By JIM DOOLEY – A Big Island blogger has been ordered to stop posting salacious cartoons and false comments about an online news publisher.
Circuit Judge Glenn Hara issued the injunction against Thomas Lackey, author of a blog called “The Lack,” and also ordered Lackey to remove previous posts concerning Tiffany Edwards Hunt, publisher of The Big Island Chronicle.
Hunt, past president of the Big Island Press Club, sued Lackey for defamation earlier this year, alleging that he posted scurrilous, pornographic cartoons about her after she began researching a news story about cyberbullying.
Attempts by Hunt to pursue criminal charges against Lackey were unsuccessful.
Lackey also posted derogatory comments about Hunt’s husband as well as material that appeared to refer to her newborn child.
In a court hearing last month, Hara pressed Hunt’s lawyer, Steven Strauss, to identify the untrue, defamatory statements which Lackey made about Hunt.
“She’s not a whore. She’s not a prostitute. She does not engage in sex for money. She doesn’t cheat on her husband. She doesn’t engage in in deceptive business practices,” Strauss answered.
Lackey did not attend the hearing.
His defense, according to Strauss, is that he is a cartoonist protected by First Amendment free speech protections.
“He also says that he’s a political cartoonist, although he’s not presented any defense that these are political cartoons,” Strauss told the judge.
“Even so, there are limits to what free speech is,” the lawyer said.
“Mr. Lackey has done the same thing as a neighbor with a megaphone shouting in his neighborhood, ‘Tiffany Edwards Hunt is a whore,’” Strauss continued.
“The electronic medium doesn’t change it. And the court has the power to stop it,” he said.
Hara expressed concern that Hunt could be considered a public figure, held to a higher standard of proof when pursuing libel and defamation claims.
Her principal attorney, Ted Hong, who was absent from the July hearing before Hara, said in court papers that she has met that standard if it does apply to her.
Lackey’s “statements and cartoons were clearly intended to humiliate and intimidate” Hunt, Hong said.
“The defamatory statements about (Hunt’s) sexual chastity were not simply expressing (Lackey’s) feelings or opinion about certain issues,” Hong argued.
The statements “were part of a coordinated plan to utterly humiliate and debase the plaintiff, as publicly as possible,” Hong said.