As amazing as it sounds, a jury actually convicted a blogger for… get this… Telling The Truth.
John Hoff is a blogger who goes by the online handle of “Johny Northside“. In mid-2009, Johnny wrote a blog post that was very critical of the University of Minnesota’s hiring of one Jerry Moore. In that post, Johnny wrote,
“Repeated and specific evidence in Hennepin County District Court shows Jerry Moore was involved with a high-profile fraudulent mortgage at 1564 Hillside Ave N.”
Shortly after the blog post, Moore was fired from his new job.
Like a good little [alleged] moron, Moore filed a lawsuit in Minnesota state court that alleged John Hoff was guilty of defamation of Moore’s “good character”, and had intentionally interfered with his contract with the school.
Moore was a public official, hired by a public institution.
John Hoff wrote statements in his blog about that public official. Those statements were true. Well, technically how it goes is the jury decide that Moore had not proved the statements were false..
That didn’t stop the jury from awarding the [alleged] moron Jerry Moore $35,000 in damages for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress.
This is, to be blunt, a stupid and moronic decision. To quote Activist Post’s David Makareqicz (I highly recommend reading his entire post),
Since the publishing of a false statement is a basic element of a defamation claim, that finding was enough to defeat the defamation count. Although the judge had previously ruled that Moore was a limited public figure, which would have also required the jury to find actual malice in order to prove defamation, the jury stopped at the first question and did not make a finding on actual malice.
Moore’s failure to prove a false statement seemingly should have been the end of the entire case against Hoff, but it was not. Even without a false statement, the court allowed the jury to find against the blogger on the intentional interference with contract claim and awarded Moore $35,000 in damages for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress.
According to David’s article, Hoff’s attorneys will appeal this decision, and so they should. If this ridiculous decision is allowed to stand, it could silence bloggers completely, wiping out a valuable and necessary public commentary on the issues that face us locally, regionally and nationally.
Some, obviously, would prefer all bloggers be silenced. It’s usually the people who are upset when their stupid and/or illegal antics are exposed or commented upon by… well… someone like me, who’s not overly shy about expressing how I feel on practically any subject.
It must be a valuable service to a good number of people, given the monthly views of this site.
I’ll end with another quote from David’s article, since he’s already written what I’d have said anyway.
Bloggers and other publishers must be free to expose these true facts, even if those facts bring a public figure down without fear that they will have to compensate the public figure for the fall.
Otherwise, would we find ourselves in a country where Woodward and Bernstein would have to had to pay Richard Nixon for the losses caused by his impeachment and loss of job as President even if they were telling the truth about Watergate?