Several longtime residents of Cape Vincent who favor wind farm development have filed a defamation lawsuit against two local bloggers they claim have damaged their reputations by publishing false information about them.
Two of the plaintiffs, Marty T. Mason and Donald J. Mason, contend information published about them cost them seats on the Town Council in last fall’s election.
The state Supreme Court action filed Thursday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office is against Richard C. Wiley Sr., author of a blog at jeffersonleaningleft.blogspot.com, and Kathryn A. Hludzenski, author of pandorasboxofrocks.blogspot.com. Mr. Wiley and Mrs. Hludzenski declined comment on the action Thursday because they had not yet seen it.
In addition to the two Mr. Masons, the suit is brought by Gary J. King, Harvey J. White, Paul C. Mason, Darrell and Marlene Burton and Frank J. Giaquinto. According to the suit, all are “pro-wind” and have been involved with the groups Voters for Wind or Citizens for Fair Government. Each maintains that his or her personal and civic reputation has been damaged by blog posts that “go far beyond mere political disagreement” over their positions on wind power.
The suit claims that in August, Mrs. Hludzenski commented, “Marty Mason $ Donny Mason – Men of Substandard Values and Character … have deployed a desperate attempt to strip citizens of their fundamental right to vote (and) this clearly demonstrates that these men are not fit to serve in any capacity in our local government.”
A post later that month allegedly listed Mr. White, Mr. King, Paul Mason and Mr. and Mrs. Burton as members of Voters for Wind and said the group was “attempting to take the right away from people to be voters against wind” and “wanted to deny citizens in our community a choice.” In October, it allegedly was stated that Citizens for Fair Government was “intimidating or exacting retribution against those people that have either registered to vote in Cape Vincent or changed their primary residence in order to vote in Cape Vincent” and that Marty Mason and Donald Mason “are interested in personal financial gain over what is right for their community.”
Mr. Wiley allegedly wrote in an April 3 post that the two Masons and others favoring wind development “tried to shut up anybody who disagreed with them at public meetings” and “even holding secret meetings and lying about them did not work.” Making reference to the Masons, each of whom lost a bid for re-election to the Town Council, Mr. Wiley wrote “the corrupt government is gone,” according to the suit. It claims an April 20 posting said that Mr. King “helped pass a petition which made false claims about voter fraud and STAR double-dipping” and that carriers of the petition “lied to some of the people about how their signature was going to be use(d).”
The plaintiffs claim each of the statements is defamatory because they were posted in a public, readily accessible forum and alleged that the plaintiffs “lied, misled, intimidated and otherwise violated the fundamental rights of the citizens of Cape Vincent through their civic activities.” The plaintiffs contend that the allegations are false, yet were published with a “reckless disregard for the truth.”
The plaintiffs further maintain that they have “excellent personal, business and civic reputations” within the county and that the remarks “cast doubt about the Plaintiffs’ honesty and integrity” among residents of Cape Vincent. They claim they have “experienced a sharp decline in their businesses, have endured an immeasurable loss of personal respect in the community and have, in the case of Donnie and Marty Mason, been deprived of public office.”
The plaintiffs are asking a judge to issue temporary and permanent injunctions restraining Mr. Wiley and Mrs. Hludzenski from posting further alleged defamatory or false statements and order that the pair request that all Internet search engines remove the questionable comments previously posted. The lawsuit also states the plaintiffs will be seeking subpoenas in an attempt to identify others who have anonymously posted allegedly defamatory comments on the blogs. These people, once identified, will be named as defendants in the action.
The suit also seeks an unspecified amount in monetary damages for the alleged harm to the plaintiffs’ reputations, as well as the emotional distress the statements have caused them, according to the suit. The pro-wind group is represented in the action by attorney Joseph M. Brunner, Cincinnati, Ohio, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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