6.16.2010

Is Stoen trying to intimidate the media?

Is Stoen trying to intimidate the media?

One would assume that an attorney with decades of experience who has been in the spotlight and weathered his fair share of controversies would understand basic libel law. Or, at the very least, he would open a law book before accusing media outlets of libel.

But that doesn't appear to be the case with Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, who recently demanded that the Times-Standard and News Channel 3 retract what he considered libelous statements.

The problem is that the statements were not libelous. They were the truth.

As the newspaper and TV Station reported, the county investigated a sexual harassment claim made by a staff member in Stoen's office. The investigation concluded that Stoen did not violate the county's sexual harassment policy, so he was exonerated.

The false accusations were undoubtedly embarrassing for the assistant D.A., but they weren't libelous, and in the end, his name was cleared.

So why is Stoen essentially threatening media outlets with libel suits? It's unlikely that he's woefully ignorant of the law, so what other reason could he have for making such threats? Could he be trying to intimidate the media with the hopes that the reporters will shy away from making negative comments about him out of fear that lawsuits will ensue?

That may sound conspiratorial, but look at what's happening to Fortuna City Councilwoman Deborah August. The rookie councilwoman is a critic of Stoen's fraud suit against pacific Lumber Co. She even went as far as to compare the lawsuit as an attack on her community equal to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - a stupid comment indeed.

However Stoen has since charged her for alleged corruption with regard to a development in Fortuna. Several of the charges against her were dropped, but some remain.

Some say that the charges are politically motivated, while Stoen maintains that he's pursuing the charges at the behest of the Humboldt County Grand Jury. the courts may ultimately determine who is right and wrong.

But, given Stoen's furor over the media's reporting of an investigation into allegations against him, why isn't he complaining about the media's coverage of as yet unproven allegations against August? After all, those allegations and the subsequent media coverage were instigated by Stoen himself. Sounds hypocritical to say the least.

Neither the Times Standard or Channel 3 have issued retractions. When the sexual harassment investigation began, Stoen proclaimed, "The truth is my friend." Should he pursue a libel suit against the media, the truth- and the law - will be his enemy.

Stoen should exercise better judgement in the future. In the meantime, he should rescind his demand for a retraction and issue a public apology for his foolishness.

Tuesday June 29th issue McKinleyville Press page 6

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