$1.3 Million in Anti-SLAPP Sanctions

     FORT WORTH (CN) – Plaintiffs in a “revenge porn” defamation lawsuit must pay $1.3 million in anti-SLAPP sanctions and attorneys’ fees and apologize for filing “baseless” claims in similar lawsuits to punish their critics, a Texas judge ruled.
     Tarrant County Judge Donald Cosby slapped plaintiffs James McGibney and ViaView Inc. with an order granting defendant Neal Rauhauser’s motion for attorney’s fees and sanctions. McGibney and ViaView sued 10 people in February 2014, alleging defamation and negligence, and accusing defendant Thomas Retzlaff of creating online aliases to stalk and harass ViaView.
     McGibney and ViaView said they operate websites that help victims of revenge porn websites. They claimed in the lawsuit the defendants made false allegations on Twitter that McGibney is a “pedophile.”
     They also claimed in the lawsuit that Retzlaff is a “convicted criminal” whose acts include “posting death threats, making terroristic threats, [and] cyberstalking,” and that he was “involved with several ‘revenge porn’ sites.”
     But in his Dec. 30, 2015 ruling, Judge Cosby concluded the plaintiffs sued Rauhauser “willfully and maliciously to injure” him and deter him from exercising his constitutional right to “truthfully criticize plaintiffs.”
     “Plaintiffs’ filing of multiple SLAPP suits in two states at substantially the same time making substantially the same allegations manifests plaintiffs’ intent to continue using baseless suits to retaliate against, punish, and deter plaintiffs’ enemies, and necessitates a significant deterrent sanction,” the 9-page order states.
     “Plaintiffs engaged in aggravating misconduct by willfully and intentionally harassing … both Rauhauser and Rauhauser’s attorney, the objective of which was to punish the exercise of Rauhauser’s constitutional rights in the past, deter the exercise of Rauhauser’s constitutional rights in the future, and impair Rauhauser’s ability to retain legal counsel in defense of plaintiffs’ baseless claims.”
     Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation are filed to stifle free speech and other civil rights. Sanctions are mandatory under Texas’ anti-SLAPP law, the Texas Citizens Participation Act of 2011.
     Rauhauser’s attorney, Jeffrey Dorrell with Hanszen Laporte in Houston, called the lawsuit “an outrageous example of lawsuit abuse.”
     The $1.3 million award is believed to be the largest anti-SLAPP sanction ever awarded in the 29 states that have a version of the law, the law firm said in a statement Wednesday.
     Judge Cosby also ordered the plaintiff to give Rauhauser several domain names, including nearlrauhauser.com, nealrauhauser.exposed and rauhauserunmasked.com.”
     And: “Plaintiffs shall publish for 365 consecutive days a written apology on the first page of all websites owned by either plaintiff for calling Rauhauser a ‘woman beater’ and ‘pedophile supporter’ and admitting that plaintiffs had no evidence to support such accusations when they made them,” the order states. “Plaintiff shall publish for 365 consecutive days a written apology on the first page of all website owned by either plaintiff for calling [attorney] Dorrell a ‘pedophile’ and admitting that plaintiffs had no evidence to support such an accusation when they made it.”

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