A non-journalist like Cox is not allowed to defame a person. But—and this is crucial to an understanding of this case—a journalist is also not allowed to defame a person.
If Cox had been a journalist, Padrick would have had to demand that she retract her false statements before he could sue her. Cox still—even with a huge judgment against her—has not retracted her statements, so it’s unlikely that she would have when such a judgment was only speculative.
Yes, the court held that, under Oregon’s journalist-shield law, Cox was not a journalist. My opinion of that? Meh. Don’t defame people.
Add to that opinion, “don’t extort people.” It turns out that after Cox posted defamatory information against her victim, she hit him up for money to undo the damage she’d done. From the court’s opinion denying new trial:
[T]he uncontroverted evidence at trial was that after receiving a demand to stop posting what plaintiffs believed to be false and defamatory materials on several websites, including allegations that Padrick had committed tax fraud, defendant offered ‘PR,’ ‘search engine management,’ and online reputation repair services to Obsidian Finance, for a price of $2,500 per month,” Hernandez wrote.
The suggestion was that defendant offered to repair the very damage she caused for a small but tasteful monthly fee. This feature, along with the absence of other media features, led me to conclude that defendant was not media.”
(via Simple Justice).
Crystal Cox may think she’s very clever for coming up with this scheme, but it’s as old as time. It’s extortion, more specifically a protection racket, and extortion is against the law. Here’s the federal statute, 18 USC 875(d) (via Popehat):
(d) Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
That Crystal Cox’s threats are implicit rather than explicit makes no difference. Crystal Cox calling herself an “investigative blogger” is like a mobster with a molotov cocktail calling himself an “arson investigator.”
Crystal Cox tried to extort Marc Randazza by registering multiple domain names including his name and offering him the same “services” that she had offered to her victim in the lawsuit. When Randazza ignored her, she registered his wife’s name as a domain name. When this didn’t get a rise, she registered his three-year-old daughter’s name.
Crystal Cox is, as Ken writes, “the sort of person who registers domains in the name of the three-year-old daughters of her enemies.”
So what do you do about such a vile person?
Padrick took her to court, and got a seven-figure judgment (probably uncollectable) against her.
One could encourage the FBI to investigate her extortion racket, and the right person making a complaint to the right agent might put her in an AUSA’s sights.
Randazza, who’s a First-Amendment badass, thinks that the answer is “more speech”:
I’m just dandy. The campaign is now about exposing her so that she can’t engage in her extortion scheme against anyone else. Popehat is leading the charge, and naturally, the Legal Satyricon is next to Popehat, shields to shoulders. Sequence, Inc. is part of the solution too, by exposing the attacks on Kevin Padrick, and shining a light on Cox’s widespread extortion scheme, so is Philly Law Blog, and before any of the law blogger community jumped on the bandwagon, Salty Droid was out there all by himself, shining a little light — which is now accompanied by more and more lights.
Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
The cure for bad speech is more speech.
I hope Randazza is right.