SAN MARCOS, Texas (CN) – A Texas man who claims he worked as an FBI informant during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul says The New York Times defamed him in an article that claimed he was part of a conspiracy to bomb the meeting.
In his federal complaint, Brandon Darby describes himself as a community organizer who worked as an undercover informant for the FBI during the convention.
According to the complaint: “Mr. Darby’s services to the FBI at the RNC led to the FBI’s seizures of 34 riot shields constructed by convention protestors. The 34 seized riot shields were made by convention protestors for purposes of engaging in violent acts against law-enforcement authorities at the RNC.
“Following the seizure of the homemade riot shields, and in escalating response thereto, two Texan protestors who took part in the construction of the seized riot shields then manufactured eight Molotov cocktail bombs.”
Darby claims the two men – David Guy McKay and Bradley Neal Crowder – “built the bombs specifically to use and detonate upon police officers and political delegates at the convention, and to otherwise violently disrupt the RNC.”
He claims the men were arrested thanks to his tips to the FBI.
“Crowder pled guilty to criminal charges stemming from the bomb plot and was sentenced to 24 months for his crimes,” according to the complaint.
McKay went to trial, and “McKay’s initial trial defense was based in part upon an assertion that McKay was acting under the influence of, or was entrapped by, the FBI’s undercover asset, Mr. Darby,” the complaint states.
But Darby said McKay ended up pleading guilty and was sentenced to 48 months in prison. Darby claims that in McKay’s allocution in open court in May 2009, he said: “I embellished – I guess I actually lied – that Brandon Darby came up with the idea to make Molotov cocktails.”
Nonetheless, Darby says, The New York Times reported on Feb. 22 this year that he “had encouraged” the bomb plot.
The article was published under the headline, “Anarchist Ties Seen in ’08 Bombing of Texas Governor’s Mansion.”
According to Darby’s complaint: “The substance of the NYT article is the reported establishment of a link by law enforcement authorities between the group(s) or individual(s) who infamously firebombed the Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin in June 2008, and the group(s) or individual(s) involved in the aforementioned RNC bomb plot of September 2008. The relevant portion of the NYT article is reprinted below. The ‘two men’ referenced in the excerpt are McKay and Crowder.
“‘Yet federal agents accused two men from these circles of plotting to make firebombs and hurl them at police cars during the convention. An FBI informant from Austin, Brandon Darby, was traveling with the group and told the authorities of the plot, which he had encouraged.'”
Darby’s complaint continues: “The everyday and ordinary meaning of the language in the NYT article is clear, unambiguous and presented as a crisp statement of fact: according to the New York Times, Darby ‘encouraged’ the September 2008 RNC bomb plot.”
Darby claims that in early March, a Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter alerted The New York Times that its article was erroneous, and the author of the Times article, Houston bureau chief James McKinley, responded with a short email: “‘Thanks for your letter and for straightening us out on that point. Yours. Jim,'” according to the complaint.
Darby claims that the email “is a clear and unambiguous admission of the New York Times factually untrue reporting of Mr. Darby’s actions set forth in the NYT article.”
He continues: “The content and allegations contained in the NYT article are so appalling and so odious – that a person working undercover in the service of the FBI at serious risk to his own safety, actually encouraged the commission of an act of political terror – that Mr. Darby is devastated. Brandon Darby’s reputation has been shattered by the New York Times published statement of ‘fact’ that Darby is a criminal, unindicted co-conspirator, or similar, in a 2008 plot to firebomb a national political convention.”
Darby seeks punitive damages for libel and gross negligence.
He is represented by Robert Kleinman of Austin.