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DAVIS: What lies beneath?

July 22, 2012

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don’t know we don’t know.” — Donald Rumsfeld

All three of the scenarios so confusingly described by former Secretary of State Rumsfeld were in play before my eyes July 12.
The place — the court of Judge Gary Arnold.
The reason — a motion to quash, or set aside, a requirement to provide information regarding anonymous bloggers.
First, let’s get everyone caught up. In February of this year, three alderman from Bryant ( Adrian Henley, Brenda Miller and Danny Steele) filed a complaint in Saline County Circuit Court against Unknown Persons who were anonymous bloggers on the social website MySaline.com.
The three alderman maintain that postings of the anonymous bloggers have caused them to suffer a loss of good reputation. They claim they were defamed and libeled and filed a lawsuit against those using the aliases of Lawchic, law chic, up beat in bryant, Up Beat in Bryant, Lady Bella, Shadidog, Sybil, Sybill, Concerned Citizen and, in particular, The Shadow.
Shelli Russell, owner of MySaline.com, was served with an “Evidence Preservation Notice” requiring her to “take all reasonable and necessary steps to identify and preserve” information from her website and to “not delete any computer files or account information” such as logging information for the alias names listed above. She was also served a subpoena requiring her to present the information to the court.
On July 12, Judge Arnold heard arguments from lawyers on both sides. Mark Hicks, attorney for Russell, asked Judge Arnold to set aside the requirement that Russell provide the information as ordered.
Hicks argued that the comments posted on MySaline.com did not rise to the level of libel and, therefore, the need to produce the material was moot. Tona DeMers, attorney for the plaintiffs, sought information regarding the identities and IP address information regarding specific postings by The Shadow, who referred to the plaintiffs in postings as “The Dark Three.” The Shadow also posted that he had seen the contents of a file that had been ordered sealed by Judge Arnold.
In the end, Arnold ruled that the motion to quash would be upheld, partially. He left open the requirement of Russell to provide information as related to a specific posting on MySaline.com. Judge Arnold said there was “an allusion in Exhibit E that disturbs me.” He did not give a time frame for his final decision to set aside this portion of the motion.
On the witness stand, Ricky Tripp said he was not The Shadow. Tripp also testified he did not know an individual by the name of Barbara Derden. Under a Freedom of Information Act request, the Saline Courier obtained a copy of Tripp’s marriage license. The name of the bride-elect on the license is Barbara Derden. Following the July 13 story in the Saline Courier about this apparent contradiction in Tripp’s testimony, Russell created a post titled “Ricky Tripp Testimony Video - Holy Crap, It’s Clear Now.” A video of Tripp’s testimony before Judge Arnold was posted to the Saline Courier website (www.bentoncourier.com) and this is the video to which Russell refers. Russell adds “Bottom Line: I now feel that Ricky David Tripp committed perjury when he testified in court last Thursday before Judge Gary Arnold.” One week later on July 19, Russell suspended Tripp’s account, halting his ability to post to MySaline.com.
Tripp testified that he had met with Rick Meyer and Dennis Milligan in Milligan’s office “once or twice,” but has not met with them after April 1. In the July 18 edition of the Saline Courier, Meyer and Milligan both acknowledge having met with Tripp, but could not provide specific dates for the meetings.
These are the “known knowns.”
The “known unknowns” are almost as convoluted. However, it’s the “unknown unknowns” that are troubling.
The questions are beginning to grow among those who are curious … very curious … and their numbers are increasing. How many “Shadows” are there? It is very possible that a group of people shared the log in information and posted under the alias. Who are the other alias bloggers and do any of them have connections to the plaintiffs or Meyer, Milligan and/or Tripp? Why won’t people who know the truth come forward before the “players” in this game get antsy and start throwing each other under the bus? It’s already started. Just read the postings on MySaline.com and see for yourself.
The Saline Courier filed a Freedom of Information request for the video surveillance files of the security cameras on the interior and exterior of the courthouse for the dates of March 28 through April 20. Our intent was to determine the comings and goings of Tripp and Meyer to Milligan’s office as compared to Tripp’s testimony of not meeting with the two at the courthouse since April 1. We are told that security videos are kept for a 30-day rolling period backward from each day. The 31st day in the past is recorded over with the current day, and so on each day. Since the date of April 20 is beyond that 30-day window, the video file we requested does not exist. Both Meyer and Milligan state they have not kept records of these meetings. Tripp is not returning messages from the Saline Courier. An offer extended to him via Facebook to sit down and tell his side of the story has not been accepted. Our offer is open-ended.
Make no mistake. All of it will eventually come out. The Shadow will be unmasked. The truth about the sealed document become known. If The Shadow did actually see the sealed document as he/she says, where did access to the document originate and who was involved? Why did Tripp answer the questions about Barbara Derden the way he did under oath? Which judge was being discussed by Meyer, Miiligan and Tripp during those meetings as Meyer and Milligan admit to discussing?
Some are questioning which persons should be designated as “The Dark Three.”
So, we are right back where we started with the question, “What lies beneath?”
Only The Shadow knows, and he/she isn’t talking … yet.

Brent Davis is the managing editor of the Saline Courier. He may be reached at bdavis@bentoncourier.com

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