Shepherd's lawyer calls blog attacks libelous
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
September 29, 2010 12:00 AM | 11211 views | 17 17 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - Jason Shepherd, the Republican candidate challenging state Rep. Terry Johnson (D-Marietta) in the Nov. 2 election, came out swinging Tuesday in response to what he believes is a smear campaign by Democrats.

This week, the Democratic Party of Georgia released information to the media detailing how Shepherd was arrested on a domestic violence charge in 2000, stemming from a relationship with his former fiancee. The case was eventually dismissed and all charges against him were dropped.

Shepherd was arrested under his legal name at the time, Jason Goldfarb. A native of Broward County, Fla., Shepherd, 34, said Goldfarb is his father's last name. His parents divorced in 1988, and his mother changed her name back to Shepherd, enrolling him in school by that name as well. In 2003, shortly before he married a different woman, he legally changed his name from Goldfarb to Shepherd, he said.

On Tuesday, Shepherd took aim at a website called "Blog for Democracy," which describes itself as a group blog that launched in 2004 to cover "progressive" politics in Georgia. In a Monday comment on that blog by Melanie Goux, who serves on the board of The Fulton County Arts Council, Goux remarks on how long it took Shepherd to change his name and also comments on Shepherd's wife, Manuela, a native of Germany.

Writes Goux: "This means for almost 20 years, Jason went about daily life under an assumed (anglo sounding) surname, until Mr. Goldfarb was ready to marry his mail order bride. Given his history, someone should probably check on Mrs. Shepherd."

In a letter sent Tuesday to Goux, Shepherd's Marietta attorney Steven Ellis called the blog libelous for "imputing that Mr. Shepherd is currently committing physical violence against his wife."

"This imputation is completely false," the letter states. "Falsely implying Mr. Shepherd is committing a crime is sufficient to prove Libel Per Se under standards set forth in Georgia case law.

"Furthermore your statement concerning Mrs. Shepherd being a 'mail order bride' constitutes both the tort of invasion of privacy by publicity which places one in a false light in the public eye and Libel Per Se. Mrs. Shepherd is not, nor ever was, a mail order bride as you claim," Ellis writes.

Ellis is demanding an immediate retraction of both statements to be posted on the Blog for Democracy site "or suit will be filed against you."

Shepherd, who describes the Web site as "the Democrat Party's mouthpiece blogsite," said it goes to show that the Democrat Party and its operatives will try to win at any cost, regardless of who they defame.

"As a candidate for office, I expect cheap shots, but as a husband, I am going to stand up for my wife," he said.

Shepherd is not just asking for a retraction from Goux. He also expects an apology from Jane Kidd, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia and his opponent, Terry Johnson.

"While they may not have written the statement, it's their slash and burn style of politics that has created the environment for it," he said.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Goux, who describes herself as a political blogger and Atlanta resident who was among those who helped start up the Blog for Democracy site, said she hasn't received any communication from Shepherd's campaign.

"My only response is, I think this is just being used as a fundraising ploy to help what appears to be a failing campaign," she said.

As for whether she will write a retraction, Goux said that remains to be seen.

"If that's what he's demanding, he can call me directly," she said.

And as for an apology from the Democratic Party of Georgia, the group released the following statement: "Mr. Shepherd sent out a press release today demanding apologies instead of explaining the circumstances behind his arrest for simple battery with physical harm. No one should apologize for pointing out that violence against women is unacceptable."
Comments
(17)
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WestCobber
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October 04, 2010
Domestic violence is not something the Republican Party should embrace, and it's not something the Democrats should use to score points with voters. Terry Johnson is the embarrassment and anyone who would tarnish another candidate with a 10 year old charge which was thrown out of court to drag that person's name through the mud is no conservative and no Christian. I voted early for Shepherd, before this news broke and I would vote for him again today. Anyone can get arrested. The case was dropped and that is good enough for me.
shelleycast
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October 02, 2010
Shepherd is disappointing and an embarrassment to the Cobb GOP. Domestic violence is not something we need to embrace as a party. It angers me that Scott Johnson looked the other way. What was he thinking? Maybe Shepherd has done so many favors for the party that everyone feels like they owe him. The voters don't owe him anything. Terry Johnson is a wonderful conservative Christian democrat.
ZZMike
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September 30, 2010
Since the Democrats have no real issues to promote (other than world-wide socialism), their only recourse is the smear campaign )the last recourse of the scoundrel).

They're doing it here in California, bringing up an old issue of Meg Whitman's - with attack dog Gloria Allred at the fore.

jimofkenneaw
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September 29, 2010
he just got my vote. Dem's are desperate
ThomasD66
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September 29, 2010
Because nothing says 'progressive left' quite like Jew baiting.

The hatred runs deep. When will the Democratic party denounce this shameful bigotry?
Tagore Smith
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September 29, 2010
That post is definitely mean-spirited, and the idea that any woman from a foreign nation who marries an American is a mail-order bride is a strange one, and one likely to offend a lot of people. But (and I'm not a lawyer, so caveat lector) it seems very unlikely to me that that post is actionable.

It's true that the standards are different for libel per se than they are for libel generally, but the term "mail-order bride" seems to be a figure of speech here, and the statement that someone should check on Manuela seems more like a gratuitous swipe than a statement that Shepherd is likely abusing her. Shepherd might have a case in Britain, but probably not in the US.
anonydouce
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September 29, 2010
"No one should apologize for pointing out that violence against women is unacceptable."

corollary: violence against men, however, is completely fine.
Frank Booth
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September 29, 2010
The real foolishness here is dignifying a stupid blog post by responding to it. A libel action makes it appear that some truth exists in the claim, and also implies that people actually read the blog in question. All the original post means is that his opponent is running scared.
agathis
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September 29, 2010
This makes no sense. Why should he have to explain the circumstances of his arrest? The charges were dropped, which almost always means that they were either unsubstantiated or simply made up. The Dems are not pointing out that violence against women is unacceptable, they're making a scurrilous charge against someone. He deserves an apology.

It's the sort of unsubstantiated charge made with malicious intent that constitutes libel. She's in deeper than she thinks.
Aunt Madge
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September 29, 2010
I am going to donate to Mr. Shepherd and I don't live in Georgia.
JoeFake
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September 29, 2010
The thing I find the most interesting is that he was never convicted, but that apparently doesn't matter anymore. Guilty until proven innocent, and then you're still not out of the woods?
kwo
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September 29, 2010
Ugh. Some political flack takes a cheap shot, and the other takes it to the bank. Outrage politics is outrageous.
Jerry Kotyuk
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September 29, 2010
This shows how desperate with a CAPITAL D the Dems and Terry Johnson are. When they're losing, they always resort to the Politics of Personal Destruction. They know conservatives and independents care about character issues and so that is how they smear. For Progressives, the end always justifies the means, and that demonstrates their total lack of public or private virtue.
rpaul20988@aol.com
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September 29, 2010
WOW this is odd since they did not want anyone digging in BO's past...

All should be exposed and judged by voters not who runs against.
rpaul20988
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September 29, 2010
I find it very interesting that the DEMS are doing this when they would have nothing to do with Obama past, heck they still wont give any info oh him period....

charges should be brought !!!!!

fair is fair and they set the field...
onekidmom
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September 29, 2010
Wow. The Democrats need to rethink this type of attack. This is astounding. I am not a litigious person, but, I think this calls for legal action. Frankly, the Democrats have finally pushed me over to the libertarian party.
A reader of the MDJ
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September 29, 2010
Wow, talk about an unintended boomerang effect against the Democrats.

There's been an outpouring of support for Mr. Shepherd since they attacked him. I don't live in the district, but have heard a lot about this from people who are pretty disgusted about how this was handled.

Stand your ground, Mr. Shepherd. You were innocent and they obviously tried to drag you and your wife in the mud. This is a classic backfire.
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