COVINGTON -- Attorney Stephanie Lindsey says the motion to quash a subpoena for the Newton Citizen to provide identifying information of individuals who negatively commented about the Alcovy High School principal on the Citizen website should be denied.
Web commenter claims harassment after ID revealed
By Michelle Floyd
CONYERS — Shannon Black, who claims she has made posts under the names of “KBeet” and “MsLoy” on the Newton Citizen website, has filed a report of harassment with the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office.
Black, a Conyers resident, filed a report Thursday afternoon claiming she has been harassed via the phone and visits to her home since coming forward.
Black wrote two letters to the editor to the Newton Citizen in May claiming the identities, which have been named in a lawsuit filed by Alcovy High School Principal LaQuanda Carpenter. The lawsuit claims defamation and libel for negative comments made about Carpenter on the Citizen website.
According to the incident report, Black said that a black male who she has never seen before approached her while she was standing in her yard late one evening. She claims that he told her that if she kept writing untrue stories that his next visit would not be nice.
She told the RCSO officer that he was driving a dark older model Honda Accord, and that two other black males also were in the vehicle.
Black also reported that she has been getting phone calls from blocked numbers.
In an amendment to the lawsuit filed earlier this month, Carpenter alleges that Newton County Board of Education Vice Chair Jeff Meadors created the blog IDs “MsLoy” and “KBeet.” He denies the claims.
Lindsey submitted a brief in response to the motion to quash the subpoena in Newton County Superior Court on Tuesday.
"This court should conclude that while anonymous speech is constitutionally protected, it is not without limits," reads the response filed by Lindsey. "The interest and need to protect the sanctity of the educational process and community from detrimental actions and to protect oneself against defamatory conduct is not outweighed by the Newton Citizen's assertion of protected speech."
David Hudson, the attorney for the Georgia Press Association representing the Citizen, filed a motion in May to quash the subpoena that requests all information and documents sufficient to identify the names, addresses and telephone numbers associated with the commenters, as well as documents reproducing the texts of the comments and all server logs, IP address logs, account information, account access records and application or registration forms related to the commenters.
Hudson's motion cites that the request for documents is invalid because of the qualified privilege for journalists against disclosing the information and that the anonymous commenters are afforded protection under the First Amendment.
In the response filed Tuesday, Principal LaQuanda Carpenter claims that those "assertions are misplaced and are not applicable." Carpenter says the information sought is relevant and necessary to identify posters of defamatory comments that have damaged her reputation in the community and exposed her to public hatred.
Additionally, the response states that "self-proclaimed blogger Shannon Black has disclosed her identity as 'KBeet' and 'MsLoy.' As a result of the disclosure, the need to keep her identity confidential is waived. Accordingly, this court should, at a minimum, issue an order directing the Newton Citizen to provide information sought on defendants KBeet and MsLoy."
In an amendment to the original suit against the commenters filed earlier this month, Carpenter claims that Newton County Board of Education Vice Chair Jeff Meadors created the blog IDs "MsLoy," "MissLoy" and "KBeet," among others, on the Citizen website to post defamatory comments, or provided false information to commenters to post on the site.
"Opinion statements are not shielded from defamation actions," the response reads. "Georgia appellate decisions addressing the specific First Amendment and defamation issues raised here, including the context of Internet 'speech,' are practically nonexistent."
Lindsey originally filed the lawsuit in April on behalf of Carpenter, claiming defamation and libel from commenters on the Citizen website. The suit originally named 11 "John Does" who commented on the Citizen website, and in late April, Lindsey filed a motion to dismiss three of the defendants.
A hearing on the motion to quash the subpoena requesting information from the Citizen is set for 9:30 a.m. June 19 in the Superior Court of Judge Eugene Benton.