Judge ponders fate of mystery bloggers - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Judge ponders fate of mystery bloggers

Magistrate didn't set a date for decision about posters' identities

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Posted: Saturday, June 2, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 10:35 am, Fri Nov 16, 2012.

COEUR d'ALENE - The identities of three anonymous online commenters on The Spokesman-Review newspaper's website remained just that - anonymous.

First District Court Judge John Luster on Friday didn't rule on a request to quash a subpoena that demands the newspaper and its owner release the identities of three commenters on the Huckleberries Online blog, which is administered by veteran journalist Dave Oliveria.

Local Republican leader Tina Jacobson wants the names because she said one of them defamed her by suggesting she stole money from the local party, while the other two commenters are what she considers witnesses to the offense. She wants to confront her accuser.

Luster heard arguments from Jacobson's attorney and the newspaper's on whether her demand should be rejected. Luster didn't set a date for his decision.

Jacobson's attorney, Matthew Andersen, said the Huckleberries commenter who goes by "almostinnocentbystander" posted statements on the blog that accused Jacobson of stealing $10,000 from the party. The commenter's posts on Feb. 14 - while Jacobson still chaired the Kootenai County Republican Party Central Committee - were later taken down by Oliveria.

The other two commenters go by the names "Phaedrus" and "OutofStaterTater."

Jacobson also has filed a lawsuit against "almostinnocent," who made the comments in question below a picture of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who was standing on a stage in Coeur d'Alene, with Jacobson sitting in the background. She is not suing the newspaper.

Whoever "almostinnocent" is, she or he posted the comment, "Is that the missing $10,000 from Kootenai County Central Committee funds actually stuffed inside Tina's blouse??? Let's not try to find out."

A couple hours later, "almostinnocent" chimed in again, saying Jacobson "is not allowing the treasurer report to go into the minutes (which seems common practice)."

He or she added, "a whole Boat load of money is missing and Tina won't let anyone see the books. Doesn't she make her living as a bookkeeper? Did you just see where Idaho is high on the list for embezzlement? Not that any of that is related or anything..."

In an unusual start to the hearing Friday, Andersen "paged" the three commenters, asking them to step forward if they were sitting in the courtroom. Then he asked a bailiff to do the same in the hallway. Not surprisingly, nobody came forward.

Andersen told the court the right to free speech has never allowed someone to defame another person.

"I'm entitled to follow the trail" that leads to the identities, Andersen said. With that information, he hopes to prove damage was done to Jacobson's reputation.

Following the hearing, Andersen said, "Nobody wants to be called a thief or an embezzler, especially when it's money that's trust money."

He wants the question of whether she was defamed to be decided by a jury.

Jacobson declined to comment after the hearing.

The Spokesman-Review's attorney, Duane Swinton, told the court, "The right to speak anonymously is protected by the First Amendment."

He said revealing the identities of the commenters would undercut the free flow of information on the newspaper's website.

He said the comments in question in this case were opinion.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Oliveria wrote, "The purpose of the Huckleberries blog is to stimulate conversation, discussion and opinions by individuals concerning issues of national, local and regional importance in North Idaho."

He also wrote, "In my experience, if identities of posters were publicly disclosed, this would inhibit the free flow of information and discussion on the blog and would discourage people from posting comments on the blog, the end result being that discussion and expression of opinions on matters of public importance would dwindle, or perhaps dry up completely."

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27 comments:

  • manman posted at 2:12 am on Wed, Jul 25, 2012.

    manman Posts: 46

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  • the floorist posted at 9:16 pm on Mon, Jun 4, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331

    "...“Balenciaga Borse si è sempre distinta per me..."

    Typing in mica code est magis fun

     
  • Mark on the Park posted at 1:46 pm on Mon, Jun 4, 2012.

    Mark on the Park Posts: 471

    If this judge doesn't quash this subpoena I'd be shocked. Seriously, an anonymous blogger asks a tongue-in-cheek question about a public figure and the public figure is somehow slandered?

    Absolutely ridiculous.

     
  • the floorist posted at 1:33 pm on Mon, Jun 4, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331

    The remarks were more of a gibe than an outright libelous accusation.

    Even if spoken out loud in public and decried as slanderous, these remarks probably would've drawn some giggles and little else. It just sounds funny...sorry...stuffing her (bra) with $10k was meant to be a joke and really does sound hysterical if you think about it. You guys are always so mean to Chouli...she means well and cares is all.

    I have a hunch I know who "OutofStaterTater" is, and "Almostinnocent" is always nearby. I'll say this much, they ain't no pal to Jacobson,or ME for that matter. ::teehee::

    If Tina paid better attention to what's going on around her she wouldn't have to shuck and jive about missing money OR snivel in court. Instead she could've used clever baiting tactics to draw out the posters and done some dishes herself. These are merely opinionated message boards...gawd...

     
  • MMMMMM posted at 12:57 pm on Mon, Jun 4, 2012.

    MMMMMM Posts: 2713

    You missed the mark again, chouli. Re-read the Amendments to the Constitution, Article I, then look at Enough Already's coments and mine for further understanding.

    Your opinions are interesting and you are entitled to them, however, they are not (NOT) the law. If you don't agree with the Constitution or with the law, then there are ways to change them, but until then, this is a country of laws and that's just the way it is.

     
  • chouli posted at 9:34 am on Mon, Jun 4, 2012.

    chouli Posts: 1248

    the anonymous commentors were slanderous and vindictive. there is a line that shouldn't be crossed with on line comments and this is right at the edge. these blogs aren't mean't to be vindictive and damage another citizen's reputation. since Jacobson is an accountant (I think) the commentors went too far to state she embezzeled money, etc. etc...it puts ot out there that she steals and that is slanderous. it affects her employment ability.
    besides, NOTHING would be funnier to me than to see HOL Olivera slapped down for allowing his minions to go too far under his watch, not to mention obnoxious...LOL

     
  • Enough Already posted at 9:02 am on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    Enough Already Posts: 202

    See Idaho Code 67-6614A that requires the name of the person related to political advertising when “an expenditure” is made. That is not the case here nor is Jacobson a candidate that I’m aware of. What ever happened to considering the source and for what its worth. Law enforcement wrongly accuse people and at the end of the day they are stuck with it. While the opinions section of this paper requires a name for citizen comments the editorials don’t although the paper would still be responsible but what exact person said exactly what? Blog sites across the country exist anonymously for comment and where the line should be drawn is political advertising that this paper does enforce. Even political advertising often borders on defamation however if that is ones belief and mindset not every such utterance is then that illegal. Were any of the comments an attempt at humor? Granted she has a point and has made that point but to "confront her accuser" is not a private right rather tied to being charged criminally in court, lets not take it to far now and twist it into something its not! Just my opinion!

     
  • MMMMMM posted at 8:21 am on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    MMMMMM Posts: 2713

    correction - Fri

     
  • MMMMMM posted at 8:13 am on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    MMMMMM Posts: 2713

    dtsinidaho, there is a site where you have to identify yourself - the letters to the editor section.

    - - - - -

    ok. Thurs at 1130.

     
  • JoeIdaho posted at 5:42 am on Sun, Jun 3, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    Jacobson's attempts on this are ignorant.
    People make wrong accusations every day, and this is nothing more than an atempt, that IF successful (which it won't be) would seriously curtail the First Amendment.

    I am SICK of politicians who use "law" as a way to protect or strengthen their poitical positions. This is nothing more than another example of how I am NOT a solid republican supporter any more.

     
  • dtsinidaho posted at 11:49 pm on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    dtsinidaho Posts: 182

    Tina Jacobson is a political spokesperson. She is in a position of guiding political will. Therefore, her "reputation" can be sullied by political satire.

    Having read what was temporary posted on Olivera's blog, I see a large difference what was said in a "sotto voca" style posting, and a direct accusation. Being in the political realm she has no legal right to demand the names of anonymous posters. This is exactly what the First Amendment is all about.

    With all that being said it would be nice if there was a comment site where you HAD to put out your verified name on any post. I would leave the sophomoric style of writing from the disenfranchised persons of Coeur d’Alene who feel NO progress should be made, and instead join in a logical and informational debate, knowing what the writers biases tend to be.

    Although the paper said that “outing” an anonymous writer would restrict comments, I feel instead it would create a place where you HAD to be careful of what you say, and you would be directly responsible for what you write, but at the same time create a place to realize that someone is putting their personal reputation on the line.

     
  • the floorist posted at 4:53 pm on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331

    The gal from the Spokesman who interviewed me for the story about the Justin Todd shooting quoted someone at the Sheriff's station who said, "...if it were up to me I'd sue Mr. Evans for defamation..."

    PBPBPBBPBPBPBPHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    I was on vacation for the first half of April, but I heard from some friends about the blogs on (their) site about the shooting and it was basically like the blogs from the My Turn I submitted. Last I heard my thread went over 400 posts. I'll be revisiting this topic very soon.

    It is and will forever remain my ever so humble opinion that them there killer cop fellers are liars.

    I'd also like to express my humblest apologies to these fine civil servants...

    ...I'm sorry...I'm sorry you are compelled to set the example you are for our future generations to learn and grow from... It's shameful...

    ...and this Jacobson woman needs to learn to take a poke in the ribs or get off the BBQ...

     
  • Enough Already posted at 4:12 pm on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Enough Already Posts: 202

    “Jacobson wants to "confront her accuser". She has that right IN COURT if (IF) she is accused of a crime where she might be punished.”

    Good point and true! So that right would exist if law enforcement brought a case against her – what such case exists? I don’t believe she has ever been charged with anything. This case is a mixed bag of apples and oranges that began with a couple of nuts. It was a blog comment that was later taken down because it was unfounded. Those who are accused of crimes in court have cases thrown out all the time because they were not correctly charged and is far more to deal with then what Jacobson went through, so where would be the justice in this situation? If this goes forward there is no equal protection I believe.

     
  • CClavin posted at 2:47 pm on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    CClavin Posts: 221

    How silly

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 1:46 pm on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    MMMMMM,

    I will meet you anytime I'm in town, a nice Beer and sandwich at Daannen's?

    I don't think it would change much with comments, only make people think twice and be a little more respectful, and less Bombastic and Accusatory. People can still hide behind an alias, but with full knowledge they can be held accountable if they cross the line. Maybe we could even get to some honest and open debates, wow.

     
  • MMMMMM posted at 11:51 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    MMMMMM Posts: 2713

    You comin', Jeffrey, when we get together to make friends before we're split apart into enemy camps?

    You want do-nuts and coffee or beer? Donde?

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 11:50 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    The Spokesman Review posted the AP story yesterday, but added nothing to it or didn't write one of their own, yesterday. The Press finally posted this limited piece, with no real account of how the arguments seemed to be received.
    My guess at the lack of local coverage is that it didn't go well, and they expect the motion to quash the subpoena will fail and the weekend is being used to give time for the SR to contact the cowardly scumbags involved and give them the bad news.

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 11:41 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    willowbranch,

    They didn't have much of a choice to print this story, the AP picked this story up yesterday as soon as the hearing ended. It has been a Topic on twitter since the original compliant was filed. This may not be front page national News but it has hit National levels of News watch.

     
  • MMMMMM posted at 11:39 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    MMMMMM Posts: 2713

    Jacobson wants to "confront her accuser". She has that right IN COURT if (IF) she is accused of a crime where she might be punished.

    Regarding free speech, just look at all the demonstrators who block traffic, tie up city blocks, and the rioters who loot and burn. Many of these actions are also protected by free speech. You don't see many of these protesters wearing signs with their names on them or shouting out their names so they can be identified with their words.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    As for commentors on these sites, I would really like to know who Golden Mean, Mahiun, Rogue Cop and others are. We should all get together for coffee or a beer!! What fun!!!

     
  • willowbranch posted at 10:49 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    willowbranch Posts: 3

    Duane Swinton, thank you for standing up for free speech, and defending our local paper. It is a privilege to be able to write our thoughts on articles, especially local ones, and to have a dialogue about the information that is published. This is a good way to allow others to comment and critique an article, since a story always has more than one side. I'm sure the press had to spend money to defend this right of free speech in court, and to keep identities secure, so thank you for your commitment to our local paper! Also, thanks for printing this story to make us aware of what's happening.

     
  • yarply posted at 9:44 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    yarply Posts: 485

    Tina Jacobson's should remember, the dog that yelp's is the one that got hit.

     
  • yarply posted at 9:42 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    yarply Posts: 485

    Questioning if someone stole or not isn't slander. If it hit's too close to home people get defensive. Whoops. Did I just slander someone?

     
  • MixMart posted at 9:23 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    MixMart Posts: 836

    Free speech allows any comment on public figures and public activities that does not overtly threaten, harass or intimidate, as defined by federal law. Slandering a private person regarding private or business matters is something different entirely and not strictly protected by free speech.

    You cannot openly threaten the President of the United States, however you can lie and call him a foreign born Kenyan socialist with impunity, just as you can prevaricate about Mitt Romney since he is a candidate for president.

    Tina Jacobson's lawsuit is a waste of time. She should quit political activities if the rhetoric is too much for her.

     
  • Bob Loblaw posted at 9:23 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Bob Loblaw Posts: 364

    Public figures are pretty much fair game in this context. I'm sure the paper would give her a column to refute what was said on the blog if she wanted it. And anyone reading a blog by anonymous posters surely takes what is said with a huge grain of salt. Public figures need to have a thick skin.

     
  • kimknerl posted at 9:12 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    kimknerl Posts: 286

    Oliveria wrote:
    "the end result being that discussion and expression of opinions on matters of public importance would dwindle, or perhaps dry up completely."

    Not as long a Randy an I keep posting on Huckleberries.

     
  • LTRLTR posted at 8:19 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    LTRLTR Posts: 1171

    Jeffrey Wherley:

    Very good comment!

    Free speech does not allow us to slander in attempt to "kill" someone's reputation.

     
  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 7:40 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    The Spokesman-Review's attorney, Duane Swinton, told the court, "The right to speak anonymously is protected by the First Amendment."

    That is just a stupid argument, and a total lie.

    Example: Let all have an open, frank, and Anonymously string opened on how best to kill a sitting president. I can Guarantee the Secret service will be on every poster doorstep in 48hrs and no newspaper or court could stand in their way spewing that Anonymous speech is protected under the 1st Amendment.

    Hate, Libel and/or Endangering/Threatening Speech is not a protected form of speech under the 1st Amendment.

    If you don't believe me try my example above, I dare you.

     
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