MONROE, N.C. (CN) – Attorney Trenton Garmon, known for representing former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore during his controversial U.S. Senate race last year, sued a digital “reputation” manager, saying it failed to bury unflattering media about him.
In a lawsuit filed in the Union County Superior Court in North Carolina, Garmon claims defendant Charlotte Social 360 LLC failed to adequately boost Garmon’s reputation by burying unflattering media and boosting more favorable online content.
Garmon was the attorney for Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, when his client decided to run in the 2017 special election held to file the vacancy arising from Jeff Sessions resignation to serve as U.S. attorney general.
Moore defeated Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who had been named to the senate seat on an interim basis by Gov. Robert Bentley, but his campaign was plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct with minors that purportedly occurred decades ago.
Moore ultimately lost his senate bid to Doug Jones, the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in the Alabama since 1992.
Throughout the campaign, Garmon repeatedly denied the allegations made against Moore and defended his client’s integrity.
Garmon doesn’t mention Moore by name in the complaint, but says he “served and continues to serve as legal counsel in a high-profile case that involves a political figure.”
As recounted in the complaint, Garmon gave two nationally televised interviews on his client’s behalf and thereafter was subjected to a “firestorm of trolling” online.
In response, he says, he reached out to defendant Charlotte Social 360 and its CEO, Thomas Clark Jr., for assistance.
Garmon says based on assurances he received from Clark, he hired the Charlotte Social to boost positive content about him in Google search results, and bury the trolled, negative content.
Garmon claims Clark promised to push all negative content about him past the 20th page of the Google search engine, and that Charlotte Social would unlink attack advertisements on the so-called dark web.
In an interview with Courthouse News, Clark said he did not mean that he could “literally” push this content that deep in the time given.
“I said we could do that, but that I would not recommend it for your purposes. I told him getting content to the 20th page would take a nine to 12 month campaign,” he said.
According to Clark, Garmon agreed to pay for two or three months. “In that amount of time, and I told him this, we could maybe push it back to page three or four,” he said.
The company agreed to charge $3,000 a month for its services.
According to Clark, reputation management is meticulous process involving the systematic output of new content. Completing the demand to move negative content past page 20 in a short timeframe would require a process called de-indexing, he said.
De-indexing is a practice that many in the SEO industry view as unethical because it involves using algorithms to completely wipe the selected type of media off of the search engine.
“Trent wanted those interviews gone fast, but it takes time to suppress bigger media outlets like CNN and that is what I told him,” Clark said. “ He never really listens when people talk to him. I said, ‘Trenton, I think we should start putting this all in writing.’”
Garmon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Clark said his employees worked for 15 days to write positive blogs and edit pre-existing content to boost his image before Garmon requested to immediately cut ties. He does not currently plan to reimburse the plaintiff as he said Garmon did not comply with the company’s 30-day cancellation policy. “He called and screamed at me that he wanted to end services immediately. I asked him if he wanted what we already created and he just kept yelling at me,” Clark said.
Garmon seeks $90,000 in punitive damages and $3,000 in compensatory damages on claims of fraud, detrimental resilience, unjust enrichment and negligence.