“I thought Kate Cagle [was] I hope that she does not intend to make a career out of unrest planning on the planning committee, ”wrote Rayven Goolsby later on Facebook. In a separate post she addressed Cagle’s mother, Thelma Cagle. “Didn’t you take part in the uprising? I’m pretty sure you did. “
In late February, the social media exchange jumped to a higher court in Pickens County, Georgia, when the Cagles sued Goolsby for libel and defamation. Characterizing the Cagles’ suit as an example of a prominent family active in local politics, Goolsby’s attorney Andrew Fleischman used the weight of the courts to silence his client who works at a local grocery store .
On February 23, senators investigated security officials into their experiences during the January 6th uprising in the Capitol. (Blair Guild / The Washington Post)
The social media posts that are the focus of the dispute, including the deleted posts related to the January 6 protest, will be kept as screenshots in the legal records. Neither party denies having made the remarks made in the duel claims.
Goolsby’s remarks, made across various Facebook community groups, related to William Cagle, who was pondering on Facebook when the county was considering separate bathrooms for transgender people that he was “using his tax dollars for helping indecency and a couple.” FREAKS Who Can’t Appreciate It Don’t make up your mind where to take a leak. “
Fleischman said the libel suit against Goolsby was a way to make criticism of the Cagles dear – “even if the criticism is true”.
“We shouldn’t be afraid that criticizing someone important in our community could cost us thousands of dollars,” Fleischman told the Washington Post. He argued that Goolsby had truth and public interest on their side.
On Friday, Goolsby filed a lawsuit under a Georgian law that protects against so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation or SLAPP lawsuits.
Katheryn, William and Thelma Cagle are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They claim in their file that since January Goolsby has “belittled and defamed” the family through repeated and unprovoked online harassment that damages their reputation and wrongly associates them with “overt criminal behavior”.
A lawyer for the Cagles said his clients were not interested in getting media attention or making their complaint a political issue, but simply turned to the court to get rid of ongoing harm.
“Our customers are hurt and that is the reason for the suit. It is our company and Cagle’s wish that we can hopefully resolve this in a mutually beneficial and amicable manner, ”David McDonald told the Post via email. He declined to discuss the details of the lawsuit, citing the company’s policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
The Cagles are, to varying degrees, public figures, argues Goolsby’s suit. William Cagle served on the Pickens County Planning Commission, which ended in December, while Katheryn Cagle is the former leader of the Pickens County Georgia Republican Party. Thelma Cagle, who comes by “Bay” in online postings, sang the national anthem at various rallies in support of Donald Trump. Both women are credited in a third position as part of the “core team” that organized busloads of Georgians heading for Washington on Jan. 6.
Fleischman argues in the lawsuit that while the roles and actions of the Cagles qualify them as persons of public interest, Goolsby’s statements fall within protected categories of language, including opinion, exaggeration and sarcasm.
He reiterated the hope expressed by des Cagles’ attorney that the matter could be resolved amicably, but suggested that the lawsuit against his client might end up giving plaintiffs more than they expected.
The anti-SLAPP lawsuit states that Katheryn Cagle deleted her entire social media history as of January 6th. If the matter is discovered, both sides could be forced to compile a ton of personal data like GPS location history and message logs. “All sorts of things, even a cop would have trouble getting them,” Fleischman said.
He offered free legal advice to a general audience: “You shouldn’t file defamation lawsuits if you are concerned about criminal liability.”
Thirty states and Washington, DC have anti-SLAPP laws. Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, said anti-SLAPP laws are like “free speech insurance.”
“The key to an anti-SLAPP law is to prevent people with a lot of money and resources from intimidating people into saying negative things about them,” he said. He called the Pickens County suit a “classic case” of filing an anti-SLAPP suit.