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Blogger Fined $60K For Telling the Truth 433

jfruhlinger writes "'Johnny Northside,' a Minneapolis blogger with less than 500 readers a day, revealed that a University of Minnesota researcher studying mortgage fraud had been involved in a fraudulent mortgage himself; the blog post was at least partially responsible for the researcher losing his job. The researcher then sued the blogger and won — despite the blogger having his facts straight. Johnny Northside plans to appeal the verdict."
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Blogger Fined $60K For Telling the Truth

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  • Re:Libel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:46PM (#35486002) Homepage Journal
    what happened to journalism ? was watergate confirmed ?
  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @07:54PM (#35486092) Journal

    On a somewhat related note, the British government is apparently issuing "super injunctions" []. We don't know why, of course, because the hearings are sealed and (usually) even the existence of the injunction can't be reported on - the only reason this one became public is because one of the few decent MPs used their parliamentary privilege [] to question it on the record. It's not even conceivably a matter of national security (their go-to excuse), since it's preventing the papers from reporting on the affairs of one of the key figures in the UK's banking collapse.

    When this is how the governments are behaving, I honestly wonder whether there's a viable choice other than Wikileaks-style [vigilantism/civil disobedience]?

  • by FlapHappy ( 937803 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @08:02PM (#35486178) Journal
    Doing just 5 minutes of research, I confirmed what I suspected. Northside is a blogger-activist-vigilante. Really, he is a total jerk who spends a considerable amount of time attacking anyone he doesn't like. Basically, he is a troll who took off the mask. I'm not real happy with the legal precedence this might set but no one should think he is some perfectly innocent blogger who is getting bullied around. Really, it is the other way around - he is getting fined for his own bullying, aggressive, tactics.
  • Re:Libel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rollgunner ( 630808 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @08:19PM (#35486316)
    The article very clearly says that the defendant was *not* sued for libel. "The truth is an absolute defense" in cases of libel, so the ex-teacher had no ground to stand on for a libel case. He chose a civil tort instead, which allows you to sue for pretty much anything you like, so long as you can get a judge and/or jury to agree.

    Also, i'm not sure what the police would have done. It seems from the article that the ex-teacher had been involved in some capacity in a bad mortgage scandal, the results of which did not cause him to face any legal sanctions. However, any university wishing to appear credible is *not* going to have someone studying mortgage failures that was implicated in even a tangential way with an actual mortgage fraud. "Avoid even the illusion of impropriety."

    What I'd want to know as a jurist was whether the ex-teacher disclosed that past incident to the university before he was hired. If he had, I'd be far more likely to find in his favor, because an individual caused him to be terminated for reasons that the university initially did not find objectionable, but he was "Tried in the public courts" as they say. If he had *not* disclosed, I'd likely find against him, as it seems that he was merely caught being dishonest.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @09:03PM (#35486712)
    The finding is endorsed and enforced by the government. And was handled under the government rules that allowed it to get to that point, rather than being thrown out. So it the government most certainly was involved and it was government rules enforced by the jury.
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @09:22PM (#35486826) Homepage Journal

    Juries are typically told that they MUST decide only on the facts, not on the law or on the fairness of the punishment. Last (and only) time I was in voir dire we were asked to swear that we would do so. I was excused when I said that I could not conscionably do that. The judge seemed genuinely surprised that I was able to articulate my objection.

    So, did he make the posting: yes. Did the plaintiff get fired as a result: yes. Did he lose income as a result: yes.

    Too bad the jury is sworn not to say "but that's not the defendant's problem, the plaintiff shouldn't have gotten involved in fraud". It all comes down to the judge's instructions to the jury. The citizens who think for themselves and make their own moral choices rather than simply obey are weeded out before the trial even starts.

    So I wouldn't read too much into a jury verdict these days.

  • As an example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:28PM (#35487248)

    Suppose that when you were young but still an adult in a time of bad judgment you stole a car for a joy ride. You got caught, were genuinely remorseful, plead guilty, served your sentence, and went on to live a good life and have your rights fully restored. It 20 years later, and that incident is long behind you. You've never stolen again, never committed another crime.

    You work as a security guard for a bank. They are aware of your conviction though a background check, but see no problem with it. It was a long time ago, etc, etc. However one of your enemies becomes aware of this fact so he starts a campaign against you. He starts putting up signs, a website, and so on talking about how the given bank hires thieves, showing your picture. The bank has no choice to dismiss you because of the bad publicity.

    Now, nothing he said was false, you did in fact steal at one time, however should that one act mark you for the rest of your life? Should he be able to use it to harm you?

    If not then you see why a law like this exists.

    If for some reason you do think that should mark you forever then let me ask you have you ever pirated any software, music, or movies? How about accessed a computer without permission, even if it was due to a weak password or unpatched hole? Those are crimes, should the be chosen to be prosecuted as such. That you weren't caught is of no relevance. Unless you feel such a thing should mark you for life, then reconsider.

  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @12:23AM (#35487916) Homepage Journal

    >>They are *instructed in the law* by the judge, and are told to follow it.

    Maybe that's how it should be done, but consider the Brian Aitken case.

    New Jersey law allows you to have guns (locked in a case) in your trunk if you're moving. The police and the assistant DA both said it was obvious he was moving.

    The judge told the jury they couldn't consider that exemption to the draconian New Jersey gun control laws (the judge deciding the fact he was not moving for the jury). Thus both dictating fact and to ignore law to the jury.

    Brian, having his exemption stripped from him by the judge, was promptly sentenced to the minimum 3 years in jail, which was newly classified as a "violent offense", meaning he lost his child visitation rights and hasn't been able to see his kid in two years, even though he was pardoned by Christie.

  • by garry_g ( 106621 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @03:10AM (#35488566)

    ... in Germany (though I found some references of it also being a Chinese saying) that goes something like this:

    If you are speaking the truth, you need a fast horse

    Guess his horse wasn't fast enough ...

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27