Free speech or libel? Hoboken couple files $2M defamation suit against bloggers
Aug 13, 2012 | 10376 views | 17 17 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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.

For several prior Hoboken Reporter stories on the blogs and matters related to them, see links below.

For more on this story, keep watching hudsonreporter.com; and read the print edition of the Hoboken Reporter this weekend. Leave comments below or e-mail letters to editorial@Hudsonreporter.com.

Comments
(17)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Newcomah
|
August 19, 2012
The 'professional' local media have to advertise and the money tends to come from local real estate and business interests. Those interests and their politicians tend to oppose Zimmer, because they prefer the old way where they get to screw property tax payers who don't make their living off city public policy decisions. And Zimmer tends more to represent the latter group. So it's never a question of JJ or HR or Patch being 'fair' but how much they are willing to bite the hands that feed them. This is not a bad article, by past H Reporter standards at least.

But it's hard to take the lawsuit seriously as a straight up personal defamation matter. I'd be really interested to see the plaintiffs back up their claim they 'aren't political operatives' and 'never comment online'. That has to be a *very* creative interpretation of the truth. But I guess the idea is really to bludgeon anti-Mason bloggers into silence, and again I bet it's a very creative intepretation of the truth to say Beth Mason isn't financially backing this one way or another. But the whole thing will probably be dropped short of us finding out the juicy stuff.
WESTY
|
August 16, 2012
It appears to me and sure many other people who have read the press reports that this is a "Stratigic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)."

The court will decide if it has any merit.
WESTY
|
August 14, 2012
Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)is a lawsuit designed to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their critisism or opposition.

The typical SLAPP plantiff does not expect to win the lawsuit. The plantiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant sucumbsto fear, intimiation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimadate others from participating in th debate.

SLAPP's take various forms but the most common is a civil suit for deformation.
CmonDude
|
August 14, 2012
Referring to this as a SLAPP suit is a slap in the face to anyone who really is politically oppressed. There's a difference between criticizing a politician for policies (which is allowed and a lawsuit in that case would be a SLAPP suit) and emailing the boss of a private citizen to bash him, publicly bashing a family and encouraging state authorities to intervene, and saying a private person is being investigated by the authorities without proof. I get that saying it's a SLAPP suit is the only "woe is me" defense, but it really doesn't apply here. Think logically once in a while.
WESTY
|
August 14, 2012
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck.
HoboCares
|
August 15, 2012
So then what CmonDude said is accurate. Glad you came around.
WESTY
|
August 16, 2012
No.
anony_mous
|
August 13, 2012
I agree, this is a well-researched article so I would like to see a link to the time when Mayor Zimmer say "that Hoboken's pro-Zimmer bloggers do not speak on her behalf."

There is a lot of speculation out there about her relationship with the bloggers in question.

DancingRudy
|
August 14, 2012
I imagine the people speculating about that are the same people speculating about whether Beth Mason will run for governor as a democrat now that she's been denied the republican nomination for vice president.

The interesting thing about litigations is that they involve the presentation of evidence not speculation. Often litigations don't go quite the way the plaintiffs intended. Just ask Mrs. Mason about her OPRA lawsuit that narrowed the scope of the public's rights by being so abusive that theSupreme Court created a "fishing expedition" exception" thanks to Mrs. Mason.

I wonder if the Bejardis have told their own lawyers the truth about the nature and extent of their political activities? Being dishonest with one's lawyers is extremely unwise. It would truly be unfortunate if the Bejardis were not forthright with their own lawyers and that resulted in problems for everyone concerned.
CmonDude
|
August 14, 2012
Please don't say this article is well researched - it doesn't ask anyone involved in the lawsuit any questions! Plus, there's not even a byline on it (cowardly). And the Jersey Journal had this story like a full day before, and had actually contacted people. Let's stick to the story before we get ridiculous and compliment the article.
HoboCares
|
August 15, 2012
To CMon Dude: I think you have your newspapers reversed because there was only 1 person quoted in the Jersey Journal story on Sunday and it was Roman Brice.

The hr story reached out to Pinkus and also talked to Zimmer. That all seems less important anyway. The paper typically follows up in their weekend print paper with more, so we will see if the pattern happens this weekend and they give us more to read about this case. This story had a lot of good detail and I am surprised that all of this was going on. Some of these people spend too much time on the internet defending their political masters.
CmonDude
|
August 17, 2012
You must get paid a decent amount by the Reporter, because that is NOT the comment of a regular resident. That is someone who is sticking up for the Reporter. Who would say that besides an employee?
HoboCares
|
August 17, 2012
Not so but you are right in that my motives are not entirely pure. I have been following the players for some time and am hoping ty write more.
CmonDude
|
August 17, 2012
Why would the unnamed author of this story reach out to the mayor and not both defendants? Do you really think this lawsuit is worth the mayor's time? Don't you think the mayor should be worried about governing a city? And shouldn't a newspaper be more focused on real issues? There hasn't been a story about the fact that a bond to fix major roads failed on Wednesday. The media should do its job and report on issues of importance to a city, not try to rile up commenters. And if they're going to fish for comments and web hits, they should at least get the full story.
HoboCares
|
August 17, 2012
Sorry for the typo but my, last line should have read "I am hoping THEY write more" not TY. I should read what I post before posting,
ReformerusG
|
August 13, 2012
Decent writeup overall but the Mayor was interviewed on this and had nothing to do with this yet Roman Brice was not interviewed or contacted for this article. He is a named defendant. For his comments and more on this case go to:

http://thehobokenjournal.blogspot.com/2012/08/breaking-news-lane-bajardi-and-wife_12.html

ReformerusG
|
August 13, 2012
Decent writeup overall but the Mayor was interviewed on this and had nothing to do with this yet Roman Brice was not interviewed or contacted for this article. He is a named defendant. For his comments and more on this case go to:

http://thehobokenjournal.blogspot.com/2012/08/breaking-news-lane-bajardi-and-wife_12.html