$2M defamation suit against bloggers

HOBOKEN AND BEYOND — What is the line between free speech and defaming someone? In a case that could have far-reaching implications, two Hoboken activists are suing two Hoboken-based bloggers and 10 unnamed internet commenters for allegedly making “false and defamatory” posts about them.

Hoboken resident Lane Bajardi and wife Kimberly Cardinal Bajardi filed the lawsuit on July 26 in Hudson County Superior Court seeking $2 million in damages, naming bloggers Roman Brice and Nancy Pincus as well as 10 unnamed defendants – listed in the court documents by their on-line screen names – for allegedly posting repeated remarks that allegedly interfered with the business practices of the Bajardi family.

Lane Bajardi is employed by WINS 1010 and has been a radio reporter for many years.

The posts also made reference to the couple’s child, who is a minor. The posts about the child can still be found in the comments section of a local news web site and were under an article unrelated to the Bajardis.

Pincus maintains a blog as the Grafix Avenger but is also a member of the Hoboken Zoning Board, allied with City Hall.

The suit alleges that Pincus contacted Bajardi’s employer by email in January of 2012 claiming that he spreads “bigotry and intolerance” in Hoboken as an political operative.

The comments on the child were left in the comments section of the news web site Hoboken Patch. Someone posting as the “Grafix Avenger” posted the same comments about the child on Friday, Jan. 27 at 7:37 a.m., and then again at 8:10 a.m., and then at 9:18 a.m.

The comments were left after an article about Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s state of the union address.
Pincus and Brice frequently post pro-City Hall stories on their blogs and negative posts against the administration’s critics, including the Bajardis. The Bajardis are said to be supporters of one of Mayor Zimmer’s most vocal political critics, Councilwoman Beth Mason.

The lawsuit also included an online letter to the FBI from Pincus’ blog, in which Pincus said she would like to shoot someone — an act she later called satire.

The Grafix Avenger blog has also accused the Bajardis of numerous crimes, referenced the street where they live, and in a recent post, published what the blog said was a photo of the Bajardi’s residence in downtown Hoboken.

The suit claims that Pincus, Brice and other unnamed defendants routinely posted comments that “inflected emotional distress” on the couple.

Pincus was asked to step down from the Zoning Board last year by Councilman Tim Occhipinti after she made the post about wanting to shoot someone. The issue became public after Pincus was visited by police. At the time, Pincus said the letter was satire, and noted that among the other items in the letter was the use of the Vulcan Death Grip – a reference to a fictional science fiction martial arts from the Star Trek TV show.

This week, Pincus refrained from comment on the story except to say that it was an attempt to curb free speech.

Brice has posted a similar comment on his blog, calling the suit a SLAPP suit, which is a lawsuit designed to use litigation to silence critics.

Pincus also was the focus of controversy in which she was accused of using Nazi images to depict political enemies – a charge she refuted, but she eventually offered an apology to a state Jewish group. She said that the post in question was satire. Pincus is Jewish.

In 2010, Brice accused Lane Bajardi of allegedly assaulting him and taking his camera during a Board of Education candidate’s forum. Bajardi filed a counter complaint and the matter was eventually dropped.

The suit said false and defamatory comments concerning the Bajardi couple were also posted under pseudonyms Bet Mazin, KlaussennFluffer, InfortainMe, SmartyJones, BludDiamonds, JAM, Redrider765, Plywood, Davidd, ss1959, Hobbs, and others.

Dozens of posts against the Bajardis can be found on the blogs and on the internet.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer has said in the past that Hoboken’s pro-Zimmer bloggers do not speak on her behalf.

Last week, she was asked if she had any comment about the suit, and about the fact that one of the named bloggers was on the Zoning Board. She responded, “I don’t really know about the litigation so I don’t have any comment. I couldn’t possibly comment on something that I haven’t seen. Plus, it doesn’t involve me so I don’t think it’s really appropriate for me to comment on it.”

News stories about the lawsuit only hit the media over the weekend.

With the 2013 mayoral election coming up, the issue is likely to become more heated, as are the internet comments.

Read more: Hudson Reporter – Free speech or libel Hoboken couple files 2M defamation suit against bloggers

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