Bryant resident Ricky Tripp and Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan were subpoenaed to give testimony Tuesday in a Saline County Circuit Court proceeding conducted by Circuit Judge Gary Arnold. However, only Tripp was called as a witness.
Attorney Tona Demers, representing Bryant Aldermen Adrian Henley, Danny Steele and Brenda Miller, had planned to put both on the stand in the effort of Demers' clients to learn the identity of an anonymous blogger at the website MySaline.com. The pertinent comments were posted under the alias, “The Shadow.”
The Shadow's comments are at the core of a lawsuit filed by the aldermen against the anonymous blogger(s) whose comments the plaintiffs deem as defamatory and libelous.
Demers called Tripp, who was sworn in and took his place on the witness stand, while Milligan waited in the hallway.
Demers questioned Tripp as to his knowledge of The Shadow.
“Have you posted comments as The Shadow?” Demers asked Tripp. “No, ma’am,” responded Tripp.
“Are you The Shadow?” asked Demers.
“No, I am not,” said Tripp.
Demers questioned Tripp about his knowledge of an individual by the name of Barbara Derden.
“Are you familiar with Barbara Derden?” asked Demers.
“I don’t know her,” was Tripp’s response. Demers reminded Tripp that he was under oath.
Tripp also was asked if he used the Yahoo email address of Barbara Derden to log in to MySaline.com and he said “No, ma’am.”
Documents obtained by the Saline Courier indicate that Barbara Derden is Tripp’s wife. A copy of a marriage certificate showing Ricky David Tripp and Barbara Jean Derden were married May 27, 2007. A Facebook page for Barbara Tripp lists an anniversary date of May 27, 2007, and identifies Ricky David Tripp as her husband.
In a Valentine’s Day special issue published by the Saline Courier in February 2011, Ricky Tripp wrote an account about reuniting with his former high school sweetheart, Barbara Jean Tisdale, via Classmates.com. He said the story of how they found each other after high school was used as an advertisement for the website. A Facebook entry from Barbara Tripp states that she "used to be Barbara Derden," and includes a reference to the death of her husband, Jim Derden. The account further states: "I remarried in May 2007 to Ricky David Tripp."
Messages requesting comments from Tripp were sent Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. At press time, no response from Tripp had been received.
Demers asked if Tripp had posted to MySaline.com while at his place of employment, The Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock, to which Tripp responded, “On occasion, yes.” Tripp said his job usually keeps him busy, but he did admit to using the hotel's business center to log in and post to MySaline.com.
One particular posting by The Shadow on MySaline had indicated knowledge of information contained in documents the court had ordered sealed. The posting said the contents of the file had been seen by The Shadow. Demers claimed that any such breach of the court’s order to seal the records could have come from one of two sources: Shelli Russell or the circuit clerk’s office.
In earlier testimony, Demers had questioned Russell about the leak. Russell stated under oath that she had not seen the documents in question, therefore had not leaked the information.
Demers asked Tripp if he recalled meeting with Rick Meyer, a former chairman of the Saline County Republican Party, and Milligan in Milligan’s office following the order to seal the documents in question. Tripp responded that he had met “once or twice” with Meyer and Milligan in the circuit clerk’s office, but didn’t recall if it followed the actions of the court as described by Demers. He told the court that since he wasn’t aware of the date the records were sealed, he wouldn’t be able to place the visits on a timeline in relation to the incident.
When asked if he had met with Meyer and Milligan since April 1, Tripp responded “No.”
Arnold asked Demers how the testimony given pertained to a contempt of court complaint against Russell. Demers told the court that the only avenue the plaintiffs had to learn the identity of The Shadow was to gain the information from Russell.
Russell had testified earlier in the hearing that she did not know the identity of the individual claiming to be The Shadow.
After a discussion with Mark Hicks, attorney for Russell, and Demers, Arnold concluded that the contempt testimony would end and the complaint set aside. Tripp was dismissed and Milligan was not called to testify.