On bloggers and whether every political life is an open book

On Jan. 11, 2010, state Sen. Gail Buckner, a Democrat from Clayton County, wrote a letter to a state court judge in DeKalb County on behalf of Ali Rashad Richey — who was languishing in the county jail.

Richey had been picked up for violating his probation on a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. On her office stationery, Buckner identified Richey as her employee, a “dependable, respectable, dedicated worker” whom she would be happy to place under her supervision to “help prevent him from getting into any other issues.”

Buckner acknowledged contacting the judge. “I’ve written many letters in support of young people,” she said. “It was an unfortunate situation.” Buckner, who was also about to embark on an unsuccessful statewide campaign for secretary of state, also conceded that — while Richey was behind bars — she still paid him $4,000 a month as her campaign consultant.

We know all of this because, since mid-April, Andre Walker has been dripping out the public records of 30-year-old Richey’s private life, posting them on his blog, Georgia Politics Unfiltered. They include a series of arrests over several years, the results of a paternity test, a child-support garnishment, the works. In Walker’s eyes, the invasion has been justified because Richey is now political director of the state Democratic party.

Walker is a former state Democratic staffer turned Republican.

Last week, Richey filed a libel and defamation suit in Fulton County Superior Court — not just against Walker, but against Melanie Goux, who operates the oldest Democratic-oriented blog in the state. Blog for Democracy, which averages perhaps 1,000 readers a day, had picked up portions of Walker’s reporting.

Something like a Democratic official suing the state’s Democratic newspaper.

Jane Bradshaw, a former state parliamentarian for the state Democratic party, was also named in the lawsuit — for sending Walker’s material to “numerous individuals” via email. More parties could be added later.

“This libelous act may be continuing and ongoing as the cyberspace universe is infinitely vast in its reach and exposure,” the suit declares. Culpability without end. Amen.

The court action was announced Friday at state party headquarters. Several dozen Democratic activists — among them Buckner and at least four state lawmakers — turned out to provide a backdrop.

Richey admits to a criminal record. “I’ve made mistakes in my life, but that is exactly where they are — in my past life,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.

But by referring to him as “Richey the Recidivist” and “a jail bird,” the suit says that bloggers have suggested he has a felony conviction — when he does not. His most serious offense was a 1998 case of aggravated assault, when he was 17. He was given first-offender status — which allowed the conviction to be erased after successful completion of probation.

This may be a small distinction to you. It becomes important when one works close to hefty political figures, or would like to.

Two things may be drawn from this episode. First, the Georgia Democratic party — once the most powerful organization in the land — remains in a state of upheaval. Its executive director walked out in February.

On Friday, after he declared Richey to be felony-free, party chairman Mike Berlon stirred that pot even more. The chairman said details of Richey’s background had probably been leaked from Democratic office files by a “current,” but unnamed, staffer. And so the soap opera continues.

The larger issue concerns the future of political blogs. Even as they have become more important to rough-and-tumble discussion and debate, many blogs remain small operations by private citizens with little or no training in the rules of libel. Who writes what isn’t always clear.

“The Internet is not a place where, as my grandmother said, you can throw a rock and hide your hand,” said Quinton Washington, Richey’s attorney, who declared his client to be a victim of “cyber-bullying.”

“I’m not a bully. I consider myself a truth-teller,” Walker responded Friday. (Goux and Bradshaw declined comment.)

In addition to being a Democratic staffer, Richey is a talk-radio host. His libel suit could turn on whether he’s considered a public figure — which would raise the bar on his request for damages.

But even if it never receives a hearing, Richey’s suit could still succeed, in at least one sense.

Political blogs are rarely money-making operations. After he lost his Republican race for governor in 2010, Ray McBerry sued a pair of southwest Georgia political bloggers for reporting on his relationship — while a Henry County teacher — with a 16-year-old girl. McBerry also sued the girl’s mother, who referred to him as a “child molester” on her Facebook page.

A judge recently dismissed the case against the mother. The suit against the two bloggers is still pending. But the bloggers have already abandoned their website — and any desire for provoking discussion in the future.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

43 comments Add your comment

The goobernator

May 5th, 2012
9:44 am

Strange that the idea of ‘public figure’ should result in higher damages request. Seems it should be the opposite. When someone becomes a public figure, especially a media figure, it is accepted that your expectations of privacy are lessened. If the bloggers simply stated facts of public record, then there should be no problem. If they embellished convictions, without using the ever populat term ‘alleged’, then there is reason for concern.

Bennie

May 5th, 2012
10:21 am

I think that if Richey is a public figure, a higher standard of what is libel applies. You can cross the line into libel more easily with a private citizen than with a public figure. Publishing a private citizen’s criminal history might or might not be libel, but publishing a public figure’s history is likely not libelous.
Is the director of a state level political party a public figure? I would say yes.
Is calling someone with multiple convictions a recividist the same thing as calling them a felon? I would say no. Richey needs to find a false statement to justify a libel charge and most of what was reported is just the sad truth.

Aquagirl

May 5th, 2012
10:29 am

Sounds like Mr. Ali Rashad Richey is allegedly one big whining pu$$y.

honested

May 5th, 2012
10:30 am

walker and bradshaw have already committed the Unforgivable Sin, so why shouldn’t we expect them to follow up with uncivilized, libelous and eventually criminal behavior.

After all they are now republicans, and you can’t trust them in an outhouse with a muzzle on.

The Thin Guy

May 5th, 2012
10:45 am

Ah the good Old Days before The Gørbøt invented the internet and the transgressions of politicians could be covered up and smothered by the left wing media. Sounds like a great government worker, paid $ 4k a month to do nothing. Who said times are hard?

Centrist

May 5th, 2012
10:45 am

This is only “insider” news to activist Democrats. But then that answers the question why it appears on this blog.

double

May 5th, 2012
11:13 am

Makes one wonder do we have a bully,truth teller,or delusional that stays on here all times.

Look before I leap...

May 5th, 2012
11:17 am

It is one thing to say that Richey is a convicted felon – which is false.
It is another thing to say that Richey has been convicted of a felony – which is true.

The self-immolation of the GA Democratic party is nearly complete.
GOP Nirvana awaits.

Yet spending is the same, my taxes are higher and metro traffic still sucks.
But I can take comfort that poor people will have to pee in a cup before they get their scraps from the table and I can pack heat if I want to the next time I dine at Longhorns.

Mike

May 5th, 2012
11:51 am

I don’t even think, from a pure legal standpoint, it matters whether Richey is a public figure or not. Yes, there is a higher standard for a libel suit from a public figure, but the bloggers didn’t say anything that wasn’t public record. The “jail bird” comment is technically true, since he did go to jail. Recidivist has all sorts of meanings, whether you look at Websters or Law. It can mean repeating a bad behavior or convicted multiple times. I think it’s unfortunate that Richey’s past has become public, but I don’t think the libel suit goes anywhere, regardless of whether he’s considered a public figure or not. All the lawsuit will do is give Andre Walker a bunch of publicity and blog hits.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
11:55 am

I am tired of grown black men and women begging grown men and women of other races for jobs i.e., Jews, Chinese, Koreans, Arabs, Whites, etc. You must be tired of it too. I had to put up with that malarkey two nights ago. Tavis Smiley was on Fox News telling Bill O’reilly how frustrated blacks are because they can’t find jobs and 50% of urban black children are unemployed. N…………………….. Please!

Let me tell you what’s bothering Ali Rashad Richey. He’s just upset because he realizes that Jews, Chinese, Koreans, Arabs, Whites, etc might ask him to resign as political director of the state Democratic party because of his criminal past. And he realizes that the only thing black people have to offer is a public demonstration, protesting, marching…

What has become of honorable authentic black men and women these days?

Amen?

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
12:01 pm

If Ali Rashad Richey works as a radio personality, Jews, Chinese, Arabs, Koreans, Whites, etc should ask him to resign because of his criminal past.

Y’all feel me?

Amen?

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
12:16 pm

These are the kind of abnormal dishonorable black men and women that the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions project as normal honorable leaders of black people to our children and to the world.

Amen?

honested

May 5th, 2012
12:29 pm

Look…….

As to the last part of your post, when is it that the absolute takeover of GA government by that other party going to do ANYTHING to make the life of the average Georgian more liveable?

The ‘hot button issues’ important to the god squad and the teaklan don’t have squat to do with how I live my life.

How much taxpayer funds are going to be wasted to scratch the oddball itches of the special interests?

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
12:31 pm

100 years ago, Christians understood that Christianity had the power to put a soul in that number when the Saints go marching in. But equally important, Christians understood Christianity to be the organizing principle, force, that affords the soul and body to live with power and dignity on earth.

What right thinking American would not want to be a Christian? Even if they can’t “intellectually” come to terms with depending on Jesus to make it in, they should be able to if living without Jesus equates to powerlessness and indignities.

Alas! So now you know why the enemies of the United States have serious issues with Christianity. If they can destroy it under the guise of love, intellectualism, progressiveness, integration, tolerance, pseudo discoveries, etc, Americans especially African Americans will be relegated to the dustbin of history without understanding the cause.

Amen?

Tom

May 5th, 2012
12:45 pm

At face value, this lawsuit would be thrown out via summary judgment. After all, truth is the ultimate defense.

Aquagirl

May 5th, 2012
1:00 pm

I think it’s unfortunate that Richey’s past has become public

Unfortunate? Oh, boo-hoo for this twerp. It’s not like he shoplifted a candy bar when he was 10 and some horrid libelous blogger is dragging him through the dirt. He plead guilty to battery and criminal trespass in 2008. The d00d was still claiming dat baby wadnn’t HIZ in 2010. The mother of his five year old finally got a court to force him to take a paternity test and pay child support. This is not some confused kid. this is a grown male (the term “man” would be an insult to real men) being arrested and running from the babymama he knocked up.

His salary is paid by the Democratic Party of Georgia. Donors deserve to know they’re paying his back child support. If he wants money with no questions asked, he can get a job in the private sector and it’ll be between him and his employer.

Sister Sarah

May 5th, 2012
1:06 pm

Hey @Our Lord

I don’t “beg” the “White Man” for s—. The “White man” knows that either he gets down with my program, or I will take my talents to his competition and crush him… or do my OWN thing…because I got it like that!

By the way, I got a “BIG STICK” you can bite… but only after your old lady gets off of it. She’s working overtime.

Amen??

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
1:51 pm

Members of our community are not like the integrationist African American leaders and their devilish black minions. They believe in integration and want America and Americans to fail. They don’t appreciate the efforts of institution building as we do.

Because of our efforts, we appreciate the hard work and genius of other races of people. We want America and Americans to succeed because it means more opportunities for us during our sacred journey.

As for the women, I’m laughing out loud. I have complete mastery over my body. Women have no influence over my mind, spirit, and body as they do many of my brothers; and I’m not a sissy.

Amen?

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
2:29 pm

Hear O’ Israel’s Gidon Ben Yahshahraal said last Sunday that he was outdone when black athletes hugged the white Commissioner, Roger Goodell, tightly when their names were called during the 2012 NFL draft. Ben Yahshahraal doesn’t appear to understand that when people of another race are generous enough to provide a living for people of a different race, that’s something for the race receiving an offer to be appreciative of. We appreciate what other races are doing for members of our community and simultaneously working to relieve them of the burden.

If people of other races of people, Jews, Chinese, Arabs, Koreans, and Whites etc did not make a way for integrationist African Americans to live on earth, the vast majority of them would starve to death or choose prison for the purpose of receiving food, clothing, and shelter. Now it’s a shame before God Almighty for any people to be in that predicament in these days and times, 2012.

Instead of foolishly marching against people of other races, it would be reasonable for blacks to march against educated African Americans of means e.g. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Tyler Perry, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, educators, doctors, lawyers, scientist, etc. These black criminals have prostituted the vast majority of African Americans for years and have not produced any of the institutions black people need to live on earth.

Even yours truly would find the time to participate in that march.

Amen?

Thomas Heyward Jr

May 5th, 2012
2:50 pm

This whole thing stinks of Georgia lawyers.
.
They’re scrum.

Road Scholar

May 5th, 2012
2:57 pm

Maybe while Mr walker awaits his trial, he can further research and publish his findings on Nathan Deal based on Dea’ls Congressional career?

A Ghast

May 5th, 2012
3:44 pm

I think whoever posts as “Our Lord…….” is a head case and needs serious mental health care!

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

May 5th, 2012
3:53 pm

Instead of making unfounded accusations which may confound the ignorant, please point to or identify something that I wrote that would lead a sane person to believe that yours truly is a head case and needs serious mental health care.

Amen?

RCB

May 5th, 2012
4:12 pm

Aquagirl–pure poetry. Amen!

td

May 5th, 2012
4:38 pm

Unlike you libs wanting to get into the inside business of the Georgia Republican party, I will sit out this one because it is the business of you libs and your party.

Jeff Sexton

May 5th, 2012
7:05 pm

Mr. Galloway:

Point of clarification: Tom and I haven’t “abandoned… any desire for provoking discussion in the future”. Tom owns the Albany weekly newspaper The Albany Journal now, and is very active in that endeavor both reporting the news and – as we once did on SWGAPolitics.com – even *breaking* news, despite their being two TV news stations and a daily newspaper in Albany.

While it is true that I have retired from official involvement in politics, I still try to provoke thought and discussion among my family, friends, acquantances, and their circles – I just don’t do it from a website anymore, and I don’t do anything other than essentially talk to friends online. (Ok, I’ve also donated a *very small* amount of money to Gary Johnson’s Presidential Campaign.)

Overall, Tom and I both learned quite a bit from our time with SWGAPolitics.com, and I’m confident that I can speak for him when I saw we very much enjoy where our lives have taken us in the year since we ended that site.

But thanks for thinking of us!

Look before I leap...

May 5th, 2012
7:43 pm

“…please point to or identify something that I wrote that would lead a sane person to believe that yours truly is a head case and needs serious mental health care.”

Well lets start with this drivel:
“If people of other races of people, Jews, Chinese, Arabs, Koreans, and Whites etc did not make a way for integrationist African Americans to live on earth, the vast majority of them would starve to death or choose prison for the purpose of receiving food, clothing, and shelter”

OLAS:
It is a truism that it is dangerous to load a pistol and hand it to another and dare them to shoot you.

LeRoy

May 5th, 2012
7:49 pm

It’s all Bush’s fault.

BP

May 5th, 2012
7:59 pm

I don’t even waste time with “OUR LORD” comments I just keep scrolling it encourages he/she/it and is not worth the time.

Truth-O-Meter

May 5th, 2012
10:10 pm

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads….

I don’t know who you are, but I sure hope that you are on the FBI’s and GBI’s radar screen. You sound sound dangerous to me!

Look before I leap...

May 6th, 2012
12:11 am

@Truth-o-meter
He’s only dangerous if he has a wooden cross and a can of gasoline in the back of his pick-up truck.
Otherwise he is just a troll.

Kyle and Kurly Looooooove the Kochs

May 6th, 2012
1:34 am

Mr. Walker – used to be a Democratic blogger. Evidently he hopes that black folks that toady up to the GOP will go farther in the blogosphere than he was able to do as a Democrat – the bigots and bonafide idiots that make up the GOP love having a few nicely dressed black folks around to give the illusion that their big closet is really a big tent.

9It’s not libel for me to say that Stepin Fetchit wants his schtick back, Mr. Walker.)

Jack

May 6th, 2012
7:01 am

As posted above, some black leaders appear to prostitute other blacks for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement.

nelson

May 6th, 2012
7:02 am

I can see where a politician would be unhappy with information being disseminted by a blogging website. I really do not have an awful lot of sympathy. They play the internet like a Stradivarius violin putting out all the most grand illusions on what they are going to accomplish for the populace.
What ever happened to transparency in government? Everything was going to be laid out there for the people to see?
I will say it is rather unfair for the most damning accustions to be thrown out for the people to read, anonynously posted.

Jezel

May 6th, 2012
7:31 am

Stories such as this should be of no surprise…800,000 Georgians have been convicted of a felony…that is 1 out of 12 people. The national average is 1 out of 32. Georgia spends more on prisons than it does on schools.

Do not see this trend changing…even as the economy struggles and Georgia continues to be last in public education endeavors.

Maybe we all should have been made perfect… rather than created imperfect and instructed to forgive.

Obama

May 6th, 2012
7:41 am

Sounds like a typical democrat to me…

outhouse

May 6th, 2012
7:52 am

freedom ain’t free

The Ghost of Edward R. Murrow

May 6th, 2012
8:45 am

Kinda reminds me of Speaker Jim Wright and his staffer John Mack.

Every politician is inundated by requests for favors from folks behind bars. Just ask your local Sheriff or Judge. The higher the office held, the more intense the requests become.

Just wait till the final days of the Obama administration (whether it be in 2012 or 2016)…you’ll see pardon requests that will make Clinton’s last days look like Easter week in the nunnery by comparison.

honested

May 6th, 2012
9:04 am

Bloggers or not, isn’t it time to take a good hard look at the Henry County republican party?

Now that they have exposed themselves for what we knew republicans were for generations I don’t understand why it isn’t front page news.

Unless of course the republicans just shrug and would ask ‘what’ new with this?’.

Bob Loblaw

May 6th, 2012
9:23 am

This guy is NOT a public figure. He’s a staff kid for a state party. Truth is an absolute defense to libel, so Andre better have his s%iT together.

Monroe

May 6th, 2012
10:34 am

Another example of racism against African-Americans—I’m tired of this.

[...] in case you thought Democrats were the only ones taking each other to court. From Lori Geary and Channel 2 Action [...]

Aquagirl

May 6th, 2012
12:22 pm

Another example of racism against African-Americans—I’m tired of this.

Another example of an African-American male who can’t keep his fists down or his zipper up. I’m pretty tired of that myself. Until the community holds such losers accountable for their actions expecting racism to ease up is pretty much pi$$ing in the wind.