We're Getting Sued?
- Dear Sir/Madam, Please be advised that we represent Sgt. Christine Hitney. Please immediately remove and cease from posting the disparaging and defamatory comments and photos of her on your Blog page. In our opionion [sic], the photos and comments which are being posted of Sgt. Hitney are violative of her rights. This is a a [sic] serious matter. If you fail to comply with our request, we shall advise our client accordingly.
Barry A. Gomberg, Esq.
Barry A. Gomberg & Associates, Ltd.
53 W. Jackson, Suite 1350 Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 922-0550 Office
(312) 922-0066 Fax
First of all, we weren't the ones who took pictures inside a crime scene (unauthorized pictures that are a violation of General Orders by the way) and then sent them around the Internet. We received the original set of pictures from 3 different individuals and the address lists of forwarded recipients was around 180 names. By her own actions, the sergeant made herself a public figure. By wearing a badge inside a designated crime scene, the sergeant was acting as a public official - private citizens weren't allowed within the tape.
Secondly, satire is protected speech. According to the FirstAmendmentCenter website:
- satire tends to invent a fictitious situation (though possibly with elements that actually occurred) for the purpose of ridiculing someone or even some idea.
- Iroquois Theater fire, Hindenburg disaster, Eastland sinking and St Valentines Day massacre;
- the Kennedy assassination and funeral;
- the caves drawings of France;
- the Lincoln assassination;
- the Oswald shooting, the Wizard of Oz or a Gulf hurricane;
- an Afghani hovel;
- Saddam's trial;
- the 1968 riots and the Brady Bunch
- The Munsters;
- Brokeback Mountain;
- crossing the Delaware with Washington;
- chiseled in Mount Rushmore;
- dog sledding in Alaska (ok, this one is possible);
- marching with a giant shamrock (this is also possible we suppose);
- assassinating Julius Caesar;
- the moon;
- surviving the Titanic;
- rising from the dead;
- and attending hearings in Washington with Trump
In the case of Hustler Magazine Inc. et al v Jerry Falwell, a directed verdict cleared Hustler of invasion of privacy and libel because "no reasonable person would believe the situation depicted" would be true. The US Supreme Court further denied an emotional distress award "as public figures and public officials could not recover damages for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress without an additional showing that ''the publication contains a false statement of fact which was made with 'actual malice,' i.e., with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether or not it was true.""
Though it pains us to stand anywhere near Larry Flynt, he did the First Amendment to the Constitution a great service in this case.
As to the comments section, the recent California Supreme Court decision in Barrett v Rosenthal pretty much covers anything from there:
- The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that bloggers and participants in Internet bulletin board groups cannot be sued for posting defamatory statements made by others.
In deciding a case closely watched by free speech groups, the court said a federal law gives immunity from libel suits not only to Internet service providers, like AOL, but also to bloggers and other users of their services.
If the sergeant is demanding an apology, here it is - we're sorry you got caught doing stupid shit. We're sorry for depicting you dog sledding in Alaska and at the Southside Irish parade if in fact you attended neither. As to any of the other situations, we're afraid we don't owe you anything due to satire, freedom of speech, court decisions, etc.
By the way: have you apologized to the family of Joshua Woods? That's his family's car you can see in the background of your picture.