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Parliamentary Privilege & Libel Laws


Guest Eugene B. Connolly
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With the question of lawsuits raised on the forum recently, a few questions come to mind.

1) Since this is an international forum on the internet, in what legal jurisdiction would one file a lawsuit? In the jurisdiction where the offending party posted the offending piece? And what if the offending party lives in one jurisdiction, but posted while on a business trip out of his region, or from another nation? If I live in Alabama, for example, but post something deemed offensive to someone who lives in Australia...and post it while on a business trip to London...which court has jurisdiction? Since the person offended may have read the offending piece in his own home, did the offense occur in Australia? Or London, the location from which the offending piece was posted? Or Alabama, if the offending party is normally domiciled and posting from that location, and the offended party has no knowledge of the London business trip?

2) Since it would be impossible for the hosts of this forum to investigate every claim in every post by every forum member--and financailly ruinous to attempt to do so, since there are forum members from nearly every corner of the globe--at what point does the liability of the forum hosts begin and end...and under which nation's laws?

I believe that the threat of legal action against the forum hosts is a not-so-subtle attempt to silence the forum itself. After all, it's much less difficult for John et al to terminate the forum than to incur the expense of flying across oceans and hiring legal counsel to defend what might be ruled a frivolous lawsuit. Of course, John and company might then sue to recover their expenses in defending their case, but by that time a considerable amount of time and effort may have been expended, for which they may recover nothing at all.

For this reason, I believe that the forum hosts might want to add a disclaimer, something to the effect that the posts by members of the forum reflect the opinions of the respective members doing the posting, and do not necessarily reflect those of the hosts themselves or the hosting organization. While such a disclaimer might not absolve the forum hosts in all legal jurisdictions or all situations, it would send a clear message of intent, i.e., it it not the intent of this forum or its hosts to intentional slander or libel anyone, living or dead, real or imagined.

While this might not dissuade the most militant folks with an agenda, it might discourage others who become momentarily offended from taking what would amount to unnecessary legal action.

Or not.

[Note to Tim: This post was primarily written tongue-in-cheek, but with an intentional "sideswipe" at the serious. I hope and pray that you will find no grounds to file any sort of civil suit against me in this post, as I have conscientiously refrained from mentioning your name in any part of the post EXCEPT this note which is directed to you.]

Edited by Mark Knight
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""For this reason, I believe that the forum hosts might want to add a disclaimer, something to the effect that the posts by members of the forum reflect the opinions of the respective members doing the posting, and do not necessarily reflect those of the hosts themselves or the hosting organization. While such a disclaimer might not absolve the forum hosts in all legal jurisdictions or all situations, it would send a clear message of intent, i.e., it it not the intent of this forum or its hosts to intentional slander or libel anyone, living or dead, real or imagined.

While this might not dissuade the most militant folks with an agenda, it might discourage others who become momentarily offended from taking what would amount to unnecessary legal action.""

Well said Mark.....

Such as below....in some areas....

http://www.jfklancerforum.com/

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Bernice pointed out that the rules of the JFK Lancer Forum contain the following:

Do not post anything illegal or injurious (including libelous, defamatory, or abusive statements, obscenity, profanity, or pornography). Do not link, in any post, to pages elsewhere on the Web that violate either these rules or their spirit.

To Mark:

The issues that you raise re jurisdiction are interesting.

Certainly someone offended by libelous statements on this Form could sue in Great Britain. As I understand it, the libel laws of England are famously "plaintiff-friendly" (which is probably why Roman Polanski is now suing "Vanity Fair" in English courts). Most likely, an injured party could also bring suit in the jurisdiction where he or she resides.

Also, of course, one need not be a Forum member to sue if he or she id libeled on the Forum.

In my opinion, one who publishes on the Internet does have an obligation to "police" the posts made, at least for statements that are libelous. And the accusation of participation in a crime is clearly so.

Unfortunately, my patience is now wearing thin. Now John and Robert are claiming (with no basis whatsoever) that I somehow "browbeat" Turner into telling the truth. I will say this publicly: I am growing increasingly tired of the personal attacks on me. If I have to sue to stop them, I am prepared to do so. Then I can take the deposition of Mr. Turner to disprove the most recent implications against me. For those who do not want to see that happen, perhaps a suggestion to John that it is high time to drop the attacks against Tim might be in order.

As John Dolva has suggested, it is time to get on with the research into the assassination of the president.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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In my opinion, one who publishes on the Internet does have an obligation to "police" the posts made, at least for statements that are libelous.  And the accusation of participation in a crime is clearly so.

Unfortunately, my patience is now wearing thin.  Now John and Robert are claiming (with no basis whatsoever) that I somehow "browbeat" Turner into telling the truth.  I will say this publicly:  I am growing increasingly tired of the personal attacks on me.  If I have to sue to stop them, I am prepared to do so.  Then I can take the deposition of Mr. Turner to disprove the most recent implications against me.  For those who do not want to see that happen, perhaps a suggestion to John that it is high time to drop the attacks against Tim might be in order.

It now seems Tim is threatening to sue people because they are asking him questions. This is what I had to say that Tim appears to object to:

I emailed William Turner a couple of days ago and asked him to join the Forum to discuss his books on the JFK assassination. He was interested in doing this until he received a phone call from Tim. This is what he had to say:

Last night Timothy Gratz called. I have no idea where he got my number. He pressed me on the Bremer thing. I told him I didn't have a clue on how Dick Sprague got his info. I never talked to Sprague about the Bremer case. I never heard of Gratz before. The only piece I had done on the Bremer case was a chapter in "Government by Gunplay," and he wasn't in it. He rambled on about how he met Gordon Winslow and so forth. I found the call disturbing. I don't think I want to become involved in this kind of thing.

What did you do Tim? Did you tell him you were a lawyer? Did you threaten to sue him? Why did he find your phone call so disturbing?

As a lawyer, could you explain how this libels you? Your threats of legal action will not stop me from asking you questions? Nor will I suspect it deter Robert. However, it might have an impact on some of our more younger members. This attempt to restrict people’s freedom of speech will not be tolerated. If you do it again your comments will be deleted. The administrators will also have to consider if it is in the interests of the Forum for you to be a member of this Forum.

I suspect this is once again an attempt to divert the Forum away from some uncomfortable questions you have been asked. This includes questions about what political activities you were involved in during the run up to the 1972 presidential election and the reasons why you ceased to work as a lawyer.

If you really are interested in taking me to court I suggest you keep a close look at this thread:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4487

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This may not be directly following this thread, but it does relate to the overall feel of it.

Several months ago, I was attacked by a whacko on the Lancer Forum. This individual was as far out in left field as one can get. He attacked me here on John's forum with such a vengence as to repeat his psychotic ramblings on everything I posted. He then e-mailed my chief and made rediculous accusations against me and accused me of threatening him with bodily harm, by mix-matching my posts in order to twist my words into sounding close to threats. I posted on Lancer asking Debra to remove this individual or I would walk. Debra replied with statements that I needed to grow up and I was too thinned skinned. I have presented at Lancer in 2001 and provided material to her sister's presentation later, when I was unable to attend. Besides that, I walked from Lancer and have not posted since, nor will I again. I then made a request to John to remove this whacko from this forum and he saw the need and did so. The individual I am referring to is back posting at Lancer, but is nowhere to be found on the education forum.

The short of it, if one does not like what is going on one forum, then walk away! Get a life if you are considering lawsuites on an education forum that is intended to further the investigation of such a miscarriage of justice as the JFK assassination. You are puting yourself above the cause!!!

I spent ten years researching without coming forward in the research community. I scoured over what was being printed and posted and weighed the material without interaction. I can't say I have gained a great deal by interacting, beyond what I was doing before, other than what I have gained in one-on-one interaction with select individuals that I have kept contact with since coming out into the research community.

I am not saying that I do not learn and put certain aspects into perspective on a regular basis by visiting the forum, but it is not neccessary to interact in order to gain from what is being posted. I am a serious researcher and am very open minded when it comes to weighing new evidence and angles of evidence and testimony. I have learned from new researchers as much as old as they have a new perspective in regards to what has been out their. I have contributed as much as possible in need of new perspectives, but it can be done without my direct input as the topics and issues will eventually come up.

For those of you who threaten lawsuites, shame on you for being so narrow minded and puting yourself on a pedestal above all else!!!

John should be free to run this forum as he sees fit! If you don't like it, then take a walk!!!

Al

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John, I never engaged in any illegal campaign activities.

I never did anything to intimidate Mr. Turner. I complemented him on his work, just as I have done here on the Forum. When the conversation was over, I thanked him for his time. He never seemed upset with my questions or with the call and he freely answered my questions to him. (Basically, all he said was: 1. He had never heard my name before; 2. He had never written anything linking either me or Segretti to Bremer. 3. He had never had any discussion with Sprague about what Segretti or me. 4. He had no information to link Segretti with Bremer.)

This information should have completely exonerated me. He repeated the same information to you (although you did not answer MY question whether you communicated with him by phone or e-mail).

Rather than posting that I was exonerated because the source Sprague cited for his comment about me said he had no idea what Sprague was talking about, you implied that I had somehow threatened or intimidated Turner. Into what? He confirmed the same information to you.

I suspect that if I recontact Turner he will confirm that I had a polite conversation with him. Is it really necessary to do that?

And now you seem to be implying that I was involved in some other nefarious activity of the Nixon campaign--without any factual basis for such implication.

I think a lot of Forum members think it is time this whole thing should stop so we can concentrate on the Kennedy assassination.

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In my opinion, one who publishes on the Internet does have an obligation to "police" the posts made, at least for statements that are libelous.  And the accusation of participation in a crime is clearly so.

In which "crime" are you alleged to have participated?  Who made such allegations?  For my own part, I have attempted to deduce how it was that such an allegation was made against you decades ago, and have done nothing but question its validity.  How, pray tell, does this constitute an "attack" upon you?  You can still distinguish between defense and prosecution, can't you?

Unfortunately, my patience is now wearing thin.  Now John and Robert are claiming (with no basis whatsoever) that I somehow "browbeat" Turner into telling the truth. 

Citation please.  I recall saying nothing about you browbeating anyone.  You have bored certain among us to tears with your incessant and unsubstantiated Castro obsession, but you've not browbeaten anyone other than Shanet, from what I can gather. 

I will say this publicly:  I am growing increasingly tired of the personal attacks on me.  If I have to sue to stop them, I am prepared to do so.  Then I can take the deposition of Mr. Turner to disprove the most recent implications against me.  For those who do not want to see that happen, perhaps a suggestion to John that it is high time to drop the attacks against Tim might be in order.

Or, for starters, perhaps you could be more specific about these "personal attacks?"  Was there something that I missed?  If not, perhaps it's time that you do, finally, get a grip, dear boy. 

In the meantime, the following is the most recent of my posts on the Tim/Turner issue.  Could you please identify the passage in which I state or imply that you "browbeat" Turner, or in which you feel I "personally attacked" you, Tim?

QUOTE ON

John, I thought I had a pleasant conversation with Mr. Turner.  He never seemed disturbed by it.  He seemed quite pleasant and willing to answer the few questions I had for him.

And yet Turner has now declined John's invitation to join us here, which it seems he had accepted, prior to receiving your phone call.  You sure have a way with people, Tim.  Must be your many years in the hospitality industry.

Mr. Turner never asked me how I got his number (nor do I want to publicly disclose at this time how I got it.)

When you first posted your commentary with Turner, I wondered how you obtained the phone number.  William Turner's a pretty common name, and there are many hundreds of them lisited in California.  From his reaction to your call, as recounted in John's prior post, it seems to be an unlisted number in any event, which is the only way Turner could be surprised that you obtained it.

Yet, now you wish to keep that source a great, deep, dark secret.  Could it be G-o-r-d-o-n-W-i-n-s-l-o-w?  You know, the guy who collects researchers' phone numbers and addresses by pretending it'll help put them in touch with like-minded researchers.... ?

I told him how I had become reinterested in the Kennedy assassination in part by "bumping into " Gordon Winslow when he checked into the hotel where I was working.

BINGO!  Gee, the oddest people, with the strangest agendas, keep showing up at hotels where you work, Tim.  Donald Segretti, Tony Ulasewicz, Gordon Winslow, the Cuban exile relative you recently alluded to but wouldn't name....  Fascinating.

I never told Mr. Turner I was a lawyer.  Nor did I threaten to sue him.  Why would I threaten to sue him when he supported the fact that he never had any information connecting me to Bremer?  And who would you not just ask him those questions?

Given the empty but blustery legal threats you've made here in the recent past, it's a perfectly valid question to ask.  Surely something you said to Turner disinclined him to participate here when he had previously agreed to do so, by the sound of it.  It sure doesn't seem like Turner felt he was on the receiving end of a major charm offensive, now does it?    

You do not state whether you had a phone conversation with Mr. Turner which you are paraphrasing or if what you posted came in an e-mail.  If it was an e-mail, why not post the entire exchange?

The important thing is that he confirmed he had never even heard my name.

I suggest (speculate) he might have been disturbed by the fact that through my phone call he learned that his name was being bandied about on the forum as the source of information which he knew was not true.

That's a possible rationale, although the least likely for a former FBI man.  Turner is not some quivering pansy, nor has he been out to lunch for the past 30-plus years.  I know for a fact that he has been in contact with several other 'name-brand' assassination researchers over those same decades, and would bet dollars to donuts that this is not the first time that he's been asked about the allegations contained in Sprague's book.  If so, one wonders - as John asked - what made this particular inquiry so "disturbing?" 

But again you have now answered the request of Robert and Bernice that what Mr. Turner told me be independently verified.

QUOTE OFF

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Robert, first let me just point out to you that I included you in the short list of people with enough acumen to see through the statement in Sprague's book attempting to link me with Bremer. I have NEVER said that you have ever implied that I was involved with a crime. I assume you read my post to that effect.

Second, maybe I need to retract that first paragraph, since I see that you accuse me of boring you to tears with my posts on the "Castro scenario". If boring someone to tears is NOT a crime, it certainly should be.

(It is necessary to add a disclaimer that the second paragraph was a joke since people cannot always tell the difference!)

Rereading your post, I agree that you did not directly accuse me of "browbeating" Mr. Turner but you did seem to agree with John's questions implying that I said something that could disturb Mr. Turner. As I said in a previous post, I am quite confident that Mr. Turner would confirm that I was nothing but polite and civil to him (perhaps I did "ramble"; I can have a tendency to do that). So Robert if you did not mean to imply that I somehow threatened Mr. Turner, I will happily withdraw the statement to which you objected.

I am just upset that John seems to want to prolong this. I ought not have to recontact Mr. Turner, or have someone do so on my behalf.

In my opinion, John should never have allowed Shanet's post because if questioned by John Shanet would have admitted he made it up. And now that Turner has stated that he never had any information linking me to Bremer, I think John should simply admit I have been exonerated so we can get on with more productive efforts re the Kennedy assassination. Instead, he now implies that I may have been involved with some other nefarious activities originating in the Nixon White House--without any basis for that, of course.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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John, I want to repeat my request that you post your entire e-mail exchange with Mr. Turner because I suspect that it will demonstrate that I said nothing improper to him mor said anything to disturb him. I infer that he was disturbed by the way his name was bandied about on this Forum, as someone who had linked me to Arthur Bremer.

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Second, maybe I need to retract that first paragraph, since I see that you accuse me of boring you to tears with my posts on the "Castro scenario".  If borinf someone with tears is NOT a crime, it certainly should be.

(It is necessary to add a disclaimer that the second paragraph was a joke since people cannot always tell the difference!)

Your sense of humour has survived intact, I see.  Good. 

However, Tim, it really is poor form to threaten to sue people left and right.  You see, it leads to people asking you - as John suspected you may have done with Turner - if you'd also threatened Turner with a suit.  And even if you hadn't done that in a phone call with Turner, your post directly above threatens to take a deposition from Turner, thereby involving him in a suit, over this quite innocuous non-issue.  If Turner suspected from your phone call that there was a bad pissing match developing that might somehow embroil him, your post above would surely confirm that suspicion, wouldn't it?

Personally, I don't take your poorly-veiled threats against me seriously.  I know you have no legal basis for a suit against me, that you would be hard pressed to demonstrate any financial loss sustained by you as a result of my posts, and I suspect you don't have the resources necessary to mount a suit in any event, based upon your various past posts claiming penury.  Your bluster may have proved sufficient to silence Shanet.  Your empty-handed poker bluffs do not frighten me, sir. 

I do, however, take great umbrage when you make such threats against this Forum, and against John personally.  It is a poor guest indeed who accepts a host's hospitality, wears out his welcome and then threatens legal action.  Such people are rarely invited back, Tim, for the same reasons that hotels maintain a "do not rent" list of people who aren't welcome back.  No doubt in your line of work, you've encountered just such "guests," and find their behaviour as unjustified as I think are your most recent hissy fits.  Please do retract your threats before John puts out the "unwelcome" mat for you.

   

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Robert, you are certainly astute enough to understand that I never threatened a lawsuit against you. For what, for heaven's sake? As I have now said at least TWICE you were one of the apparently few Forum members wise enough to suspect there were problems with what Sprague wrote about Bremer. I do not seek to either silence or bluff you.

But how do you defend Shanet? He admitted he made up a post in which he claimed he had friends or acquaintances in Wisconsin who would link me to Bremer.

Re threats against the Forum, I simply renew my statement that I believe any web-master has an obligation to verify that defamatory statements are not published on his web-site. I think John should have asked Shanet for the factual basis for the post he made, and when Shanet disclosed he had none, John should have removed it. That issue has been resolved because Shanet has now admitted he made it up.

And I want to re-emphasize that before the start of this personal imbriglio, I had personally warned John in a private e-mail to be careful about allowing defamation of living individuals. That was no attempt to censor the Forum. I cannot even remember the statement that prompted that e-mail to John. But it was sent out of concern to him.

Robert, do you agree or disagree that a web-master has a legal (and I submit ethical) duty to verify the factual predicate of a post that accuses someone from participating in a crime? (This question is NOT intended to imply that you have ever done so. In fact, let us consider it a general question.) It is an important question and is in fact the actual subject matter which started this particular thread.

P.S. Robert: I knew you were joshin' when you said my Castro posts bored you to tears. I suspect they may have bored you (although one would never know it by the vigor and ferventness of your replies) but not to tears. You do not seem the tearful type. In fact, I am curious about that entire phrase. Have you ever approached anyone who was crying, asked him or her why the tears, and received as a response: "I'm BORED!"?

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Robert, you are certainly astute enough to understand that I never threatened a lawsuit against you.  For what, for heaven's sake?  As I have now said at least TWICE you were one of the apparently few Forum members wise enough to suspect there were problems with what Sprague wrote about Bremer.  I do not seek to either silence or bluff you.

Really?  How do you square this with the following, posted by you only hours ago:  "Now John and Robert are claiming (with no basis whatsoever) that I somehow "browbeat" Turner into telling the truth. I will say this publicly: I am growing increasingly tired of the personal attacks on me. If I have to sue to stop them, I am prepared to do so."  When asked to cite such a "personal attack" from me, you replied with glad-handing and back-slapping, but no writ.  As I said to you some time back, the only thing worse than making a threat is making an empty one.  It illustrates a lack of substance that doesn't reflect well on the bully making it.

But how do you defend Shanet?  He admitted he made up a post in which he claimed he had friends or acquaintances in Wisconsin who would link me to Bremer.

First you interpreted Shanet's statements to suit your agenda of playing the injured party, and now do so again.  Shanet said he had friends in Wisconsin who were aware of a number of illegal activities directed against them, but at no time stated that these friends were in a position to place you and Arthur Bremer together for any purpose.  That was your hyperbolic misinterpretation then and remains unchanged now.  I did not defend him then, and don't do so now, because his words did not connote what you have inferred.  One cannot sue for being unable to read, or reason, or for being thin-skinned. 

Re threats against the Forum, I simply renew my statement that I believe any web-master has an obligation to verify that defamatory statements are not published on his web-site.  I think John should have asked Shanet for the factual basis for the post he made, and when Shanet disclosed he had none, John should have removed it.  That issue has been resolved because Shanet has now admitted he made it up.

Again, you misstate the facts.  Shanet apologized unreservedly because at no time did he intend to imply what you inferred.  The error was yours, not his.

And I want to re-emphasize that before the start of this personal imbriglio, I had personally warned John in a private e-mail to be careful about allowing defamation of living individuals.  That was no attempt to censor the Forum.  I cannot even remember the statement that prompted that e-mail to John.  But it was sent out of concern to him.

Robert, do you agree or disagree that a web-master has a legal (and I submit ethical) duty to verify the factual predicate of a post that accuses someone from participating in a crime?  (This question is NOT intended to imply that you have ever done so.  In fact, let us consider it a general question.)  It is an important question and is in fact the actual subject matter which started this particular thread.

You cannot misinterpret somebody's statements in order to claim you are an injured party, and then sue based upon your misinterpretation.  Fact of life, old chum.  I suspect John had no trouble discerning precisely what Shanet wrote, because he can read.  Had Shanet actually written "My friends can place Gratz and Bremer together" - which he did not do, your skewed interpretation notwithstanding - I'm sure John might have taken a different course.  However, then threatening to sue John was unlikely to convert him to your cause, in my opinion.  It sure wouldn't - and doesn't, per the above - ingratiate you to me.

P.S. Robert:  I knew you were joshin' when you said my Castro posts bored you to tears. 

Not "me," Tim.  Us!

I suspect they may have bored you (although one would never know it by the vigor and ferventness of your replies) but not to tears.  You do not seem the tearful type.  In fact, I am curious about that entire phrase.  Have you ever approached anyone who was crying, asked him or her why the tears, and received as a response: "I'm BORED!"?

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Robert, here is exactly what Shanet wrote:

They [my friends in Wisconsin] have told me about personal knowledge they had of the manipulation of Arthur Bremer. This is a sad story, one tied to CHAOS and MOCKINGBIRD.

It is absolutely appalling that one of our most vocal FORUM members was at the center of this effort

Now you know that "one of . . . our Forum members" was an obvious reference to me.

It is rather clear is it not that Shanet was stating his friends connected me with the manipulation of Bremer? He made no reference to the Sprague book. Nor does the Sprague book state that I was "at the center" of the Bremer manipulation. That had to come from his supposed Wisconsin sources.

And I could be wrong but if Shanet actually had friends who knew something about the manipulation of Bremer don't you suppose he would have posted that very important information?

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Robert, here is exactly what Shanet wrote:

They [my friends in Wisconsin] have told me about personal knowledge they had of the manipulation of Arthur Bremer. This is a sad story, one tied to CHAOS and MOCKINGBIRD.

It is absolutely appalling that one of our most vocal FORUM members was at the center of this effort

Now you know that "one of . . . our Forum members" was an obvious reference to me.

Maybe, Shanet did mean you, but he does not actually say that. You will need something more definite than that to win a libel action.

Of course, even if he did, you would still not have a case against him. Read again what he said? I read it very carefully and that is the reason I refused to delete it.

No wonder you are no longer a lawyer? I notice you have still not explained why you stopped being a lawyer. Did you take on too many failed libel cases?

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