Is a $1.75 million lawsuit scarier than one for $25,000? Only if you lose.
Libel is the publication of false and defamatory statements, presented as fact. Where public figures are concerned, there must also be proven â€œactual malice.â€
In other words, you have to publish statements presented as fact that you know to be false, with the intent of doing harm to the person in question. It doesnâ€™t include statements of opinion, just statements presented as fact.
The LetsTalkFrank.com website that generated the threat of a $1.75 million libel suit simply contains public records on file in Anderson County, primarily from the Sheriffâ€™s Department. No claim was made as to the veracity of the statements in the public record, but in my opinion, the women who made those statements had little to gain â€“ and much to lose â€“ by going up against the Probation Director who was in a position to make their lives much more difficult.
Also a matter of public record is the arrest of Beauchamp’s attorney, Michael Wayne Ritter, for DUI on May 9, as published in the Oak Ridger. And his censure by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility in August, 2004. [Hat tip to anotherthing2]
Personally, I wholeheartedly agree with David Stuart that the TBI file should be made public now. The central figure in this investigation is heavily involved in campaigns of several people up for election next Thursday, and the outcome of this election will undoubtedly influence the power wielded by someone with serious ethical allegations outstanding.
LetsTalkFrank.com is up to 4,872 visits and counting — a number bolstered by 350 or so just since the appearance of the most recent Oak Ridger story. All those press releases about lawsuits are driving traffic so fast that it soon won’t matter whether they succeed in getting the site host to take it down… every voter in the county will have already seen it.