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Cartoonist Ted Rall Crowd-Funds for Legal Fight Against L.A. Times

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall is raising money using a crowd-funding platform as he fights the Los Angeles Times' bid to have his defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit dismissed.

The Times took the unusual step of filing an Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion against the 52-year-old cartoonist, under a law created to protect free speech.

"To make a long story short, they demanded that I post (me, the plaintiff) a $300,000 bond, of which I have to post the entire $300,000 in cash," Rall said in a video for his fund-raising appeal.

He said his attorney persuaded the judge to reduce the bond to $75,000, against the Times' attorney fees should they prevail. But he must post the bond by today (Thursday), or his case will be dismissed.

"People who know me know I don't shy away from a fight and this is no exception. But I can't do this alone because I don't have $75,000 sitting around," Rall said.

Rall is seeking $75,000 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.

By late Wednesday, he had reached more than $72,500.

Another appeal at GoFundMe, from a fan of the cartoonist, had raised more than $6,500 of the $15,000 goal for the Ted Rall Assistance Fund.

In court papers filed on Wednesday, Rall signaled that he had come up with the money by giving notice to Los Angeles County Superior Court that he will file an undertaking of $75,000.

Rall, whose syndicated cartoons appear in about 100 U.S. newspapers, was president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in 2008-2009.

He sued the Times and its corporate owner Tribune Company in March. He claimed that the paper where he had worked as a freelance editorial cartoonist for four years fired him after questioning the veracity of an opinion piece he had written about a 2001 jaywalking incident.

In a May 11, 2015 blog post, "LAPD's Crosswalk Crackdown; Don't Police Have Something Better to Do?" Rall said a motorcycle cop had handcuffed and roughed him up and thrown his wallet into the gutter.

Rall's columns and cartoons had poked fun at the LAPD and Police Chief Charlie Beck, and he says the department had an ax to grind when it supplied the Times with an almost inaudible copy of a recording that supposedly contradicted Rall's version of the events.

In a note to readers last year, editor Nicholas Goldberg said that a Times investigation and documents provided by the LAPD raised "serious questions about the accuracy of Rall's blog post."

"Based on this, the piece should not have been published," Goldberg wrote. "Rall's future work will not appear in The Times." The Editor's Note is attached as an exhibit to Rall's lawsuit, in which Goldberg is a defendant.

Rall says the Times relied on a poor quality digital copy of the recording, which included only 10 seconds of the conversation from an almost 6-minute encounter.

"I was roughed up, I was mistreated, and I told the truth in that blog," Rall says in the video.

He says he took the file to a Hollywood post-production company that enhanced the tape and revealed a passerby stating that officer should take off the handcuffs, and sounds of a crowd of observers.

After hearing the enhanced audio, the New York Observer, the Pasadena Weekly and The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists voiced their support for Rall. The cartoonist asked the Times for his job back but the paper doubled down, claiming that its own expert had analyzed the tape and found Rall's version of events unsupported, his lawsuit says.

"I took that proof to the LA Times but they didn't listen. I was fired. I was smeared as a liar and a fabulist inside the pages of the LA Times in front of millions of people and they stuck with their story even though they knew that they were wrong," Rall said.

The lengthy lawsuit's 22 pages of exhibits include the column, Goldberg's editor's note, and an 8-page piece by the Times "readers' representative" Deirdre Edgar, "Time reaffirms decision that Ted Rall's blog post did not meet its standards," with Edgar's version of the enhanced audiotape. Edgar too is named as a defendant.

Rall is represented by Carney Shegerian, of Santa Monica, who won a $7.1 million judgment against the Times last year for fired columnist TJ Simers, before a judge voided the award in January.

Shegerian sued the Times again this month, an age discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jeffrey Gottlieb, who says the paper demoted him to writing obituaries after he questioned what it did with the money from another journalism award.

Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon will hear the case at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Department 74 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

Neither the Times nor Shegerian immediately responded to requests for comment.

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