Wed 7 Jul, 2004 03:11 pm
A public elected official and another person committed a crime against a family member in front of me. I and my brother were eyewitnesses to the crime. We filed a complaint with the police Dept. When the police published their official report they omitted the public official's name. Since this was wrong I added MY Version of the crime and listed this official as the other person that committed the crime also! I made this part of the official complaint as a "Supplemental" statement. Now the Public official is suing me for defamation! Any comment, suggestions, advice?
I'm with Phoenix--the information you present is too scanty for theorizing.
Posting details--without the name of the public official--might help.
Lawabider: I have never heard of a "supplemental statement" to a criminal complaint. If it is an official statement, signed under oath, then there should be no problem. There is an exception to the defamation laws that covers official statements, such as statements made in legal pleadings, courtroom testimony, and governmental bodies.
On the other hand, if your "supplemental statement" was simply a private act, done on your own, then you have a problem. Accusing someone of a crime is considered defamatory per se: in other words, it is considered to be so injurious to a person's reputation that he does not need to prove that he suffered actual (i.e. out-of-pocket) damages in order to get a judgment.
Some details, This public official was with her brother-in-law in his support. He was arrested and was to go on trial that morning for Malicious Destruction of my mothers property. (He was caught cutting a fence she put up on her property to keep him out.) He was also out on a "bond condition" not to have contact with my mother. The day before at 5pm my mother was informed by the prosecuting attorney that the case was going to be dismissed the next day and to not bother showing up at the court house. Since there was nothing in writing to the effect and we had summons to appear, we showed up anyway. (So the case wouldn't be dismissed because we didn't show up) Anyway we were talking with the Victim's Right Office secretary in her office when we heard the public official and her brothe-in-law coming down the hall. My mother closed the door, then opened it poking her head out and informed them of a private meeting she was having. She then closed the door. The public official did not like this apparently and pushed the door in hitting my mother. (There is a 8" wide glass panel in the door so one can see to the other side. My mother was in full view of this public official.) I caught my mother and prevented her from falling over, then put my foot in front of the door to stop her aggression. Then the brother-in-law pushed on the door and hit my mother again. I was trying to hold the door until the office secretary motioned us to safety in another room where we escaped to just as they were bursting in. They were screaming hysterically at us. After they spoke with the secretary they left and we filed a complaint with the sheriff's dept next door. A warrant request was done but the reporting officer left out the public officials name from the report as a suspect. the warrant request was denied because: (My mother was at fault, she was TOLD not to be in (that day)! The State Police are currently investigating.
Since the official report was released to the public record a few days later and was not our version of the events, our family made the record straight as to what our version was since the original version was altered. We submitted these statements as "supplemental police statements" to be added to the official report. We were basically correcting the reporting officer's report that he wrote in his own words. 10 months later I submitted a recall petition based on my version ammended to the police report. The petition said that this public official should be recalled because while being a public official she assaulted and battered my elderly 77 yr old mother. The petition wording was approved by a panel of 3 elected officials of this county. I was sued 6 weeks later for "well over 25,000. in the amount in controversy and 1 million in damages. Should this go to federal court? I am a Michigan resident but have to move back to Florida as I couldn't find a job here. This I believe is "diversity jurisdiction." There also is something called the "public official doctrine." U S Supreme Court case upheld in Sullivan v NY Times that "a public official must prove that the person defaming them knew that they lied when they made the defamatory statement, and it was made with actual malice" I am telling the truth which is an absolute defense. Please don't tell me to get an attorney. I'm doing so. I am just looking for opinions and beliefs. Thank you.
Public officials have the burden of proof if they sue you.
Public figures have the burden of proof if they sue you. They must prove that what you said was knowingly false and done malciously. Read the summary and brief of a similar case at: http://www.aclumich.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=369