BY JIM DOOLEY – Big Island online journalist Tiffany Edwards Hunt has sued a Puna man for defamation, alleging that he repeatedly posted scurrilous, pornographic cartoons about her after she began researching a news story about cyberbullying.
The lawsuit pits a professional journalist accustomed to the protections of the First Amendment against Thomas Lackey, author of a blog called The Lack, who is likely to claim that those same protections extend to his profane and pugnacious postings.
“The First Amendment is a double-edged sword, it’s a right and a responsibility,” Hunt said today in a telephone interview.
“People shouldn’t be allowed to torment and terrorize in the name of free speech,” she said.
Lackey did not respond to a telephoned request for comment.
Lackey’s most recent cartoon, posted Saturday, depicts a baby preparing to breast feed. The child has the same name as Hunt’s own infant son, Hunt said. In accompanying text, Lackey said he was sure that at least one breastfeeding Big Island mother would be offended by the cartoon and want to have him arrested.
Hunt, publisher of bigislandchronicle.com and past president of the Big Island press club, said Lackey first began posting cartoons about her after she started research on a news story about “cyberbullying and cyberharassment” in November 2011.
After Hunt spoke with a Big Island woman named Kathleen Hancock who has been the target of Lackey cartoons and postings, word of her research circulated on the Internet, according to the suit.
Lackey then warned Hunt on a Puna message board to “be careful (because) I can be a formidable foe,” the lawsuit said.
Ten days later, Lackey posted a cartoon at his site that depicted a woman named Tiffany being sodomized by the ex-husband of a woman named Kathy.
Lackey used an internet technique called “tagging” which connects inquiries about Hunt’s Big Island Chronicle site to Lackey’s blog, according to the suit.
Lackey refused a request from Hunt to remove the cartoon and then posted more “defamatory and pornographic” cartoons, according to the suit.
Hunt tried unsuccessfully to file a criminal harassment complaint against Lackey and failed twice in attempts to obtain a restraining order against him.
Attorney Ted Hong filed the lawsuit against Lackey April 19 in Circuit Court.
Hunt claims in the suit that she is not a public figure, an important legal distinction that would not require her to show that Lackey was motivated by “actual malice” in his allegedly defamatory postings about her.
She said today that “courts need to start addressing” issues of internet defamation and libel.
“It’s been a real eye-opening experience for me,” she said of her experiences with Lackey and internet content generally.
“I’ve had the opportunity to really see how we have to be responsible when we’re publishing,” she said.