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gbrl and the legal concerns he expressed in the thread he deleted

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The poster named "gbrl" lives in North Carolina. He came to this forum asking for advice on handling a woman who was creating problems for him in his community.

The woman posted online about gbrl's criminal conviction and made some false statements about the conviction. The woman also contacted gbrl's employer and expressed her displeasure with gbrl's employment. Both gbrl and his employer are now experiencing negative reactions from members of their community as a result of this woman's acts and actions. The employer has noticed a decline in his business revenue.

Revealed by gbrl in his previous threads on this forum* was the fact that he was convicted on 5 counts of child molestation and on 1 count of enticing a child for indecent purposes. He served time in prison. There are currently about 7 years left on his 9 year probation. Although the conviction was for child molestation, the woman has not only directed readers to his criminal record, she has also claimed in her postings that gbrl had "violently raped a girl." This is false and this is what concerns gbrl.

While there could be some legal options available for gbrl and his employer to consider taking against this woman (e.g, filing an harassment complaint, possibly a tortious interference suit), there can be difficulties pursuing a defamation suit against the woman given the facts provided by gbrl.

Given the facts and circumstances of his conviction, a court could consider three different "doctrines" should a defamation suit be filed. These doctrines are the incremental harm doctrine, the subsidiary meaning doctrine and the libel-proof doctrine. They share similarities but have subtle differences.

The incremental harm doctrine involves the publication of both true and false statements. The false statements, while harmful, do not increase the reputational harm already suffered by the publication of the true statements. A court in a California Appeals case in 1968 (Washburn v Wright) said of defamatory statements: " ... [w]hile a drop of poison may be lethal, weaker poisons are sometimes diluted to the point of impotency." For one case example, you can check out Masson v New Yorker Magazine, Inc, 501 US 496, 522 (1991), at the following link: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=501&invol=496.

The subsidiary meaning doctrine involves the publication of both true and false statements but the false statements do not change the overall gist of what has been communicated. What is falsely stated or implied could be removed and there would be no substantial change in the message received. The publication, in other words, is substantially true, even with inaccuracies. This forum recently discussed a 2014 Supreme Court Opinion, William Hoeper v Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp, where substantial truth was addressed. The thread can be accessed through the following link: https://forum.freeadvice.com/libel-slander-defamation-88/scotus-atsa-actual-malice-601902.html

Finally, a person can be libel-proof (unable to be defamed). Although it is the rare person who is totally libel-proof (e.g., Charles Manson comes to mind), people can more easily become libel-proof in one particular area due to one particular trait. For gbrl, he could be considered libel-proof when it comes to comments about him and child molestation because he is a convicted child molester. He is unlikely to be judged more harshly, or his reputation harmed more severely, by false statements about his conviction than he is already judged by true statements about his conviction.

Although there is a difference between "violently raping a girl" and several times sexually molesting a boy or boys, a community is not liable to look on gbrl more favorably because one statement is false and the other statement is true. If someone were to falsely claim gbrl is a murderer, on the other hand, additional reputational injury could result.

For case examples involving defamation and libel-proof plaintiffs, you can check out Cardillo v Doubleday & Co, Inc, 518 F.2d 638, 639-40 (2d Cir 1975) and Guccione v Hustler Magazine, Inc, 800 F.2d 298, 303 (2d Cir 1986), available for reading at: http://h2o.law.harvard.edu/cases/435 and also Thomas P. Lamb v Tony Rizzo, 10th Circuit US Court of Appeals, December 9, 2004: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-10th-circuit/1308469.html. These provide good discussions on defamation and libel-proof plaintiffs.

With all of that said, an attorney in gbrl's area may think there is a defamation claim worth pursuing even though, based on what gbrl revealed in his posts, I do not see one. And, even if the attorney gbrl sees agrees with my assessment, there are other legal avenues to explore that may serve to halt the woman on her current path to disrupt the post-prison life of gbrl, and to additionally harm the employer who sought to give an ex-convict a job.

I suggest he seek out the assistance of an attorney in his area.

*previous threads by gbrl can be accessed through the following links:
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