Local Anti-Corruption Blog Silenced By Canadian Judge, Cowardly Web Host
We got this e-mail earlier today from Doug Handshoe, who publishes the Slabbed blog on political corruption in Louisiana and Mississippi…
To all regarding the inquiries about Slabbed.Org and selected Bloggers/members of the media:
Charles Leary of Trout Point faxed a Canadian court order against me personally to Blue Host, my new webhost yesterday. They knee jerked and disabled the domain. Webhosts as a general rule do not like to be in legal pissing contests but I am holding their feet to the fire couching this as Free Speech and Journalism in the Public Interest. This represents the line in the sand for Slabbed and comes at a time when our reporting on the major political corruption scandal in Jefferson Parish has borne fruit, especially our exploration of the defamation case filed by Aaron Broussard business associates Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret against Louisiana Media Company LLC aka Fox 8 New Orleans which has exposed several conspirators involved in the ongoing Federal Investigation.
This is uncharted legal area for US-based web hosts. They know they can not act without a domesticated court order but they really do not want to end up in a legal pissing contest. Blue Host is in consultations with my lawyer and are hopefully having second thoughts as I have not violated their Terms of Service.
I have been in communication with Blue Host Legal and we hope to have this matter resolved today. In any event I will be filing for a TRO ASAP as part of my Complaint for Declaratory relief under the SPEECH Act of 2010 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Unfortunately Slabbed may be down in the interim until I can get a court ruling on the TRO motions.
For background, Trout Point was the lodge in Nova Scotia through which it’s alleged – by Slabbed among others – that former Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard enriched himself in a corrupt fashion. From a write-up at a Nova Scotia-based web site on the death of Broussard’s former law partner Roy D’Aquila two weeks ago…
D’Aquila was a fifty per-cent partner in Kempt Wilderness Lodge Services, with a business address at 7 Trout Point Road, adjacent to the Tusket River. Until recently, Aaron Broussard was a partner in the business, which purports to provide rental and management services to property owners in the area, many of whom are connected to political framework of New Orleans. Recently, in a plea deal with the federal prosecutors, Karen Parker-Broussard asserted that her fomer husband used his properties in Nova Scotia as part of a wide-spread scheme to enrich himself at the expense of the taxpayers in Jefferson Parish.
One of the assertions against Broussard has been that he inappropriately received lucrative legal contracts over many years from local judges while supposedly serving as a full-time president of Jefferson Parish. The business went to the D’Aquila law firm.
Since the scandal broke in 2010 as front page news in New Orleans, there have been several law suits filed based on allegations that Broussard, D’Aquila and others were part owners of Trout Point Lodge. Those assertions have been vigorously opposed by lodge owners and former New Orleans-area businessmen Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary. The pair have pursued law suits against the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Fox 8 Television in New Orleans and the political blog Slabbed.
The Times-Picayune published a retraction of their story regarding D’Aquila and the suits against Fox 8 is on-going, with a court record now surpassing 4,000 pages. The defamation suit against Slabbed publisher Doug Handshoe has a damages hearing set for Yarmouth on Monday and is almost certain to move to the U.S. courts, where it is likely to confront the harsh reality of the recent SPEECH Act, which prohibits U.S. courts from certifying judgements from foreign courts which do not meet the standards of the U.S. Constitution.
On Feb. 2, a court in Nova Scotia awarded Leary and Perret $425,000 in damages against Handshoe…
Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret, the managing directors of Trout Point Lodge in East Kemptville, were each awarded $100,000 in general damages, $50,000 in aggravated damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.
The damages, against a blogger named Douglas Handshoe, were announced in a decision handed down by Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Hood on Wednesday.
“To sum up the past two years, it’s been agonizing, distressing and a lesson in the true value of having a civil society whose values need application to the internet,” Leary told CBC News.
In addition to the damages awarded to Leary and Perret, Trout Point Lodge received $75,000 in general damages.
Leary said the politician owned property nearby and occasionally asked the lodge to manage his affairs, but that’s where the connection ends.
The newspaper retracted its comments, but Leary said the blogger refused and continued to target his business with derogatory comments.
“He has continued to defame us in a very torturous way, accusing us of all sorts of criminal acts — involvement in this corruption scandal, money laundering, racketeering, misleading investors and bilking local contractors,” he said.
“One of the most insidious things he did was attack our sexual orientation.”
Leary and Perret — who represented themselves in the defamation case — said it’s difficult to gauge how much of an impact the blog had on business at Trout Point Lodge over the last two years.
“The thing about internet defamation is you never know what kind of impact it’s going to have, and that’s one of the things the judge noted,” said Leary.
“We got, for instance, an email from someone just out of the blue saying, ‘I was going to come for a week-long stay at your lodge, but then I started looking around the internet and I saw all the stuff and put on the brakes.’ And that’s just someone who took the time to write to us for some reason to tell us he wasn’t coming.”
On top of the damages, Handshoe has also been ordered to take down his material and never publish about Trout Point Lodge or its owners again.
So to sum up, Bluehost has taken down an American web site and put an American blogger out of business based on a Canadian judge’s ruling which has yet to be recognized in an American court.
Whether Slabbed’s allegations about Trout Point and Broussard are true, we can’t say – we haven’t researched it enough. But it sure seems that you can’t shut down somebody’s business based on a ruling from a judge with zero jurisdiction over that somebody. And given the atrocious standards of Canadian law where free speech is concerned in relation to the United States (see the Mark Steyn case as an example), Leary and Verret’s case has very dubious merit.
It should be noted that Leary and Verret are also suing Fox 8 in the same courtroom, but unlike Handshoe the TV station has resources and a high-powered Canadian lawyer. Nobody thinks that case is going anywhere. Handshoe didn’t even appear in Nova Scotia before the Canadian judge decided to give the plaintiffs the jackpot against him.
This is an outrage. Bluehost is the one who ought to be out of business, not Slabbed. That a web host could reflexively side against one of its clients in such a manner is obnoxious in the extreme.