V.I. Senate candidate Michael Springer and his political advocacy website, Crucians in Focus, along with the DemManSay.com site, have been slapped with a defamation lawsuit from well-known V.I. attorney Lee Rohn.
The lawsuit, filed last week, singles out Springer, St. Croix attorney Jeffrey Moorhead, former Sen. Adelbert Bryan, and three others in connection with the defamation allegations.
Springer is running this fall for the V.I. Legislature, while Moorhead has said he will be challenging Delegate Donna Christensen for her seat in Congress.
Along with charges of personal misbehavior by all the defendants, Rohn’s suit alleges Moorhead, Springer and several others posted a variety of demonstrably false and plainly defamatory claims about her, including:
— Rohn is a fugitive in the Dominican Republic;
— she is soon going to plead guilty to crack cocaine charges;
— she has received preferential treatment on charges she had a small quantity of marijuana in her shoe in 2003;
— she will shortly abandon her client, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, on orders from Gov. John deJongh Jr.;
— the defamation suit is being brought against her will—as part of a conspiracy orchestrated by deJongh.
She is asking the court for injunctive relief to force DemManSay and the several defendants to cease printing and saying false and defamatory things about her.
"I was going to let sleeping dogs lie until the Santo Domingo thing," Rohn said Monday evening, referring to the aforementioned charge that she is a fugitive.
"I have never been to Santo Domingo [the Dominican capital] in my frigging life and I thought, you know, this is really too much."
On Monday, an extensive, but not exhaustive, perusal of both Cruciansinfocus.com and DemManSay.com turned up examples of each allegation, except the crack cocaine claim.
DemManSay also had some new allegations, posted since the lawsuit was filed in late July, including the following post:
"Among some of the violations now coming to light, Attorney Rohn ripped of (sic) Avis Car Rental by making false claim (sic) that she was injured when a tourist operating one of Avis’s cars struck her vehicle. In fact, the Fugitive’s (sic) empty car was parked in the middle of the street out by Coakley Bay when it was struck. Rohn’s claim that she was in the vehicle and was injured was a boldfaced lie."
Asked about the new allegation, Rohn said it was completely false.
"I’ve never even been injured in a car accident at all," she said.
In the suit, Rohn also claims Springer tried to extort money from her, alleging that Springer came to her "office uninvited and sat down and announced to plaintiff that she needed to give him money" for a summer camp for children.
When Rohn declined to donate and asked Springer to leave the office, the suit says, "Springer threatened plaintiff she ‘would be sorry.’"
Springer has previously confirmed to the Source he is a principal in both Crucians In Focus and DemManSay.
"Yes I’m one. There are several of us," Springer said to the Source on March 31. "We welcome comments at DemManSay from anyone with a genuine interest in the community " he said.
Reached by phone Monday evening, Springer said he was going to counter-sue.
"We plan to also sue her for defamation of character," he said.
When asked for what specific acts of defamation, Springer said "lies, slander all of that stuff," but cited no example.
He also would not address any of the defamatory claims brought forth in Rohn’s suit.
"I don’t have any authority in terms of what is being printed on that website," he said, then directed all further questions to his codefendant Moorhead.
Moorhead, in turn, both praised the two websites and denied any culpability.
"It’s not my site, but they are both very accurate," Moorhead said.
Asked if the statements on both sites that Rohn is a fugitive in the Dominican Republic were "very accurate," Moorhead said he was "not going to try this case in the court of public opinion."
He proceeded to lay out a lengthy case for himself and Springer, repeating claims made on the DemManSay site. Moorhead also argued that Gov. John deJongh Jr. is orchestrating a massive conspiracy aimed at his critics, forcing Rohn to sue for defamation against her will.
Asked what evidence there was to support his claim, Moorhead declined to offer any, repeating the phrase about not trying this case in the court of public opinion. He then continued to elaborate upon his case, claiming deJongh used his powers as governor to make the courts delay a marijuana possession trial for the last seven years.
Asked how deJongh delayed the case for the four years before he took office in 2007, Moorhead said "I’m not going to get into all that." He ended the call shortly after.
More recently, Moorhead has been working directly for bankrupt former Innovative Communications Corp. owner Jeffrey Prosser, delaying the now four year-old bankruptcy case by suing Prosser’s former valet Arthur Stelzer.
That lawsuit is currently in the midst of court-ordered mediation. Prosser’s attorneys have repeatedly asked for bankruptcy proceedings to be delayed until that suit is concluded.
The claims Moorhead has made in court filings and those made by Prosser’s other attorneys in the federal bankruptcy case are extensively featured on DemManSay, both in archived images of court documents themselves and in numerous postings. And DemManSay has numerous demonstrably false and arguably defamatory statements about Stelzer.
For example, on the DemManSay main page devoted to ICC (http://demmansay.com/ICC.html), the website’s editors posted: "Arthur Stelzer, has been indicted in Florida for perjury, theft and other crimes related to the Prosser bankruptcy proceedings … "
In fact, Stelzer has not been charged or indicted anywhere for perjury.
In reality, U.S. bankruptcy Judge Judith Fitzgerald directed Prosser’s attorneys to cite specific statements from Stelzer that were false. Prosser’s attorney’s produced nothing.
"The failure to cite the record thereby demonstrates that despite counsel for Mr. Prosser’s assertions that such testimony exists, in fact, it does not," Fitzgerald wrote in her order denying Prosser’s motion to refer Stelzer to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on perjury charges.
She ordered the motion for referral be denied “with prejudice” because “ … the allegations in the motion … have not been substantiated and have been proven to be baseless and without merit regarding Arthur Stelzer.”
Prosser is appealing the court’s decision.
The DemManSay claim that Stelzer was indicted for theft in relation to the Prosser case is false. In March, Prosser did have his former valet arrested in Palm Beach, Fla., and charged with accessing a computer without authority and unauthorized use of identification (a computer password).
Prosser’s attorneys then used the fact of the charges to attempt to discredit testimony from Stelzer that has been extremely damaging to Prosser–namely that Prosser ordered Stelzer to destroy evidence in the bankruptcy case by having computer drives erased.
But three weeks later, the charges were dropped on the grounds that the Florida State Attorney’s Office found that there was “no likelihood of a successful conviction.”
Whether Rohn prevails in her lawsuit is for a court to decide, and depends in part upon whether the court determines she is a public figure. But the many other demonstrably false allegations on the DemManSay site—about Stelzer and others—may suggest the credibility level of both sites’ myriad accusations against many people, Rohn included.
And the dubious or erroneous claims continue apace.
As of Tuesday evening, the lead article on CruciansinFocus.com has Moorhead demanding Raymond Williams step down from the St. Croix Board of Elections because he attended a Christensen campaign event and "members are required (emphasis added) to refrain from any political involvement that might raise questions about their ability to objectively perform his (sic) duties …"
Ironically, V.I. Supervisor of Elections John Abramson said just last week there was no official policy regarding endorsements, directly contradicting Moorhead.
"We have generally had a gentleman’s agreement, depending on the person’s good judgment to decide their role," Abramson said at last week’s Board of Elections meeting. "Over the years we have had several candidates for office on the board, some of whom have counted their own ballots."
The Source will continue to follow developments in Rohn’s suit, including any countersuits filed by Springer, Moorhead or the other defendants.