Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Posts tagged ‘Internet free speech’

Misportrayals of my Views on Libel Law

Contrary to more misportrayals, as usual, of my views on that other WordPress blog by saying I am on the “wrong side of a legal debate”, anyone even remotely familiar with my views would immediately recognize that I am completely opposed to the proposed criminal libel law in North Carolina and am very glad to hear it got struck down and agree, it would have been the worst libel law, ever, my worst nightmare when it comes to suppression of internet free speech.  In my prior posting about criminal libel law in Florida, that law is not nearly as sweeping and applies only to very specific forms of speech and was not specifically about the internet, not all internet speech and I never said I was in favor of it. I was simply noting that it existed, leaving the door open for prosecution, should the anonymous posters who are posting obscene lies about me be identified. I was noting that as an item of interest and also noted that I wasn’t even sure if it had been recently enforced, as it appears to be one of those antiquated laws. In Florida, it is also still illegal for unmarried people of the opposite sex who are couples to live together but of course, hundreds of thousands of couples in Florida do and it is not enforced and this obviously outdated law should be taken off the books.

Only someone who is either extremely deficient in thinking skills or who is deliberately attempting to mislead people about my views would conclude I would support such a law. If anyone is on the wrong side of that debate, it would be Ronald S. Federici, who tried (and ultimately failed) to gain jurisdiction over several defendants from out of state in his internet defamation lawsuits, so it would seem to me that the NC proposed law would be right up his alley. Plus, since it would criminalize defamation, it would spear him the expense of having to hire a lawyer, although the disadvantage would be that he’d have to convince the State to press charges, which would be highly unlikely since so far he has been unable to state a claim that was acceptable to the court (e.g. his Federal case against me was dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted). Nevertheless, if that law had been in existence in Virginia, Ronald Federici could have gained jurisdiction over all of his defendants, had he been able to state a claim. Go here for documents which show that it is Ronald S. Federici who repeatedly tried to get defendants brought in from out of state so he could sue them for internet defamation, conspiracy and tortious interference. However, a Federal judge put an end to that by overruling the decision of a small claims court judge (Federici also lost the small claims cases against Mercer, Miller and Advocates for Children in Therapy, but the judge in that case had stated that he believed Virginia had jurisdiction over them — however when case law was presented to the Federal judge in his later lawsuit, it was ruled that Virginia does not have jurisdiction over any of the defendants and that the mere fact that people in Virginia read the postings was not sufficient reason for Virginia to have jurisdiction. A law like the one proposed in NC, however, would have changed that).

In any case, I completely agree that the NC law would have completely killed Constitutional rights to free speech and I am adamantly opposed to it and overjoyed that it was defeated. Is that clear enough for you, anonymous cyber smear campaigners? It is well known that I publicly support anti-SLAPP legislation and the kind of law that was proposed in NC could have encouraged all kinds of frivolous lawsuits and had horrific unintended consequences.

What I do think is that something needs to be done about is extreme cases of obviously malicious fabrications being posted on the internet that can wreck a person’s life. Now that is draconian. That is something our Constitution does not guarantee and that, under law, is subject to usually civil defamation statutes. What still needs to be worked out is how to deal with anonymous people on the internet who are getting away with this. The fact that such postings can come from outside the US makes this issue particularly complicated and problematic and I, for one, am not so arrogant as to presume that I have the answer for how to deal with this. There are no easy answers to this and since the internet is still relatively new, this is something that probably won’t be worked out for years. Also, wording of such a law needs to be worked out so that it would clearly distinguish between people who are posting malicious lies designed to wreck a person’s life and people who are exercising their legitimate constitutional rights to free speech by expressing opinions and the facts, as they sincerely understand them.

On the one hand, people do need to remain free to exercise their right to free speech, which includes the right to express opinions, including criticism that people might not like and well documented facts. What free speech does not include, however, is malicious lies and outright fabrications of the sort that have been posted about me, for example, copying a posting from a website, altering it and then putting my name in it, something I recently caught the internet smear campaigners doing, red handed. That is a clear demonstration of malice and deliberately posting falsehoods that would even win a case against a public figure. However, in this particular case, I didn’t even need to go to the law. The website owner, once I presented him/her with the evidence, much to their credit, had the decency to remove the posting. However, he/she didn’t have to and not all website owners would have done so. So thank you, Liars and  Cheaters RS, for being decent and honest human beings. Sadly, not every website owner is and hence, the need for some kind of carefully and clearly worded law, not the proposed and now-defeated NC law.

So yes, the State of North Carolina went way overboard and their proposed legislation, I am very happy to report, was defeated. However, that does not mean that anything should go when it comes to malicious fabrications being posted on the internet. Ultimate, however, I believe the solution lies not with the passage of legislation, which will always have its limitations, but with teaching people to critically evaluate statements that are made, rather than believe everything they read on the internet. Were people capable of doing this, it wouldn’t matter what was posted and Google would have to re-evaluate its search algorithms if it wanted to be credible.

Once again, the anonymous smear campaigners appear incapable of telling the difference between legitimate free speech and malicious defamation.

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Advocates for Children in Therapy Statement about Ronald Federici’s Lawsuits

Advocates for Children in Therapy (ACT), a non-profit advocacy organization, has now made a statement about Ronald Federici’s three attempts to sue them, first in small claims court where he lost against defendants ACT, Jean Mercer and Charly Miller, next in an appeal against those same defendants which he nonsuited and third in a case that was dismissed by a Virginia Federal judge in Eastern District Court of Virginia against those same defendants plus Linda Rosa, Larry Sarner and Monica Pignotti.  ACT also commented on the internet smear campaign. The statement can be read on ACT’s website.

 

 

Federici v Pignotti et al. Dismissal Hearing Transcript Now Available

The full March 4, 2011 dismissal hearing transcript for Ronald Federici v Monica Pignotti et al. is now available via the Citizen Media Law website and can be downloaded by going here.

The transcript shows that the case was dismissed for all named defendants (Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Larry Sarner, Linda Rosa and Advocates for Children in Therapy) on the grounds of jurisdiction and additionally dismissed for Mercer and Pignotti for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [Note that contrary to misportrayals elsewhere, this was not a “split decision”. The reason it was granted for only two of the defendants is that we had different legal representation that plead that way. In other words, the other defendants did not ask for the case to be dismissed on failure to state a claim, hence the judge did not consider that, as he did for us. The difference simply reflects different strategies used by different lawyers. All defendants were granted every motion for dismissal they made.]

Regarding this failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the honorable Gerald Bruce Lee stated (p. 32):

The defamation claim, there’s a motion to dismiss filed by Pignotti and Mercer that does not state a claim for defamation or tortious interference with contract rights or business expectancy. I’m going to grant that motion for several reasons. First of all, as it relates to the statements themselves, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts connecting Mercer with any actionable statements.

And as it relates to Pignotti, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts to demonstrate a claim that would meet the requirements of libel under Virginia law and the Chapin versus Knight-Ridder case. The words specifically claimed are not set forth. They’re not set forth with any specificity. The dates are not set forth. They’re insufficient to state a claim.

And looking at them as a matter of substance, some of them — Exhibit H, appears to be Dr. Pignotti responding what she believes to be actions taken by Dr. Federici on her website. These matters would not be –they would be opinion. They would not be sufficient to state a claim for libel.

[Exhibit H refers to the posting I made on my blog regarding the letter Ronald Federici wrote to my Dean. A copy of that posting is available by going here. Although my Dean chose to take no action against me, stating that it was irrelevant to my work at FSU, I chose to respond to and expose what was attempted and express my opinions about this, a right that this Federal judge upheld.]

With regard to conspiracy for all defendants (p. 31):

With respect to conspiracy, there’s not enough here in terms of facts to demonstrate a conspiracy. And again, the fact that the plaintiff here is engaged in group pleading makes it impossible to tell what agreement plaintiff claims was entered into by which defendants at what time to do what against Dr. Federici.

The fact that they all have criticized Dr. Federici does not mean they’ve entered into an agreement sufficient to support a claim for conspiracy.

and with regard to tortious interference and conspiracy for Pignotti and Mercer (p. 33):

I’m going to grant the motion to dismiss as it relates to tortious interference with contract rights and expectancy because he’s not proffered sufficient facts to demonstrate that Mercer or Pignotti intentionally interfered with any contracts. The fact that he is a practicing psychologist does not in and of itself give notice to anyone else that he has contracts with particular clients or that he communicated with those particular clients. And the complaint as set forth alleges that two — I believe it was two potential clients canceled their appointments because of things that they read on the Internet, not necessarily matters that were set forth by Dr. Pignotti or Dr. Mercer.

And finally, with respect to conspiracy to injure in trade business reputation under 18.2499, this complaint does not come close to meeting the requirements of Ashcroft versus Iqbal in terms of setting forth facts that plead conspiracy in more than just conclusory terms.

So for those reasons, the motion to dismisswill be granted for the reasons just stated.

Contrary to what was stated by Dr. Federici in a response to internet critics on his website, the judge did not declare him an international public figure but instead, stated that he was not going to rule on that at this time one way or the other, stating (p. 32-33):

And I think making a judgment now that plaintiff’s counsel would have to agree that there’s a question here to be decided at some point, maybe not today, about whether or not — what standard would apply to plead a libel or slander against Dr. Federici and whether or not he’s a public figure or limited public figure given that he advertises on the Internet and on television and all these others.

But I don’t have to decide that now. But if that issue were to come up, it does appear that there would be some challenge presented to Dr. Federici to credibly assert he’s not a public figure or at least a limited public figure.

Note that there was nothing said about designating him an “international public figure” nor was any statement made about his colleagues. He appears to have based his statement that Federici could be declared a public figure on his advertising on the internet and television. It is clear from this transcript that the dismissal was not based on his being a public figure because the judge had already dismissed it on other grounds, making the issue of public figure moot where this case is concerned.

This official transcript, now public record provides with an objective record of the proceedings and I would urge anyone interested to read the entire transcript.

After the case was also dismissed for the anonymous “John Doe” defendants on June 1, 2011, this case is now officially concluded.

My Position on WordPress

The Anonymous WordPress bloggers are at it again. Their postings are taking a more hysterical than ever tone, denouncing me as a “hypocrite” because two years ago I criticized WordPress for suspending a blog, even though a year later I began blogging on WordPress. No, that does not make me a hypocrite because they ignore the fact that things have changed on WordPress over the last few years and they now take a much more pro free speech position than they previously did, in my opinion.

The implication, which provides us with an interesting window into the way these folks (the anonymous folks who trash me, that is) think, seems to be that if someone belongs to an organization or even accepts a certain blog host, they need to be completely positive and never question or criticize anything about it. They imply that if someone criticizes something, they should not be a part of it. That is very cult-like thinking. Non-cultic organizations as well as blog hosts welcome criticism from their own members and do not oust or exclude critics from being part of the organization or in this case, the blog host.

I stand by my criticism that the suspension of Wayward Radish’s Search for Survivors blog was unjust because they gave into the demands of people who wanted to silence a whistleblower. This, however, does not mean that I shouldn’t blog on WordPress myself. In fact, sometimes the best way to counteract such a smear campaign is to set up a blog that counters the smear campaign which is something WordPress recommends people do if they have a disagreement with what another blogger has written and that is what I have done.

In fact, there seem to have been some changes in WordPress policy over the last year or so that are encouraging. Currently, according to what Mark wrote me back in November 2010, their policy is that they will not remove blogs that are complained about as “defamatory” without a court order. That policy was apparently not in place when Wayward Radish’s blog was suspended as it was removed in response to threats but as far as I know, there was no court order to have it removed. Later, in November, 2010 Ronald Federici named the Search For Survivors blog which was suspended by WordPress but now hosted by Project DoD,  in a lawsuit. However, there were never any court orders to have it removed and in March 2011, the suit was dismissed, the case never even went into depositions or a trial and no connection between the Search for Survivors blog and any of the defendants he named was ever demonstrated.

The fact is that like most blog hosts, WordPress is not perfect, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also have positives, especially now that they have changed their policy to be more pro free speech. Of course, that kind of nuanced thinking and flexibility is foreign the black and white cultic thinkers who denounce me and believe that everything has to be all good or all bad and that people should rigidly and inflexibly hold to one position or else they are a “hypocrite”. No, there is a difference between being a hypocrite and being open and flexible to changes.

It is most interesting that they denounce my change of mind about TFT, which occurred more than seven years ago, but not so surprising since these are the same people who defend therapy gurus I have criticized and no amount of evidence I present to the contrary will change their minds. It is not hypocritical for me to criticize TFT at all. Apparently someone seems to have a confusion about a legitimate and thoughtful change of mind about a practice, which is what occurred with me, and hypocrisy. According to such people, anything less than slavish, inflexible, unquestioning devotion, ignoring of any evidence that comes to light and continuing to stay with something in spite of the evidence against it, is “hypocrisy” — a very strange definition but one that one might expect from cult like mentalities. Apparently they have not read Robert Cialdini’s work on how people are manipulated to stay in highly damaging situations and relationships by appeals to commitment and consistency, ignoring the fact that changing ones mind about something can sometimes be the wisest thing to do.

And no, the academic community has not had a bad reaction to my change of mind about TFT and other things at all. On the contrary, every time I have been asked about it by faculty, they have applauded my actions, openness to actual evidence and changes I have made and if anything, it has helped, not harmed me.

Is Freedom of Speech for Sale in the United States of America?

Following my recent experience with the court system in the case of Ronald Federici v Monica Pignotti et al., I would have to regretfully say yes, in my opinion. I want to state at the outset, however, that I am in no way blaming this on the judge or any of the lawyers. They were  doing their jobs to the best of their ability and working, as they had to, within the limits of the law as it exists and they all did a fine job. This posting is in no way meant as a criticism of them. This posting is about a much larger problem that exists within our system that is not the fault of any particular individual. In my opinion, this system needs to change. Please note that this posting is an expression of my opinions and the facts, as I best understand them.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, aka SLAPP lawsuits are presenting serious threats to our constitutional rights. Here is an excellent FAQ on SLAPPs for those unfamiliar with the term.

The bottom line is that in our system, as it presently exists, anyone from a state that does not have strong anti-SLAPP legislation (which is most states) can sue anyone else from any other state, for any reason and the only option that person has is to either go through the tremendous expense of filing the necessary papers to have the case dismissed or do nothing and have the Plaintiff win a default judgment. In some cases, such as Rajagopal v Does, an attempt is being made by a California plastic surgeon to have multiple anonymous internet posters identified who posted critical comments about her on the internet. No defendants are named in this case. An article critical of her practice was published in a San Francisco paper, but that publication was not sued. Instead, anonymous commenters were targeted. Dr. Rajagopal filed her case in Virginia and although in the complaint, the assertion was made that some of the “John Does” may be in Virginia, as far as I could determine, no evidence was presented that this was the case. On the contrary, it would make more sense that any patients or direct competitors would be residents of California and that the case would belong in California. However, the problem is that California is one of the few states that has strong anti-SLAPP legislation. The existence of such legislation makes it much easier for defendants who are sued without basis to not only get their cases speedily dismissed, but also to get reimbursed for their legal fees. This is very difficult and expensive to do in states such as Virginia with no anti-SLAPP legislation. The attorneys for one of the “John Does” has filed a motion to quash the subpoena that would request the revelation of the names of the John Does. Fortunately this “John Doe” has attorneys from the Virginia ACLU and attorneys from other organizations in California concerned with free speech who have taken an interest in this case and hopefully they will be able to successfully quash the subpoena. The outcome is pending. The lawyer representing the Plaintiff, Domingo Rivera, is the same lawyer who represented Federici in Federici v Pignotti et al.

In my case, Federici v Pignotti et al, Virginia psychologist Ronald S. Federici, PsyD, who touted himself in his complaint as an “internally [sic] renowned” expert, sued five individuals, one non-profit organization and 10 John Does for defamation, tortious interference (interference with business), conspiracy to injure in trade, business and reputation. None of the defendants are from Virginia, nor do they do business in Virginia, own property in Virginia or have any ties to Virginia that would give this state jurisdiction over them. Two defendants and the non-profit are from Colorado, one from Nebraska, one from New Jersey and one (me) from Florida. The case was ultimately dismissed on the grounds of jurisdiction for all defendants and for failure to state a claim for Mercer and Pignotti. The reason the latter was only for two of us is that the other defendants did not include that in their pleadings and thus, the judge did not consider or rule on that basis for those defendants.

The bottom line is, that although ultimately the defendants in Federici v Pignotti et al did successfully have the case dismissed, it has cost each of the defendants dearly, financially, to hire competent legal counsel to accomplish this. Had we ignored it, Ronald Federici would have won a default judgment that would have followed us all around for the rest of our lives. Had we attempted to go pro se (not hire a lawyer and represent ourselves) it is likely Federici would have prevailed, since not being lawyers ourselves with experience with the Virginia court system, it is highly unlikely we could have acquired the necessary information and knowledge of the Virginia court system, precedents, statutes, etc. to successfully argue this case.  So really, our only option, if we wanted to preserve our right to free speech, was to hire attorneys and go through a very expensive process. Since the dismissal of this case, anonymous posters who appear to be supporters of Federici, have been gloating about this, even though ultimately the case was dismissed. In my opinion, there ia a major flaw in our court system that would allow this to happen. A Federal judge found that Virginia did not have jurisdiction over any of us and he also found that Ronald Federici failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for two of the defendants, yet we have no viable recourse to recover our attorney fees. We can try to file a motion for reimbursement or we can even try to sue for malicious prosecution but again, that would require even more legal expenses with very uncertain chances for success. Ultimately, we could be out even more legal expenses if we chose to go that route. Therefore, essentially what has occurred is that what is supposed to be our natural right to freedom of speech was something we had to pay dearly for in legal fees to defend ourselves.

Again, this is not the fault of our excellent judge who I feel very lucky to have gotten and I’m not just saying that because he ruled in our favor. This judge, the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee, has an excellent reputation for being fair and thorough and an internet search of his name reveals rave reviews from lawyers who feel privileged to have worked with him. However, he can only work within the limits of the current system. The same applies to our attorneys.

These cases illustrate that even being from a state that has strong anti-SLAPP legislation is no protection for residents of that state, since they can be hauled into court in other states that do not have such legislation and forced to defend themselves. That is why the bottom line is that nothing less than anti-SLAPP legislation on a Federal level will do. Until such a time such legislation passes, freedom of speech will continue to be, essentially, for sale in the United States and no one is immune.

One of the main reasons anti-SLAPP legislation is opposed is that people are concerned that this would deprive people with legitimate grounds for defamation of their rights to due process. In the book, The Google Bomb, attorney John Dozier urged people to not support such legislation. As a victim of internet defamation and cyber abuse myself, I support, appreciate and agree with much of what Dozier had to say in that book. In spite of all that has transpired, I still think there is a valid place for the work that lawyers like John Dozier and Domingo Rivera do when they represent actual victims of internet defamation and I am sure there are people they have helped and done good for.  As strongly as I disagree with Domingo Rivera on the above-two cases I mentioned, if I were ever to hear from a victim of cyber defamation in Virginia who wished to sue, I might even consider referring that person to Domingo Rivera since this is a highly specialized area of expertise that few people have. However, I disagree with Dozier on anti-SLAPP law.  Anti-SLAPP law, as I understand it, would not apply to people who are able to state valid claims, claims upon which relief may be granted. What anti-SLAPP legislation would do is prevent people from filing baseless claims against others in a court of law, forcing defendants to hire lawyers at tremendous cost. Such lawsuits can be financially devastating to the average person and since most people are not wiling to pay that price for freedom of speech, they ultimately end up settling and their criticism is silenced. To me, no price is too high to pay for freedom of speech and thus, I am willing to do everything legally within my power to raise funds to defend myself and turned down an offer to settle the case. However, most people do end up settling such cases and their freedom of speech is chilled.

Anti-SLAPP legislation on a Federal level would be an excellent start to preserving freedom of speech on the internet and in the United States. I say “start” because defendants would still have to initially pay attorneys legal fees to file the necessary motions to dismiss and be reimbursed. There doesn’t seem to be any way around that unless legislation were passed to provide civil litigants with public defenders, as is done in criminal cases. That kind of legislation, however, would be highly unlikely to be passed, especially given the current budget crises and necessity of cutting the budget, even as it currently exists. That would not be a solution I would even support, especially since there is a problem, even in criminal cases with the quality of public defenders.

The way the current system is, if you are poor, you do still have the right to freedom of speech, of course, but that right will come to a grinding halt as soon as someone decides to sue you for what you have to say, even if the suit is groundless. I don’t know what the ultimate solution is, but this is a problem that deserves much more attention, brainstorming and debate.  I don’t think the average person even realizes how serious this problem is and anyone who cares enough to speak out publicly on a given issue could be placed in such a predicament.

For those interested in supporting anti-SLAPP legislation at the Federal level, here is an informative website on the proposed Citizen Participation Act (HR 4364). Especially relevant to the present discussion are:

B. PROTECTIONS FOR PETITION AND SPEECH ACTIVITY.
The Citizen Participation Act protects both petition activity and speech or conduct in connection with an issue of public interest with a set of procedural mechanisms. An “issue of public interest” includes any information or opinion related to health or safety; environmental, economic or community well-being; the government; a public figure; or a good, product or service in the marketplace.

The proposed Act allows a defendant to bring a special motion to dismiss the lawsuit at an early stage in the proceedings. The defendant must show that the lawsuit against him arose from his protected speech or petitioning activity. The plaintiff must then demonstrate that her claim is both legally sufficient and supported by a sufficient prima facie showing of facts to sustain a favorable judgment. If the plaintiff fails to meet this burden, the lawsuit is dismissed.

The hearing and the ruling on the motion are expedited, and discovery proceedings are stayed until the motion is resolved. A defendant who loses the motion to dismiss has the right to an immediate appeal, and a claim dismissed on the motion must be dismissed with prejudice.

and

E. FEES AND COSTS.
A party who prevails on a special motion to dismiss or quash may recover the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

and this is especially interesting, regarding bankruptcy since it is a very real possibility that some plaintiffs could try to use bankruptcy as an excuse not to pay up:

F. BANKRUPTCY NON-DISCHARGABILITY OF SLAPP AND SLAPPBACK AWARDS.

To ensure that a SLAPP defendant receives the court-ordered relief to which they are entitled, this provision makes fees awarded under the statute non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Some states allow a SLAPP defendant to recover damages incurred in defending against a SLAPP, and this provision also makes these damages non-dischargeable.

Daniel Ibn Zayd Comments on Federici v Pignotti et al and Ronald Federici’s Subsequent Responses

Daniel Ibn Zayd, whose blog was listed as Appendix I in Ronald Federici’s complaint in the now-dismissed Federici v Pignotti et al,  has now commented on his own blog on this case and on Ronald Federici’s response. [update September 21, 2011: Daniel Ibn Zayd recently listed Jean Mercer as an “adoption criminal” which should remove any remaining doubt as to whether he was in a “conspiracy” with defendants. This charge was ludicrous to begin with and the entire conspiracy charge was dismissed, but this is conclusive proof that there was no conspiracy. Most ironically, he appears to have placed Ronald Federici and Jean Mercer in the same category!].

He makes the very valid point that rather than being in the conspiracy alleged, the people Dr. Ronald Federici named as his “critics” are individuals, each with our own perspective on various issues who happen to have, independently, criticized the work of  Dr. Federici and any correspondence we had was only in reaction to Federici’s attempt to lump us all together.

On a smaller scale this is not unlike what has happened with the evolution of criticism of Scientology on the internet. Critics, not associated with one another, each with their own perspective, had reason to criticize Scientology. Although not in a conspiracy with one another, the criticism of Scientology has gained increasing momentum over the years. While some individuals have fallen by the wayside and have been defeated by Scientology, ultimately giving in and settling in various lawsuits, when we look at the big picture, any attempts to suppress criticism has only motivated even more critics to speak out against abuses, fight for their rights to free speech and continue to speak out.

Some critics of Scientology are motivated to do so because they themselves are former members of Scientology, others have had family members involved in Scientology and still others are very concerned about attempts to limit free speech on the internet by unwarranted copyright violation complaints and other attempts to curtail internet free speech. At times, the critics themselves had heated disagreements and argued and fought with one another — this is all very healthy and shows that this is not some kind of cult, but rather a movement of independent-minded individuals, each with their own views. Critics of Scientology represent all age groups, many different nations and come from diverse backgrounds, some still believe in Scientology itself whereas others consider it utter bunk, but what they have in common is their desire to put an end to what in their opinion are abuses within Scientology’s organization. This is not a “conspiracy” but rather, the evolution of a movement consisting of people who are exercising their rights to free speech on the internet. Those who try to stop this only end up making themselves look worse.

As recent discussions on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology (ARS) suggest, some of the advocates of internet free speech who are critics of Scientology have also become interested in Federici v Pignotti et al. and Ronald Federici’s subsequent responses to his critics. These are people who were never his clients or even initially critics of his therapy, but became aware of him only because of postings to ARS and other usenet groups — not my postings or the postings of any critics, but postings made by unidentified individuals under various pseudonyms that were glorifying Federici and trashing his critics. This appears to have been the beginning of the anonymous smear campaign against Advocates for Children Therapy and several of Federici’s critics. Interest seems to have increased even more, following Federici v Pignotti et al. Disclaimer: Before clicking on any of the links to ARS, please be advised that the culture within these public newsgroups can include some people who use colorful language including some of the smear postings against me, so if you are offended by this type of speech, don’t click on the links.

Clarification Regarding the So-Called History Making Lawsuit Blog

Update 12/8/2010: Although the lawsuit was not filed on the date the anonymous blog claimed (10/1) a phone call to the Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk’s office has confirmed that on November 24, 2010 Ronald Federici filed a lawsuit against me, four other individuals and an organization. As of today’s date at the time of this posting, I have not been served with any papers, nor has anyone attempted to serve me with such papers. If anyone does, I will accept service. Suffice it to say for now, I welcome the opportunity for the facts to be presented regarding these issues and am hoping that this matter will be resolved in a manner that is fair and just.

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Some misunderstandings have arisen regarding this other WordPress blog entitled A History Making Lawsuit which is claiming that a lawsuit has been brought against me. One person on a list serv (I am not on the list serv but was made aware of it) jumped to the completely false conclusion that I am being sued by Scientologists. This is wrong on two counts.

  • First, there is no evidence I am being sued at all. The claim was made on October 1 on that blog that I had been sued and to date, I have not been served with any papers. In today’s posting a “case number” was given which I found out was not even in a searchable format on the internet. The only thing that comes up on a Google search is that blog and the VA case numbers I did find did not begin that way.
  • Second, the person the blog is claiming is suing me (although I repeat, to date, I have no evidence he is) is not a Scientologist. The person is Ronald Federici, PsyD, a Virginia licensed psychologist who has been threatening to sue me since July 2009 because I have criticized some of his writings. The blog in question explicitly states it is Dr. Ronald Federici, so there is no need to guess here. I don’t know if Federici or one of his supporters or someone he hired is writing the blog, but the claim is that Federici is suing me. Federici already sued some other people (not me, but people I am associated with) in small claims court, lost, and has a few more months to appeal those cases. It is definitely not Scientology.
  • Scientology has absolutely no reason to go after me. I left Scientology 34 years ago and am no threat to them at all. They are currently using their resources to go after Marty Rathbun and other very recent, very high level defectors with much to tell and have been all over the news, whereas I have nothing new to tell and they couldn’t care less about me and that’s just fine by me.
  • I have every right to criticize Dr. Federici. Any factual statements I have made, I have backed up with evidence and I have expressed my opinions about that evidence. I have repeatedly invited Dr. Federici, if he thinks I have gotten any facts wrong, to provide me with specific evidence to the contrary, but to date, no such evidence has been forthcoming. So far, no response with any specifics which is what he would have to do in court. In court, he would have to provide actual factual statements, prove the defendants wrote them, prove they are false and prove that the defendants knew they were false and that this damaged him.
  • I will not back down. Just imagine a world where people are so afraid of lawsuits, that they are afraid to challenge something they see that they sincerely believe is wrong. If this happens, we might as well be living in a totalitarian dictatorship and I am not willing to live my life that way.
  • Here is a summary of some of the main criticisms I have of Dr. Federici, who is a licensed clinical PsyD psychologist, not a Scientologist.
  • I am not a “therapist” and I have no business interest whatsoever in this matter. I am not a “business” competitor of Dr. Federici’s in any way, shape or form. The postings about me offering adoption services are false and were made via anonymous remailers. I am offering no such services. My motivation is loyalty to values and doing the right thing.

Let’s have a look at the track record here. To sum up,

  • Postings were made saying that criminal charges were being filed against me and I received threatening e-mails about this, sent via anonymous remailers saying I was “finished”. That turned out to be a lie.
  • Subsequently, postings were made that I had been arrested, charged with harassment by computer, jailed in Florida, placed in solitary for fighting with inmates, reading vampire novels while in prison, Sarner posted bail, Sarner revoked bail, was fighting and awaiting extradition to Virginia– all deliberate lies. Pure fiction. None of it happened. I was never charged or arrested for anything and have done nothing that would lead to such charges. As an interesting PS to this, it turns out that it is Federici who may be the fan of vampire novels as his picture appears on a web page on a book signing for a Dracula novel. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin.
  • The lie was posted that I was trying to sabotage an adoption cruise. Here’s my posting setting the record straight on what really happened.
  • The lie was posted that I am offering adoption services and am setting up a center in 2011 in California. I have no such plans and am offering no such services. This seems to be an attempt to misportray me as a business competitor.
  • The lie was posted on October 1, 2010 that Federici had brought a lawsuit against me and in subsequent weeks, postings I was running from service of papers appeared. No one has ever attempted to serve me with any such papers and I have received none in the mail.
  • Now the claim is being made that the case has a number and has been filed. Note that this is essentially an admission that the postings at the beginning of October were lies, since if they had been filed back then they would have had a case number then and service would have been made during that month. With a track record like that, who in their right mind would believe anything on those anonymous blogs. There have simply been too many lies to believe anything these folks are posting about me.
  • If they were really suing me would they be stupid enough to tip their hand in the way they have in the History Making Lawsuit, revealing many of the questions they plan to interrogate me with and material they are going to demand from me? Unlikely, although I must confess that in the past, I have been guilty of overestimating intelligence and underestimating stupidity.
  • A more reasonable explanation, in my opinion, would be that they’re trying to scare me into giving up my legitimate rights to express my concerns about the interventions being promoted by Ronald Federici in his books and media appearances.
  • Unless I actually have court documents in my hands or see them on a legitimate court website, I have no reason to believe what has been posted.
  • Of course, anyone can sue anyone else for any reason, but that does not mean that the case is legitimate and if that were to happen, I would receive support from individuals in the scientific mental health community who no doubt would consider this a threat to the freedom to criticize that is so vital for scientific mental health practices to move forward. Because of the high value I place in freedom to criticize and its necessity if there is any chance of scientific mental health practice existing at all, even if I were to be sued, I would not back down.
  • The recent blogs are ranting on and on about how yes, its “REAL”, really it really is this time!  Rants in all capital letters are being posted asserting that the Fairfax case is real, calling us “crazy”. Yeah, right, shouting in all capital letters and calling us “crazy” really makes your arguments more compelling — not. And these are people who work with children who they claim have problems with pathological lying? Some role models.
  • It is also worth noting that even if the worst case scenario were to materialize and he somehow succeeded in silencing ACT and certain individuals in the US, there would still be no way for him to stop people who live far outside the jurisdiction of the US from speaking out. For instance, Daniel Ibn Zayd, who I have no association with whatsoever, has begun to post some very strong criticisms of Ronald Federici and because he lives in a country where he cannot be stopped, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to silence him. He can criticize Federici all he wants and as far as I have been able to determine, there is nothing that Federici can do about it. This same thing happened when people began speaking out on the internet against Scientology. Ultimately on the internet, even though selected individuals can be stopped, free speech cannot be stopped because there will always be people who cannot be silenced, due to their geographical location. I have to note the irony, however, of the fact that Ibn Zayd, being in a country outside the US is freer to speak his mind on the internet than those of us in the US are. The average person would assume just the opposite — that we in the US would be freer and this may be the case on some issues, but not necessarily so. This really should give people pause to consider what is happening here in the US to chill free speech and how what kind of legislation might be proposed to remedy that.

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