Anonymous blogger lawsuit voluntarily dismissed; plaintiffs have year to re-file
A lawsuit filed against anonymous bloggers by three residents of Bryant has been dismissed upon request of the plaintiffs' attorney.
The suit of Adrian Henley, Brenda Miller and Danny Steele v. Unknown Persons was filed Feb. 22, 2012, alleging that anonymous bloggers were posting statements about the three plaintiffs that were "made with actual malice, that is, with the knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard of whether they were false or not."
At the date of the filing, all three plaintiffs were Bryant city aldermen. Currently, Henley and Miller remain on the council, but Steele did not seek re-election in 2012.
On Feb. 13, Saline County Circuit Court Judge Gary Arnold issued an order for voluntary dismissal, stating the "court finds that the attorney for plaintiffs has a conflict and cannot continue representation of the plaintiffs in this case."
Tona DeMers filed the request for voluntary dismissal. DeMers had no comment for the Saline Courier about her conflict, but noted the plaintiffs "have one year to refile and that all the evidence has been preserved."
The original complaint alleged that the comments posted by the bloggers, "on various websites, primarily MySaline.com," were such that the defendants were "also guilty of cyberbullying."
The postings at these websites were made under various aliases. One blogger used the alias "The Shadow" on MySaline.com.
On July 12, 2012, a hearing before Judge Arnold was held. Shelli Russell, then owner of the MySaline.com website, was called to testify. Russell denied knowledge of the true identify of "The Shadow" or the other anonymous bloggers in question.
Benton resident Ricky Tripp also testified before Arnold and stated under oath that he was not "The Shadow." Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan had been subpoenaed to testify as well, but was not called. He waited in the hall while Tripp testified.
Miller commented Monday afternoon that the case was larger than anonymous postings.
"Cyberbullying laws should be stricter, because of all the vulnerable youth now on social media. It is not an enforceable law on the books now and needs to be strengthened."
Russell looked back on the suit Monday afternoon and said, "When I was served a subpoena on this case, I was a week into my dream of going full-time running MySaline. The controversy distracted my time and attracted the wrong kind of attention to this community site. Due to the loss of advertising from misleading gossip, I've had to return to part-time" and seek employment outside of the website.
Arnold dismissed the suit without prejudice, which allows it to be re-filed in the future.