There may be one surefire way to stop the Sandy Hook vultures and predators from stalking their prey: “Sue the living HELL out of them!” At least that’s what one of the nation’s leading authorities on Internet stalking recently suggested.
Meet Russell Stookey, a lawyer in Blairsville, Georgia who has zero tolerance for the frauds and liars that populate the World Wide Web.
In 2011, Mr. Stookey won a $404,000civil lawsuit on behalf of Gene Cooley, a man whose life was nearly destroyed after a woman, Sybil Denise Ballew, spread false rumors about him over the Internet.
“The anonymous poster went on a community website for Blairsville, where Cooley lived at the time, and accused him of being a pedophile with a criminal record and a drug addict,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “None of it was true.” Ballew wasn’t the only one taking part in the defamation, as Mr. Stookey explained to this writer during a recent interview: “We did the very first case in the United States where we penetrated that veil of anonymity, found out who these people were by their user names and IP addresses, and we took them to task individually in civil court and won.”
Like the surviving Sandy Hook family members, Cooley lost a loved at the hands of a deranged killer who then took his own life at the scene of the crime.
“She was a wonderful girl,” Cooley said of his murdered fiancée, Paulette Harper, during a 2012 segment of ABC’s 20/20. “She had a beautiful heart, a beautiful soul.”
Though Cooley and Harper were getting ready to start a new life together, those plans came to an abrupt end after the woman’s ex-husband paid her an unannounced visit.
“Apparently she was taking a nap,” Cooley said. “Somehow he got in, startled her, and must have pushed her down and then shot her. He waited around for a little while, and then finally committed suicide.”
Cooley’s anguish didn’t stop there. Though police never pegged him as a suspect in the crime, the local community had their doubts after rumors started circulating on an Internet forum called Topix.
According to an ABC News report, “The thread included several users with mysterious names like ‘Bugs,’ ‘Yuck’ and ‘Mouth’ that called Cooley a drug addict, a pervert who should be kept away from children and even a possible accomplice in his fiancée’s murder.”
Contrary to the gossip, Cooley was clean as a whistle with no criminal record and no history of drug addiction or sexual deviance. Still, Cooley was convicted in the court of public opinion. He was ostracized by his future in-laws, lost his job and was essentially run out of town. That’s when he decided to make the call to Russell Stookey.
“He laid this tragic tale out,” Stookey told 20/20’s Chris Cuomo. “I couldn’t believe the story—it was incredible. And I said, I’ll try to do this case.”
Using subpoenas, Stookey was able to unmask the culprits hiding behind their online identities. After obtaining the information, Stookey—in at least some cases—went to the very forum where the comments about Cooley were made and outed the individuals publicly by posting their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
Unfortunately, a statute of limitations prevented Stookey from bringing suit against some of the online stalkers so he concentrated his efforts on Ballew.
During the proceedings, the court asked Ballew why she posted such inflammatory things about Cooley. Interestingly enough, Ballew pulled out the old “gut-feeling” card that so many Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists draw to “prove” that grieving parents are actually “crisis actors.”
“I watched him and I can tell a pervert,” she said. “Every time a pretty girl walked by, he would look at them. I get a feeling.” Needless to say, the jury didn’t buy it.
In recent days, Mr. Stookey has been following the relentless cyber stalking of Sandy Hook parents and is sickened by what he’s seen: “These families—after having lost their children—have been harassed and browbeaten and accused of heinous crimes, called liars and hoaxers and actors and so forth…”
Much of the online activity against the parents generally falls under either one of two common-law definitions of defamation, as Mr. Stuckey explains: “Slander is oral and usually confined to very specific things, such as to impugn non-chastity to a woman or to attribute someone to a crime of moral turpitude—very specific things. Libel is broader. It’s written or permanently affixed defamation that’s passed on to a third party [someone other than whom the charge is made] or published for the whole world to see. One of the ways to be found guilty of the tort of libel defamation is to impugn the integrity of a person or lower their reputation in the esteem of the public.”
Mr. Stookey went on to say that he is currently working a defamation case that in many ways parallels the hysteria found within the Sandy Hook hoax community. In this particular instance, an anonymous poster used a social media website to accuse a local businessman of paying off victims, judges and the District Attorney as a way of keeping his son from doing time for a fatal traffic accident involving children.
“None of this was true, but the community was literally fired up and wanted to hang somebody,” Mr. Stookey said. “This is a perfect example of the kind of defamation we’re seeing, where a person’s reputation is being lowered in the eyes of the public.”
When asked, in his professional opinion, what options these parents had to defend themselves against this kind of abuse, Mr. Stookey replied: “Get a ball-busting attorney and sue the living Hell out of them! All of these parents need to join in a common cause lawsuit…If these people want that done, they can hire me or—better yet—they can hire a good attorney in their area and I will teach [them] how to do that…I have given away a million dollars worth of legal research in teaching lawyers how to prosecute one of these cases. All they gotta do is spend about an hour on the telephone with me and let me explain the technology and what they need for proof.”
For those who might doubt Stookey’s passion about hunting these psychos down, check out these quotes from various articles:
“We’re not trying to cut down on anybody’s ability to speak freely. The type of speech we are trying to curb is you cannot get out there and lie about someone and do character assassination… We’ll find them, we’ll get them. Mean and dumb is a bad combination. I will catch them and I will put them into bankruptcy.” ~ Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“They have no character. That means they have no guts. They have no guts, no character. They lack courage, no balls at all. (WHISPERED) Should I say balls? Anyway, I’m old school. If I’ve got something to say, I’ll say it to your damn face. [GUFFAWS] That’s just the way it is. You see these scars on my face? A lot of times, people don’t like that. And they’ll punch you. But that’s their opportunity. And that’s the way you do business in this life. You say it to their face… Normally, you’re talking about bored housewives who are just gossip-mongers, basically. But it is an epidemic. I have caught lawyers. I caught a judge. I’ve caught doctors, a dentist, a state representative. I found out in a heartbeat who these people were. I sued them. And you ought to hear them scream and cry. Let me go. Let me out of this. You did it.” ~ This American Life