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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Libel, Part Duh

On May 31, I posted a blog entry, "Libel," about the Dee Torres mess, i.e. Dee Torres had filed a libel lawsuit against Michael Brennler for alledged statements he made (part of an investigative piece published in CalCoastNews by CCN reporter Karen Velie) that Torres had stolen from homeless clients while director of homeless services for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), claims which Torres denies.

My May commentary observed that suing people for libel is always a tricky problem.  First, because libel is really hard to prove since you've got to show real malice or intention to lie, and second, lawsuits open up huge cans of worms, such as depositions, wherein your opponent's lawyer gets to go fishing into your life and ask questions under oath that may cause you more problems than your original problem.  (See what happened to Paula Deen, and shudder.)

Worse, what likely was a small footnote story unread by the vast majority of SLOTowners, with an added lawsuit, will now make the headlines in the Tribune and local TV news (wherein the original story wasn't deemed "important enough,") and kaBlooey, the falshood/libel/lie is now blown up into headline news and you become the talk of the town.

Wait, it now gets worse.  Suppose the judge rules against your suit, claims you're a "public figure," says that you haven't proven that your bean-spilling whistle-blower acted with malice. Now you've got the public's attention and suddenly what was claimed to be a lie, now looks like it's true since the judge hasn't upheld your claims and quickly moved the case forward.

And if your un-luck holds, the same judge may dismiss the whole case and stick you with the bill.

And there you are.  In the public eye (and from snatches of headlines) you're now branded a thief and a nincompoop and now you're broke (all those court costs and legal fees.) And if that's not enough, your nemesis, the reporter who covered this story, is now publishing phone texts by your fiance, who's a county Supervisor, that can be read like he's threatening a witness against you, one of your former boyfriends??.  OMG!

If you've been following CCN and now the Tribune, you'll recognize the players in this little scenario as CAPSLO Director, Dee Torres,  Supervisor Adam Hill,  private investigator, Mike Brennler.  Add in Judge La Barbera, who has written a tentative ruling that Dee Torres is a "public figure," which bumps the provable "libel" threshold over the moon, and you have one of those cases where everyone wishes they'd all stayed home.

Until the federal and/or state law enforcement folks finish their investigations, something that should have been allowed to play out before anyone opened their yaps.

Well, no mistake, this case is a gift that keeps on giving, especially since it involves Adam Hill (who has had "yap" problems in the past), and now reporter Karen Velie gets into the act.  She was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.  In a CCN story by Josh Friedman and Daniel Blackburn, Velie had been teaching a bridge class (filled with respectable, bridge-playing SLOTowners), some of whom told CCN that she looked fine, did not appear to be under the influence.  But when stopped by Officer Josh Walsh for an unsafe lane change, was given a blood alcohol test. Which arrest pushed the case back into controversy since Velie's blood alcohol was .06 and drunk driving laws require an arrest if a driver has a .08.  So Officer Walsh's discretionary judgement as to impairment/arrest requirement/guidelines now enters the game.

As does Adam Hill.  According the the CCN story, immediately after the arrest, Adam sent text messages to all CalCoastNews advertisers informing them of the arrest.  Thereby begging the question: What reason would a Supervisor have for such an action?  Clearly he was trying to discredit Velie.  But was he also trying to influence (muscle) CCN's advertisers into dropping their ads?  Is that something a Supervisor should be doing to a news organization that's just doing its job?  Or was that all part of Hill's campaign to malign the messenger rather than deal with the message? And does the immediacy of Hill's foolish action in contacting CCN's advertisers now play right into the hands of conspiracy theorists (on chat web sites) that Hill set this whole thing up, thereby casting doubt on the integrity of Officer Walsh and raising real questions about Supervisor Hill . . . once again?

So here we are, back in StupidVille. 

Sigh.

Do you think it would be too much to ask that everyone involved in this ridiculous mess finally keep their yaps shut, let their lawyers handle this, and let the investigations by the proper authorities finish their jobs and go from there?

I have no doubt Karen has learned a hard lesson as well.  Investigative reporters, if they're doing their job right, are always in a state of war and are always dealing with potentially dangerous people.  There is a reason Woodward met Deep Throat at night in a secret parking garage.  If you poke powerful people with sharp pointy sticks, you damned well better become like Caesar's Wife -- not only above suspicion in all things but to be seen to be above suspicion.  That means document everything you do, have plenty of witnesses, put everything you can in writing, keep really good notes, live a dull and prudent life, avoid sticky situations and dicey people (unless you're on the job) and stick to Twinnings Irish Tea at all times.

As for Adam Hill?  Hopeless. Only thing to do there is wait for the implosion.  Or I should say explosion, like the kind you get when a can of beans is subjected to high heat and goes ker-blooey! in an utterly loud and satisfying manner.  Beans everywhere.



33 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with Ochs much, but his column on the issue was excellent. Karen is a vindictive liar and a troll. She blew a .079, not a .06.

Anonymous said...

And the proof that Hill contacted the CCN advertisers is......?

Because CCN said so?

Billy Dunne said...

Karen Velie and the Velieheads who troll that tabloid are some of the most miserable, vindictive, immature, dishonest, anti-everything gossip peddlers imaginable. Throw in their mouth-piece Congalton and you have pure garbage stew. Good on Adam Hill for refusing to sit idly by when this brood of reprobates practice their art of character assassination on just about anyone for, evidently, their pure enjoyment. I for one stopped doing business with Karen Scott Audiology because of her sponsorship on that site.

Ann, what kind of "journalist" do you think Karen Velie is? Respectful? Diligent? Impartial? Fact based? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

What "hard lesson" has Karen Velie learned?

That attacking the integrity of the cop who busted her will help her in her future journalistic endeavors with SLO police, and that linking her long-time substance abuse problem with Adam Hill adds to her credibility and the credibility of everything else she's written?

This is a mentally disturbed lady who has a history of avoiding responsibility for everything and blaming everybody else for her endless mistakes, then cries wolf and writes about it.

No journalist with such a lying problem lasts very long, even in this corrupt county where lying is considered normal civilized activity.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

I posted several comments on CalCoast when the story broke. Most were deleted (one for pointing out the typo in the url which still isn't fixed). What I wrote was later posted by some anonymice and not deleted. Guess if you get on the CCN "watch" list your comments are carefully scrutinized.

One of my first comments was about posting a photo of the arresting officer. That was really going over the line. Seemed like intimidation to me. Why not a photo of Velie?

Churadogs said...

Toonces, Hey, a photo of Velie and the Officer. Say, that would have been interesting. It's too bad CalCoast deleted your comments, since I presume you didn't post anonymously? Unless they have a policy that you have to use an actual real name? After all, Anonymice have little credibility.

Billy, Are you saying that Pro-Velie Trolls or even Anti-Velie tolls are loonier than Sewer Trolls? Woa! As for this story and all CalCoastNews stories, I'm watching the outcomes. This is a story that, given the players, probably still has a few more chapters left, unless everyone wises up, pulls up their big boy pants, and shuts up. (Like don't go anywhere near FB? Or any other "social media?" And remember the old Duke of Wellington who responded to a blackmailer by scrawling across the letter, "Publish and be damned!")

As for what kind of "journalist" Karen is, I'd put her and CalCoastNews in the category of "muckraker," a risky profession with a long, checkered (ironic) history. I say (ironic) because whether you're a " dirty muckraker engaged in filthy yellow journalism" or a "hero in the finest tradition of investigative journalism," depends on whether what you've been bean-spilling about actually turns out to be substantially true. It's always a potentially lethal high wire act with sharp pointy knives on either side of you at all times. So, stay tuned.

Anonymice sez:"No journalist with such a lying problem lasts very long, even in this corrupt county where lying is considered normal civilized activity."

A corrupt county? Hmmmm, then it seems like we could use a few MORE Velies, not less, doesn't it? I mean, that's a lot of rocks that need turning over, eh?

As for what hard lesson Karen has learned? Maybe I should have said, I HOPE that hard lesson IS learned. A DUI is always a wake-up call. Fail to heed it and the next time she won't be so lucky.



Anonymous said...

"It seems like we could use a few MORE Velies, not less, doesn't it?"

So your saying, Ann, that we need a few more liars like Velie here? What planet are you on? Not this one obviously.

Anonymous said...

Ann doesn't lie, she just has a differing opinion of what she considers to be fact.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

CalCoast allows one to post with monikers but they know who you are by your signing up. And not just on the CCN site.

They, when once asked by that nameless person on this blog, who had given them a list of blog names once used by me (before I converted to only using my real name), asked them to confirm or deny that I was the owner of those names. Contrary to the CCN stated rules, they outed me, online in one of their comment sections. So they were privy to my names where I had signed up on other places, like the Trib. Needless to say, I do not trust CCN and never feel that my comments are going to stick, but I put them out there anyway.

It is a bit hilarious that the former CCN (nameless) fanboy is now a staunch detractor of same.

On several stories written by Velie, where I know the people involved in those stories, outright deceptions were printed. So I take everything on that site with a grain, no a TON actually, of salt.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

And I might also add, where I like the idea of a freewheeling, fast acting web news site, I wish the journalistic principles of "substantially true" were given in-article caveats like "we did not interview so-and-so" and "this is un-vetted information" and "we voted for Candidate X" so the "unaccustomed to reading critically" readers don't go ape in advance of actual facts. (OK, I cave; the carnival of comments that ensues such reporting is often amusing—and I know that last point is unrealistic!)

That the subsequent valid information is often missed or rejected by the knee-jerk readers as they have already made up their minds, makes me fear for the direction anything goes in these days.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

If you have not see the article put out by the New Times, you can find it at this link:

http://www.newtimesslo.com/breaking-news/9911/city-memo-counters-writers-account-of-arrest/

Anonymous said...

Nameless person? Huh?

Anonymous said...

The NewTimes article pretty well provided actual facts; Velie was driving impaired as observed by a police office.

Going to be expensive!

Churadogs said...

Toonces, thanks for the NT link. Will be interesting to wait for the other shoes to drop. As Anonymouse 4:54 says, gonna be expensive!
And, interesting regarding "outing" of "real names"over at CCN. Never did understand using fake names, different accounts, Anonnymousing it allover the place. Either you have the courage of your convictions and are willing to put your name on your opinions, or you don't. And, pluueeze, don't give me that nonsense about being "scared" by all the evil trolls being big meanies. Being anonymous means that nothing they say has any credibility.

And, yes, how interesting that fanboys become anti-fan boys. Ah, unrequited love. Ain't it sweet.

As for your observation that CCN needs to employ more cautionary weasle-word caveats, yup. Muckraking makes headlines, gets eyes on the page, but eventually (ultimately) it's the slog-work that pays off. Meantime, keeping salt is handy. And I'm hoping Blackburn is paying attention to all this. Warning flags are down on the turf.

Anon 1037 sez: ""It seems like we could use a few MORE Velies, not less, doesn't it?"

So your saying, Ann, that we need a few more liars like Velie here? What planet are you on? Not this one obviously."

Apparently you missed the (ironic) point. You had opined that this is a corrupt county, to which I noted, well in that case we need more (muckraker) Velies, not fewer. In a corrupt county there's gotta be a whole lotta rocks needing turning over, right? And if a majority of the rocks turned over are "substantially correct," then that's a whole lotta uncovered "corruption." Seems like you'd be all in favor of that since you feel this is a corrupt of counties. No?

Well, on this matter, stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

It's not surprising that Ann makes things up. After all, she is a fangirl of the imagination.

Anonymous said...

I went up on the "other" Rocky website and there's no support there for Cal Coast News. Quite the opposite. No support for this website either. Maybe you got them mixed up with your own support for CCN. Or maybe you were being "ironic" again -- or just plain inaccurate as usual.

Alon Perlman said...

Euww. I’m almost ready to comment…. Getting my 20 foot barge Pole…. Screwing on the 6 foot extension… stretching a prophylactic over the entire contraption. Securing it with Duct tape…
OK now I’m ready.

So what has Valie’s arrest have to do with anything other than a magnificent display of victimization (the utilization thereof) and a particular obsession of relevance by fanboy? “The law is very clear that you can also be arrested with a BAC LOWER THAN 0.08% if you appear too intoxicated to drive safely”. It takes a particular narcissistic bent to believe that Johnnie Law is after you and you alone, especially that there is ample reason to believe that you ran your steel belted 88s right over his toes.
No, don’t you roll your blood shot eyes at me.
There is a consequence to crying “Wolf” to often, and CCN not the villagers is to be held responsible for the slippery slide from being woven in the cloth of Investigative defender to the shabbiness of the tattle tale rag pandering to the neighborhood gossip..

There is wisdom there, in the original posting of the “stay home (if you have one)” prime directive. And so far this in this predictable string “Investigative journalism” could not have benefited and most likely harmed the homeless. And then that is the problem with the reaction of a person managing a nonprofit. In that they may feel compelled to defend, though conventional wisdom says other.
And then again; Adam Hill. Into the fray!
As for Dean; a 20-20 visioneer talking from a flat screen told me that it made no sense to sacrifice a 10 plus million dollar empire for a million dollar lawsuit- You settle those out of court.
CCN’s experiment had some problems in incept; how do you edit a contributors’ remarks without attributing the omission to the moderator’s?. They then made no additional adjustments to their moderation policy rendering it useless. Perhaps pandering to their base base contributes to their ultimate fauxness.
And the anon? let them suffer from the death of a thousand virtual paper cuts, and then, let god sort them out.

And now I have to burn my 20 foot barge pole.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

As a poster who used to be an anon, I employed the scared mindset for a while. I was outed, then just went with posting under my name, come what may.

So far there have been no death threats, only some threats from a certain fanboy that caused the CSD GM to relay concerns to the sheriff's department. I laid off blogging for a while. I wasn't too thrilled with my home phone posted along with a sick video about me on YouTube either...but I survived that too.

So I would say, those are real possibilities that could happen to you if you post under your real name. But I find it acceptable because people know who I am and what I stand for. It is worth it to me.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Alon, thanks for the post! As always, a thoughtful and entertaining read! Nice to have you back!

Anonymous said...

Who are you people talking about?

Anonymous said...

toons: your history for making things up and attacking others to cover up doing exactly what you accuse others of doing certainly qualifies you to criticize CCN. At the same time, you must be aware that you and your conduct are no different. Ironically, to CCN you are "the sewer nut". That's something everyone agrees on.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Hilarious! Me and Julie with the same title! Land sakes....who'd a thunk it!

Churadogs said...

Alon sez:"Getting my 20 foot barge Pole…. Screwing on the 6 foot extension… stretching a prophylactic over the entire contraption. Securing it with Duct tape."

BWA-HAHAHAHAH Too funny. And, yes, everybody should have stayed home and shut up and called their lawyers, as hard as that often is to do. And some Supervisors who lead with their mouths instead of their brains need to go to "Prudence School." And muckraking publications" need to always remember that "substantially true" has a short shelf life and must be followed up so any fall-out is also recorded. (With editors who know they're living in one huge glass house.)

And as for the Anons, well, the dogs bark but the caravan passes by.

Anonymous said...

Ann has the capability of blocking anons, but chooses not to? Ever wonder why?

Anonymous said...

Who wonders why Ann does anything? She makes about as much sense as Miley Cyrus in a monkey suit.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Gee, I like the anons, anon 8:12. Some make sense, but others are just a laugh fest for me. What is your reason for being an anon? Think the boogey man will get you?

MD said...

I'm a member of the Los Osos Sewer Sleuth group and I wish to stay nom de plume. Thank you.

People in Los Osos who follow the politics closely know who Lynette is. I've read the ”nameless” person's articles on her. He posted them on the FB group. I'm not surprised that she's attacking him here. It's NO coincidence. People may wonder why she's obsessed with him. She's bothered his family for years. He has the RIGHT to write about that criminal.

Sadly, Lynette has done nothing for Los Osos other than talk trash about other people. She's probably working for the corrupt county for all I know. This county is corrupt just like her.
Lynette regularly and consistently denies fails to mention how she targeted Los Osos residents by name using ANONYMOUS names. Anyone that does not suit her agenda has been threatened. Lynette has been caught inciting hatred as part of her brand of ”justice” against ”obstructionists”.

I spoke to George Taylor's daughter who cried after I showed her the filth that Lynette wrote about her father. She's disgusted.
In this town, a lot of people want the sewer to be done and over with. She's STILL attacking people for no good reason. She's no “authority figure” and ran a failed noprofit. What a sicko!!

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Gee, I'm so bummed. The nameless person has blocked me from seeing anything he/she/it writes on FB.

Well, you have narrowed down your identity to the list of 111 members of that FB group. Eliminating many members using logic, and of course adding those who are blocked from my view, you are showing a emerging need to reveal your true identity. I'm sure we are all waiting with bated breath........or not.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, "anonymous" is a good idea when confronting "the sewer nut". Stalking is her specialty.

In terms of quality of responses I personally prefer the comments of anonymous over the named individuals here. I don't know where this superiority from using your own name sprang from. It's a myth perpetuated by the wannabe elite at the expense of the people, to keep them down on the farm.

Often those who use their own names and wield them as examples of their evolutionary status come across as self-centered and one dimensional. In reality they have little new to add to the conversation, no new ideas, just their inflated opinion and a name to go with it.

I'll stick with the anonymous. Perhaps they are also carriers of a rude anger, perhaps even rightfully so, but they also have the heart and humanity visibly absent from the name-gamers and posers. Anonymous are just better people.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

"The sewer nut." Which one? Julie?

There isn't a superiority issue here anon 3:58, but a believability one about those who make assertions, that there is a name to stand behind the truth to the assertion, be it is positive or negative. If there is no name or no links to proof, people may not pay any attention to it.

Gee anon 3:38, I guess you liked me before I used my name! Oh well!

Anonymous said...

What does Julie or the "nameless one"/whatever have to do with Velie?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:08

and the punchline to your humorous question is.... (?)

MD said...

You do not get it, Lynette!! And you never will.