Colleyville, Texas September 28, 2015
Bobby Lindamood vs. Mike Taylor, David Fletcher, Jan Mogged Hearing Over Defamation Lawsuit; previous Articles on this issue can be found on this news site on: May 08, 2015 and on August 20, 2015.
A Court Hearing was set for Judge Dana Womack, 428th District Court to hear oral arguments on the Motion to Dismiss this case as filed by attorneys on behalf of the defendants, Mike Taylor, James Fletcher and Jan Mogged.
At the hearing on Thursday Sept. 24, 2015 at 9:30 am, Judge Womack reminded the attorneys that one hour was set aside for oral arguments. Lindamood’s legal team requested that, since only one hour was available, she monitor the time of the Defense to ensure the Plantiff had an equal amount of time. Approximately 40 minutes into the Defense argument, Judge Womack interrupted to caution that his time had been taken up and she had other hearings immediately afterward. However, in spite of the warning another approximately 10 minutes was used leaving the other side very little time. In order to properly present their case Lindamood’s attorney ask for permission to provide a written response by Monday afternoon, which was granted. Then the Taylor group asked for a chance to respond to this filing in writing and promised to have this in by next Thursday. Therefore, it appears the Judge’s decision is not likely before the first or second week in October.
(As a Footnote to the Motion to Dismiss the following was included: 1 Lindamood used localnewsonly.com as his mouthpiece during the campaign. The May 5, 2015 story on that website that ran, unedited, Lindamood’s full press release about the alleged defamation, including its accusations against Movants herein, shows the website’s political allegiance. See http://localnewsonly.com/2015/05/political-campaign-tacticts-reach-new-low-in-colleyville/)
Editor’s Note: LNO has covered City Elections for 15 years. At the beginning of every Taylor campaign, LNO has requested, as it does for ALL candidates; a head shot and position paper, (as was the case with every other candidate for city council in May 2015, by evidence of the postings for Nancy Coplen, Bobby Lindamood and Liz Zeitlin). Mr. Taylor has never responded, therefore there has been nothing to present. As far as the accusation that Lindamood used LNO as “his mouthpiece during the campaign.” All articles in LNO are independent of any candidate; Lindamood never had any prior knowledge of the content of any article. The Editor of LNO, Nelson Thibodeaux served on City Council with Taylor in 1999. Taylor subsequently ran for Mayor and City Council twice losing 3 elections prior to his winning a seat on the current council. LNO has covered Taylor numerous times. These articles are available by typing in Taylor’s name in the archives section on the Front Page..Prior to May 2015.)
Prior to the May 2015 City Council election involving Taylor, LNO interviewed Lanny Wilkinson, a businessman who has had numerous commercial interests in Colleyville. At that time, Mr. Wilkinson explained that he had previously paid Mike Taylor, married to Susan Taylor, as a political consultant (on behalf of his wife, at the time Traci Wilkinson) during her unsuccessful attempts to be elected to the Grapevine City Council. Sometime thereafter, Mr. Wilkinson filed for divorce from his wife Traci. LNO was provided additional information, prior to the May 2015 City Elections, however, out of respect for the children and the fact Mr. Wilkinson is now remarried, LNO made a decision to totally exclude the salacious details.
In the body of the Motion to Dismiss the following comment concerning Taylor, “Contrary to Plaintiffs’ claims, Taylor had the opportunity to use the deposition transcript excerpted in the Alert but took the least salacious course of action he could: he did not use it in his campaign. Taylor did not create, propound, edit, promote, endorse, publish, mail, deliver or otherwise handle the Alert.” (underline added). In the motion to dismiss, Mike Taylor was also described as … “a long-serving city councilman with a distinguished record…” (Please see the end of this article for additional commentary on this statement).
The Dismissal states that Fletcher was simply doing his “civic duty” when he went on a website designed for neighborhoods to come together and share helpful information. Fletcher’s Affavadit states in part, “…..I did post a question to Nextdoor.com forum readers: “Integrity, accountability not an issue?” In that forum thread, I stated that Colleyville should not vote for “ethical uncertainty.” Based on the events described in the transcript, I believed that a married man who placed his hands on the private anatomy of a woman who is not his wife acted improperly and worried that such a person on Colleyville’s City Council could act unethically.
Further, Jan Mogged was only out campaigning for Nancy Coplen when she blurted out to Richard and Linda Newton that they would change their mind about Lindamood because “bad information was soon coming out.” Although she had no prior knowledge, one day before the mailer was in Colleyville mail boxes.
In Summary, taken from the Motion to Dismiss, Taylor’s group made the following arguments;
As stated, from a technical standpoint, the Taylor group based their defense on the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) which was originally passed during Governor Perry’s last term. In general, it was designed to prevent more powerful and wealthy entities from suppressing the right of Texas citizens to exercise their First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech. Taylor’s defense team claims the Lindamood Lawsuit is “a baseless defamation lawsuit brought by one political rival to silence his opponent, and the opponent’s supporters, during a campaign.” And therefore should be dismissed under the TCPA statutes.
“Exercising the right to free speech is protected under the TCPA if the defendant communicates regarding “a matter of public concern.” TEX. Cw. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 27.001(3). A matter of public concern is an issue related to health or safety; environmental, economic or community well-being; government; public officials and public figures; or goods, products or services in the market.”
“Fletcher made the allegedly defamatory post on the internet forum, and Mogged somehow conspired with them in some manner undefined other than the color of her clothing and ominous-sounding statements that contained no factual claims.”
Plaintiffs’ case centers upon two publications, what they call the “Alert” and a posting on a Nextdoor.com neighborhood forum, which is hosted on the Internet. Those publications are Exhibit A and B to the Petition, respectively. Plaintiffs allege broadly that Taylor is responsible for the Alert, Fletcher made the allegedly defamatory post on the internet forum, and Mogged somehow conspired with them in some manner undefined other than the color of her clothing and ominous-sounding statements that contained no factual claims. Plaintiffs also claim that all Movants published the Alert, although they do not state how, when, where or to whom.
This is the exact type of lawsuit that the Texas Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) is designed for—a baseless defamation lawsuit brought by one political rival to silence his opponent, and the opponent’s supporters, during a campaign. Plaintiffs’ case against Movants is a SLAPP suit: a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation; in other words, a lawsuit brought to impugn the name of political rivals and squelch their free speech, nothing more.”
In general Taylor’s attorney claims he did receive the information from Lindamood’s Step Mother and despite an early claim to the Star-Telegram he “had nothing to do with the “alert”, Taylor admits he highlighted certain pages from the Lindamood deposition. All Affadavit’s are linked below:
In summary, the Taylor argument is that although he received the information, highlighted the information, passed the information out at an alleged “PAC” meeting; that he is clueless how the actual document ended up in voters’ mailboxes with additional comments “out of context” written on the side of the highlighted areas.
“Taylor neither made, authored, published, republished, edited, discussed, disseminated, nor caused anyone to undertake such actions with regard to the Alert, any defamatory statement contained or based on the Alert, or any statement Plaintiffs want retracted as stated in Paragraph 56 of their Petition;58 (2) Plaintiffs have no clear and specific evidence to support their prima facie case.“
The entire filling can be seen here: Motion to Dismiss (002)
However, Lindamood’s team argues that a defendant cannot not use the TCPA as a defense, IF they deny they had anything to do with the publication, as Taylor et. al. have plead in their original Motion to Dismiss. Other excerpts;
- As to Taylor (Respecting the Taylor Handout).
“This point can easily be established as to Taylor as follows, inter alia: (a) He admits that he had possession of Bobby’s 175-page deposition transcript at issue. Taylor Affidavit ¶ 7. (b) He admits that he created “selections” from the deposition (7 pages). Id. (c) He admits that he “highlighted the portion of the sworn testimony I thought was important and underlined some of the testimony.” Id. ¶ 8. (d) He admits he “handed out copies of the excerpts of the sworn testimony to the attendees” at a campaign meeting. Id. (e) He admits he “discussed the sworn testimony with the people at the meeting.” Id. ¶ 10. (f) He admits “everyone agreed … the voters should know this information.” Id.
…….Even were it true that Taylor supposedly did not create the “Alert” arguendol2 (evidence showing otherwise to be discussed infra), and did not see it until “May 4, 2015,” Taylor Affidavit ¶ 16, it is clear just from considering the Taylor Handout and Taylor’s comments that he is guilty of libel or slander per se because of the portions of the deposition which he “underlined,” “handed out,” and then “discussed” as being “important.” Taylor Affidavit I 8-10. In particular, Taylor “underlined” as “important” attorney’s statements in the deposition denied by Lindamood, without any other evidence to suggest that those statements were true, thereby acting with “reckless disregard” for their truth.13
….Thus, Taylor affirmed he was saying the Taylor Handout was (a) “important” for his staffers to know, and (b) “agreed” these underlined matters should be brought to the attention of the public, Taylor Affidavit ¶ 10, even though his only knowledge as to truth or falsity of at least some was that they were denied. So Taylor had “actual malice.”14
…. As to Fletcher (Respecting the Taylor Handout and Social Media Libel).
Fletcher admits he was at the meeting recounted by Taylor, and that he “received part of a transcript of Bobby Lindamood Jr.’s deposition.” Fletcher Affidavit ¶ 4. He admits Taylor distributed the transcript excerpts.18 Id. But Fletcher then denies that the transcript selections had “annotations, underlining, deletions, or comments.” Id. However, we know this is false because of what Taylor testified to, and from the Taylor Handout of the Taylor Affidavit. So what else is false about Fletcher’s testimony? Bobby is entitled to rely on “circumstantial” evidence that Fletcher’s conclusory denials of “propagating” the Alert, made as an interested party19, are untrue.20 “It is the province of the jury to resolve conflicting evidence, to determine the credibility of the witnesses, and to weigh their testimony.”
…Fletcher admits, then, that in a “clear and specific” manner he (a) published through social media24 (b) a false statement (c) defaming Bobby, (d) knowing he was going considerably beyond what the actual evidence he admits was before him showed, with bad motive (i.e., at least reckless).
...As to Mogged (Respecting the Taylor Handout and Publication).
Mogged admits she had the “doctored” 7-page Taylor Handout. Mogged Affidavit ¶ 4. (But she also denies any “annotations,” id., though Taylor admitted he highlighted and underlined the excerpts, raising credibility concerns. Cf. Bentley v. Bunton, 94 S.W.3d at 597, supra; Levine, 448 S.W.3d at 655, supra.) She “campaigned door-to-door … against the Glade Road proposition that Bobby Lindamood supported.” Id. ¶ 15. Thus, she had means, motive, and opportunity to distribute the Alert, and cannot defeat this circumstantial evidence by baldly denying it.27 A jury should be permitted to resolve the credibility dispute presented.”
The Entire Response is located here Lindamood’s Response to Motion to Dismiss (002)
Taylor’s accusation that the City’s Website was shoddy work. because the Editor negotiated a contract at 50% of the cost to the city of competitors. The same site that won the 2007 TAMI Award for “Excellence in Technology Web Site Population up to 75,000.”The TAMI Awards is the leading recognition program in Texas honoring excellence for municipal communication strategies. The award is presented by the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers (TAMIO) which includes members from municipal, county and other related agencies and organizations.