Here is a great story from the dispatch about Scott Pullins trying to sue Miriam St. Jean for being a ‘cyberstalker’.

It’s like trying to sue one of the bulls after being trampled in the annual ‘running of the bulls’ festival in Pamplona, Spain.

Scott Pullins?Is No Hemingway.

You put yourself out there, Scott, now suck it up and take it like a man.

KNOX COUNTY LEGAL BATTLE
Feuding pair is example of word wars on Web
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Randy Ludlow
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH?
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Scott Pullins and Miriam St. Jean know of each other only through the Internet ? and they don?t like each other much.

Pullins, a conservative Republican lobbyist, lawyer and blogger, says that St. Jean has become a “cyberstalker” by writing nasty things about him on the Internet.

Pullins says St. Jean?s postings on message boards serving the Mount Vernon area cause him severe emotional distress and make him fear for his safety and that of his family. He asked a judge Friday to grant a civil stalking protection order to prohibit St. Jean from using the Internet or other forms of communication to “menace” him.

The Knox County court confrontation underscores a national trend in which those offended by online comments are taking action against their perceived tormentors.

“We want her to stop harassing me and my family,” Pullins said, adding that St. Jean also has mailed false and threatening materials to judges, lawmakers and his clients.

St. Jean will seek dismissal of the petition, saying Pullins has not proved that she is Curious Mind, the screen name of a Pullins-basher who posts on knoxpages.com and mvohio.net.

However, she agrees with the assessment of Curious Mind that Pullins, chairman of the Ohio Taxpayers Association, is “un- ethical and shouldn?t be allowed to practice as a lawyer.”

St. Jean, a former legal secretary turned eBay collectibles seller and Internet crusader, said the comments of Curious Mind are constitutionally protected opinion.

From a parade of lawsuits, bloggers and message-board posters slowly are learning that libel laws that apply to print also apply to Web content.

“The same laws and rules govern offline and online speech,” said Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco organization that defends “digital rights.”

The 1996 Communications Decency Act clarified that freedom of speech extends to the Internet and warns that online commentators are legally responsible for what they write.

Many bloggers and messageboard authors falsely think they have free rein to write whatever they want, one expert said.

“The anonymity the Internet allows has emboldened some people to be more strident than they might be if they had their name attached to it,” said Eric Robinson, a lawyer with the Media Law Resource Center in New York City.

Many lawsuits have been filed, but few lead to judgments for plaintiffs because judges give wide latitude to expressions of opinion, he said.

Part of proving defamation requires that a reasonable person believe what was written ? a high hurdle because few believe everything they read online, another expert said. The truth remains a defense against libel, and accurate quotation of public records is protected, said Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association. Filing court actions over online content can be counterproductive, he said. Those who sense a slight could find that their filings draw far more attention than they would otherwise get.

The Pullins-St. Jean case is unusual in that it claims harassment instead of libel or defamation, Cox said.

Judge Otho Eyster denied Pullins? request for an emergency protection order and set a Feb. 22 hearing in Knox County Common Pleas Court.

Pullins said St. Jean has been commenting on his activities and threatening him online since at least June. He does not know why. “I don?t think she likes attorneys,” he said.

Curious Mind, for example, blasted Pullins for implying in his blog last year that Gov. Ted Strickland and his wife are gay.

Pullins went to court last week, shortly after Curious Mind posted excerpts from a public record: a Knox County sheriff?s office report on a domestic violence complaint involving Pullins and his wife.

No charges were filed after Kathy Pullins withdrew her Nov. 17 statement, which the police report said involved threats made over the phone. Mr. Pullins said that deputies were called when his in-laws overreacted to an argument he had with his wife, and that he never threatened her.

The court complaint is the second that Pullins has filed objecting to what others have written or said about him. He is suing state Rep. Tom Collier, R-Mount Vernon, a former political rival, in the Ohio Court of Claims. Pullins says that Collier made libelous statements about him during a newspaper interview.

Collier and his attorneys are seeking to dismiss the suit on grounds that his opinion of Pullins as a “puppet ? scoundrel, liar and cheat” is protected as political free speech.
rludlow@dispatch.com

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