.

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486260)

No twisting of the law required; if you get sacked or lose a contract because of something someone said, you can sue them for this, even if they didn't know that saying it would cause you problems.

It's contract law, but it's not normally used.

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (1)

FlapHappy (937803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486284)

No, but what goes around comes around. I have no idea on whether or not the ruling is correct but people are painting him as some sort of 'nice-guy' getting victimized by a corrupt system. And yes, if he acted like an ass in court, I expect he elicited little sympathy from the jury.

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486370)

Unfortunately court rulings establish legitimacy with that ruling for those circumstances. Asshole or not, if we don't ensure his speech is protected, who's going to ensure ours is?

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (1)

FlapHappy (937803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486388)

Understood, which is why I said, "I'm not real happy with the legal precedence this might set."

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486352)

Devastating someone's life without a reason or a justification IS illegal, in the sense that there is a remedy for it in the Courts. See earlier post about invasion of privacy, from which the law protects you.

Re:Johnny Northside is not a victim. (1)

TechForensics (944258) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486326)

Anyone who really studies it knows the law tries hard to be fair. It really seems fair that a mean, destructive person with no legitimate interest in disclosing the information he did (so the jury would have found) got his nose rubbed in it. If the jury felt he maliciously and without justification caused the harm he did, then damages were and appropriate punishment for the blogger. Blogging is still publishing, even if it's scary to think YOU COULD BE NEXT because you're a blogger too. Tip: No risk if you aren't a malicious SOB. The law applies whether you publish a magazine article or a blog.

Wasn't Sued For Truth, Sued For Assholiness (2)

cmholm (69081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486264)

I believe Mr. Hogg's problem with his jury is that he writes about his beefs like an asshole. Mr. Moore was (is) a frequent subject of Mr. Hogg's writing.

If Mr. Hogg had been employed by and was writing in one of the area's alternative news sheets, he'd have been personally protected, and his publisher would be taking the heat. Worst case, he'd have been fired. But, by acting as a "sole proprietor" so to speak, it would have behooved him to present the facts in a more neutral tone. This is nothing new, but much as technology has made it easier for the likes of Mr. Hogg or you or me to get our word out there, it has made it easier for someone else to take offense to the point they consider it actionable.

As Jesse Eisenberg's character was told in Social Network, it wasn't the insult so much as that it was put on the internet.

He said She said... (1)

Songilly (1993968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486296)

After reading the article it is light on what the details of the suite actually was. FTFA: "District Judge Denise Reilly threw out four of the five statements, saying they were either opinion or the comments of others on the blog. With respect to the remaining statement, the jury agreed with Clark's claim that Hoff had committed "tortious interference" by meddling with Moore's employment. Clark pointed out to the jury that Hoff, in a later blog post, took partial credit for Moore's firing." So most of the charges were dropped by the judge, and it seems the last was about the blogger actively trying to get the other guy fired. He claimed to be telling the truth, and the other guy says, um no that ain't so. Looks like the jury decided that he wasn't all the truthful? Hard to say when little is given as far as evidence one way or the other. Perhaps the jury was right.

"Fined"? Fine! (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35486306)

Sigh... yes this is Slashdot, but still I dream of editors with some minimal grasp of the English language.

IANAL but will still say that non-one has been fined for anything.

They were sued, lost, and the plaintiff was awarded damages

Liable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486314)

Critical element of intentional interference with contractual/economic relations from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortious_interference) :

"Lack of any privilege on the part of the third party to induce such a breach."

Unlike defamation, where truth is an affirmative defense, tortious interference does not permit this defense unless the person is, for instance, asked "Hey, is this guy involved in any mortgage issues?" But then again, tortious interference was designed to prevent competitors from doing awful things to steal and sabotage others' business. The tort in this case has indeed been shoe-horned from its commercial roots to a situation that is fundamentally about free speech. I would argue that if courts will allow interference to be brought up in a journalism context, which it certainly is here, they must expand privilege to encompass this sort of truth defense.

How far will they allow this to go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35486330)

This is absolutely ridiculous. Soon if I say "Hi" to my neighbor they be able to sue me for bothering them. It's a gross misrepresentation of the law that was put in place by our forefathers. The Judicial System and other parts of our government are far more corrupt and backwards than we should allow. It's time for people to take seriously the people they choose for these positions.

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