STANFORD — Lincoln County Jailer David Gooch is going after those he claims have defamed him by posting unkind and untrue comments about him anonymously on the local gossip website Topix.
Gooch filed a lawsuit earlier this month in Lincoln Circuit Court alleging “unknown defendants intentionally and maliciously published statements on the website Topix with knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements.”
In an interview Thursday, Gooch declined to identify which comments on Topix the lawsuit is targeting because he did not want to repeat the false statements. In general, he acknowleged the defaming comments attack both his operation of the Lincoln County Regional Jail and aspects of his personal life.
“Some things are totally false, and some things have a grain of truth to them but then it gets twisted completely out of preportion,” Gooch said.
The controversial California-based Topix, which runs local news and gossip sites across the country, is not named as a defendant in Gooch’s lawsuit. He said he doesn’t blame Topix itself, but the mean-spirited and disrespectful false comments of posters who hide behind a fake name.
“I’m pro First Amendment. A letter to the editor, where a person signs his name, I¿respect that,” he said. “I don’t know that Topix is the problem. It’s potentially a good site, a good public bulletin board, but when a person slanders someone, the Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves to hear people argue that’s what the First Amendment is for.
“It’s like handguns. I don’t have anything against handguns, but I do have something against people who use them to commit crimes.”
Gooch said he was inspired to file the lawsuit after reading about a case in Georgia earlier this year where a jury awarded $404,000 in damages to a man whose reputation was ruined by false comments posted on Topix by a woman who used six different identities to disparage his character.
According to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Topix willingly turned over Internet provider information that helped the man’s attorney identify the person making the anonymous comments under names like Bug, Mouth, Slim and Rebel. The jury held the woman responsible for the damages.
“I will subpeona the IP addresses of these posters. I’m going to track them down,” Gooch said.
The lawsuit, filed by Stanford attorney Jonathan Baker, seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages to “deter defendants from publishing malicious and reckless statements in the future.”
“I’m not doing this to make money, I’m doing it make them stop. I’m trying to protect my reputation, my family and innocent victims,” Gooch said.