The angry Magat at my door.
We have six people running for four school board positions here in the April 4th election. It is a consolidated election, nonpartisan. A friend informed me that two of the six home school their children. I called the school board member who gave her that information. He is a Democrat, and someone I know. He called the elementary school principal who confirmed that the two are still homeschooling their children. I thought that a school principal and a school board member (who is a retired school principal with a PhD in education) were reliable sources. I wrote a letter to the local paper stating that I had discovered that two of the candidates home schooled their children. I stated that I felt that people who home schooled their children had no business making decisions for our schools. They did not support our schools. I encouraged readers to vote for the other four candidates. I named them and expressed my support for them. I never used the names of the two who allegedly home school. (I did not use the word "allegedly" in my letter).
The letter appeared in the paper. The next day, an angry man pounded on my front door. I answered the door, but I did not let him in. He had a newspaper clipping of my letter in one hand and a checkbook in the other. He told me who he was (I knew) and informed me that there were things in my letter that were "not true." He flapped the clipping at me. He said does not home school his children. He and the other woman who do not send their children to public school here send them to nearby parochial schools. He flapped his checkbook at me and said he could prove that he spends $8,000.00 a year on private school tuition. I don't see much difference. He does not send his kids to school here. He does not support our public schools. I did not argue with him about that or anything else while he was shouting on my doorstep.
I did not unlock my storm door and did not let him in. He kept hinting that he wanted to come in because he could not hear me over the traffic on the road. I called the sheriff. The sheriff sent a deputy. The deputy spoke to him while he sat in his truck. The deputy came into my house and spoke to me. The Magat is not allowed to come back onto my property. Apparently this Magat is a known hothead. He once interrupted a church meeting because he did not like the way they were going to spend money on an elevator. He is a sporadic church attendee.
This Magat told me that he has already seen a lawyer. He is going to sue me for slander, libel and defamation of character. (Remember, I never used his name in my letter). He said we were the subject of "frequent litigation." Thirty-five years ago, my husband and his father were sued by neighbors to my father-in-law's farm property because they had loose cattle. There were two incidents. My husband and father-in-law lost both times. My husband solved the problem by selling all the cattle and refusing to raise any more. The Magat was about four years old then. His family had nothing to do with the lawsuit. They were neighbors only.
My husband does not think this Magat can sue me. He just wants to be a bully. I can support whomever I want for school board. I did not use the Magat's name in my letter. I let my Democratic friends know what is going on. One of them suggested that I get a copy of the deputy's report and any 911 calls. I will do that. I have the FOIA form for it right now.
Any suggestions? Some DU members have spoken about encounters with Magats in grocery stores.
I do not know if the guy started out home schooling and then switched to private schools. I am told that he home-schooled because he is anti-mask and very right wing. I have known him since he was a child. He and his whole family are unpleasant. My friends now report that he is a hothead and a bully.
I am not sorry I wrote the letter. However, I do not want to spend a lot of money on lawyers. We are not poor, but why should I have to go through this? What do you think?
Take a few moments and write down as much as you can remember, while its still fresh. Any aggressive or threatening behavior on their part should be so noted. Anything you can remember. Details, facial expressions, turns-of-phrase, accents, who was there, any distinguishing marks or banners or medallions or other embellishments and color combinations, sounds, gestures, etc. You never know. Documenting as much as you can remember. You never know what little nothing might trigger something much bigger and more significant.
Make notes! As soon as you can, while your memories are still fresh and nothings started fading around the edges.
Save up all that stuff to show a trend.
At this point, I don't think he has a case, but he can obviously initiate a suit which would be a pain. Nonetheless, his harassing behavior likely is a cover for a lot more. At this point, I might be tempted to let a trusted newspaper reporter know about the police report and let them take it from there. The public has a right to know and it might just set him back on his heels, being so exposed.
Bullies don't usually back down on their own. I appreciate the urge to burrow away and hope he cools down and just goes away. I'm not sure he will.
I'm sorry for this happening to you, but this guy is only going to become worse and conceivably more powerful in the future if he is not countered.
Off-topic (sorry) but I had someone ring my doorbell two days ago. I wasn't expecting a package but I don't answer the door anymore (typically) if I am not expecting someone. Now, I'm worried about what it was and I have a nagging feeling about it... I guess I need to invest in a Ring doorbell. Sigh..
Bullies typically have a lot of bullying to do, lots of targets and grievances.
So they usually wander off and bother someone else. True, he will bully and bully until or unless he gets a big setback. However, I don't think the OP has to take on that burden without strong motivation to do so.
It occurs to me the OP might reach out for support and to give support to others bullied by him
I doubt there is anything in the police report that needs or behooves involving a reporter at this point.
Re: off topic: you could get one of those old-timey reverse telescopes for the door, one with an inside cap so that you can look out without the person outside noticing the peephole getting dark as your eye gets up to it.
the door to make sure no one is home. THIS IS THE WORST INSTRUCTION TO GIVE KIDS, "DON'T ANSWER THE DOOR & THEY'LL JUST GO AWAY" Sometimes they go away & stay away. But other times they go away only to come back to knock agn & break-in. Most burglars the last thing they want is to break-in to an occupied dwelling.
Upsetting you and having you worried.
I dont think he will but let him spend the money. If it occurs the Discovery process might validate your opinion - and if he does, then as part of the legal actions - you would want your legal fees paid for by him. Maybe some person with a legal background might know more.
Good luck and some a*holes like to try and intimidate people, but really dont want to fight.
But these days who knows. I hope it blows over. Maybe consult the bar association. They give referrals where you can get free brief advice and you can ask questions on legal sites as well.
I think you are doing what is needed. I agree with your husband, but at least you are getting prepared in case he follows through.
Threatening lawsuits can be actionable in itself, I think. Find ways to record any threats or public statements he makes (news reports, local weekly papers, standing up at meetings, etc.). If someone else makes a video of him, see if you can get a copy and note down all the details of time and place and individuals. He might do something foolish that you could sue him for (or defend yourself with should need to).
If he does sue, you can arrange with your lawyer to minimize expenses and there may be ways to maximize your chances of getting him forced to pay your legal costs.
You have made all the right moves and taken all the right steps, done your due diligence. You are in a good position.
But I wouldn't even contact a lawyer unless he actually files something. Or unless he does something stupid enough you think you might be able to sue him.
You might like to reach out for support and to give support to others who have been bullied by him.
Mostly though proceed with your normal life.
Remind readers that in your previous letter, you did not mention any candidates by name, but this time name him. Name and shame. He has self-identified as an asshole of the highest order. By all means correct the record and inform readers that he, in fact, sends his child to a private school, and how he showed up screaming at your doorstep to convey that message.
Step Two: get a Ring Camera and wait for him to violate the cops order to stay away.
Step 3: Sell the video to a news channel.
Local school board candidate goes bananas.
Step 4: Wish him the best of luck getting elected now that footage of him harassing a potential constituent is all over the news.
Yes, stopping magats from even getting onto school boards is a good thing, but the OP is not obligated in any way to be the one to do it.
How about distributing the police report with a warning about this guy to your neighborhood watch group, if any, and also to Facebook. Public service announcement. Though you might want to consult an attorney first. But I think it's Ok to disseminate publicly available information.
That would serve two purposes. It would allow you to set the record straight about the home schooling issue and allow you to let people know how crazy this guy is.
Also, I find it problematic that the principal at the school is giving out information about the attendance or non-attendance of any child. I think that's a privacy issue.
children not enrolled in the school. Its bad form, to be sure, but I doubt the principal has broken any laws or even rules.
On edit: looks like the Federal law only applies to privacy in educational records for children enrolled in a school. And even then, schools can publish student directories and yearbooks. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
or the other candidate who doesn't send their children to public schools.
He can be identified easily by a reader who has read your letter naming the other four candidates.
It's up to the newspaper to vet facts in letters to the editor or they open themselves and the letter writer up to legal action. So now it's up to you and the newspaper editor to verify where this man (and the other candidate) send their children.
If they indeed are home-schooled, they can tell this guy to bugger off.
If the children attend private school, it's imperative to correct the record.
Was your letter defamatory? Probably not, but I haven't read it. But I'd say a case against you and the paper for libel is unlikely to win, but why take that chance?
Oh, and welcome to the world of journalists in MAGA-land.
Printed publications are responsible for content they choose to publish. Unmoderated comments on a news site do not bind the publisher for responsibility of that content, but letters to the editor are selected for publication by the editor, making the editor liable for any non-factual or potentially libelous material in the letter. It's no different than a columnist, who isn't free to spew any BS he/she wants.
Here's a clip from a website of a libel attorney:
Libel is a defamatory statement in print. The most common places for making libelous (written) statements are:
letters to the editor of local newspapers
public comments on media (i.e., newspaper or magazine) web sites
comments to blog posts
social media, internet chat rooms or list servers
You most likely wont see too many potentially libelous comments in published written letters to the editor because editors are generally very careful in screening out such letters.
Courts have held, however, that media organizations are not liable for comments posted by third-party users on their websites, provided that the organizations did not encourage the defamatory comments or materially participate in the creation of the defamatory comments. (Screening and lightly editing comments to remove offensive language does not eliminate this immunity.) Courts have based these decisions on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." See 47 U.S.C. § 230.
However, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (That's a lie)
I think angry magatman can sue you. But, you can sue him also. And I can sue you and him. Anybody can attempt to sue anybody, but what matters more is the chances of winning a lawsuit.
I don't think the fact that you didn't mention angry magatman by name is going to help you all that much. If you said 2 out of the 6 candidates homeschool their kids....then you named the four that didn't, they you kind of did name the two that do....and if angry magatman is one of those two, and he doesn't homeschool his kids, they what you said was incorrect.
However, I think he'd still have to show that he was somehow financially damaged. After all, we sue for money. Someone saying they were financially damaged by not winning public office seems like it might not fly that well.
I'm curious to see what actual lawyers think about this situation.
actionable libel or slander.
HOWEVER -The plaintiff would have to prove that the person uttering or printing the falsehood, KNEW it was false and proceeded to disseminate it, anyway.
If sued, consult homeowner's or tenant's policy (agent) and see if they will provide an attorney if you are sued. This is why it is a good idea to have an umbrella policy. Mine is for $2m. (I haven't had to use it).
I don't remember the amount - one million or two. Thanks for the reminder.
I figure there is much more latitude in politics. I can write a letter expressing my preferences.
I have a call in to the reporter who directed my LTTE to the right people. I intend to tell her what the guy did after he read my letter. He had no business coming to my door, pounding, shouting and threatening. Since I am getting a copy of the deputy's report and the 911 calls, I will have something to show the reporter.
I am not going to let go of this. No fucking MAGAT is going to intimidate me.
They dont back off from anyone they perceive as smaller, weaker, more vulnerable. Women are especially choice targets. You did right to refuse him entry and to refuse to appease him. You did right to call the Sheriff.
MAGAts are dangerous. I like the idea of getting a RING or other home security system that would cover the front and back of your house.
Thats all take care.
Your quarter's in the jukebox you already pressed play.
Time for the attorneys to dance.
You didn't go to his. I think his bark is worse than his bite. If he were going to sue you, he would have sued you instead of visiting your home. You did the right thing by reporting him.
You verified the information you were told. It was believable. Home schooling vs. not in this school vs. private schools is enough to create reasonable, believable, and inadvertent doubt. I don't see malice or slander or libel in that. But then, I am not a lawyer, judge, or jury.
Some lawyers still offer free consults. Might be worth a few calls.
Be at peace. You have bravely stood for what you believe is best for education in our society. On the front lines. I couldn't do it.
They've learned this from the last 6 years of the behavior of a guy that should be in jail.
He probably won't actually sue you. Stand up to him. But be careful. I'm always wary about confronting these nuts because you never know who might be carrying a gun and might be crazy enough to use it.
First amendment. Seems like Republicans can slander Democrats however much they want, but this is definitely political free speech, in my opinion
And it IS malicious.
The OP was right to call the Sheriff and get a file started on him.
Trump has lots of lawyers on staff. Has to use them for something so he sues anyone and everyone.
Sadly this is now acceptable for his vermin bros.....
But I pay an awful lot in school taxes.
Am I allowed to have an opinion on schools?
If you run for the local public school board, what are your concrete plans? I might consider you as a candidate depending on your plans and background, but I would certainly take into account whether or not you actively participated in things that ultimately tear down public schools.
This is part of a right-wing effort to destroy PUBLIC education from the inside--take over school boards, let privatizers take over with charter/private everything, control curriculum, ignore separation of church and state, suck up tax-payer dollars and buy reThug politicians. He's a nasty little pawn energized by propaganda to serve their aims. I'm sorry you got targeted. Take care. This bully entered a public arena, and should have to endure public examination of his background. But that requires intelligence and restraint--he ain't got none.
That guy sounds crazy and unhinged. Not fit for the position he is running for. Why is he coming to your house, uninvited, and showing you checks? He can write his own letter to the paper, and then from there, his lies would be fact checked. I think his threatening behavior should be reported to the paper as a follow up.
Doesn't matter if he pays for private/parochial school or homeschools, his kid is not in the school district, nor is he an educator in the school district.
It's your written opinion that only those deal with public schools should run for school district seats, and it doesn't matter who you endorse.
If he's butt-hurt you don't endorse him because his kids aren't in public school, too bad.
I doubt what you wrote rises to the level of libel, and since when is homeschooling something scandalous enough to be slander?
The paper published the letter, not you. They might be sued but even that is unlikely.
The MAGATs home schooled for at least a time. Plus, you didnt name either in your letter you asked people not to vote for people whose kids are home-schooled. Not your problem they hate the truth.
If you can, talk to an attorney now. Get them up to speed early.
First of all, courts have held that public figures have to meet a higher standard (actual malice) than do private citizens (negligence). While being a school board candidate is not the same as being a high level official, it is willingly putting yourself in the public eye and, therefore, inviting a certain amount of discussion and controversy. I believe he would have a very difficult time proving that you acted with actual malice toward him. Also, although it may have been in error as to degree (home schooling vs. private school), your salient point is absolutely correct: his children do not attend public school. I think it is unlikely that a court would split hairs to such a degree to hold that he was lied about. Finally, he would have to prove that, because of the communication, his reputation sustained damage or harm. Thus, the potential plaintiff would have to argue that the notion that he home schooled his children tarnished his otherwise good name. Not an argument he would want to make and probably not one that would be overly persuasive in court.
I hope this helps. In summary, I believe you are dealing with another hot-headed, constantly aggrieved MAGA type we are seeing so much of these days. Although the situation is unpleasant, my guess is that his little tirade was just an intimidation and scare tactic that will have little to no follow-up forthcoming.
As others have said, take notes and get documents. It'll probably go away on its own. I wouldn't write another letter. He could see that as an escalation. Even if he can't sue you, he can make your life miserable in other ways.
1. Get a copy of the police report.
2. If there is not a report, call the responding deputy and ask for one. If they won't, ask for any documentation they have showing you called and that a deputy was dispatched. If they ask why, just relate that you have some concerns that he might come back and want to make sure there's documentation to show it would be a continuing pattern of concerning behavior.
3. Write a 2nd letter to the paper. Explain that you want to make a correction...
Refer to your previous letter that did NOT name this guy. Then just lay out what happened:
Say you want to set the record straight. Dickhead, who you had not named, arrived uninvited at your residence to tell you he did NOT homeschool, but in fact spent $8k to send his child to PRIVATE school and he tried to show you his checkbook proving this. He also informed you he was going to sue you for implying he homeschooled, even though you had not mentioned his name. Say the encounter ended after you called the sheriff to have him leave your property. (This is why you want to see the police report so that any information you provide is supported by the report)
Just lay it out very matter of fact, unemotionally. Finish the letter by laying out again who you are supporting and why. Then maybe end with saying how much you're enjoying your new home surveillance cameras.
your Sanctuary, Muriel!
Best of Good Fortune that he never darkens your door Again!
I have trouble with a person who does not have their children in public schools being on the school board.
Wing-nuts threaten to sue people all the time. They have no clue and think it's like a game show.
I would say that he would have a hard time finding a lawyer that will take a case like this - unless he pays them a bunch up front.
You did the right thing in writing the letter.
That's what opinion columns are meant for. He, however, did NOT have the right to come onto your property and confront you in a threatening manner about the letter you wrote. My personal opinion is that he's not going to sue you. He probably doesn't want to spend money on lawyers either. The next move is his. Wait to see if he does sue you. I highly doubt it. He may just talk with a lawyer who may even tell him he has no chance of winning his lawsuit. When he is told that he'll have to shell out a retainer fee up front, he'll think twice.
As a side note, and as someone else stated, this is the latest tactic of all right wingers - to take over school boards. Next it will be library boards. As someone who has been on a board, these are oftentimes thankless tasks with little or no compensation, so getting candidates is sometimes difficult, especially in smaller towns. Maybe Democrats like ourselves should start thinking about doing the same - run for a seat on your school board or library board or trustee. Many of us here on DU are retired and have more time to invest. In smaller towns, you may often find that you would be unopposed. A friend of mine who is a lifelong Democrat ran for President of her small, rural township and was extremely surprised when she won since most of her town is Republican and farmers.
She and a small group of activist voters in her city meet often to plan their counterattacks for an upcoming bond issue. Mostly FOIA efforts and subsequent distribution of information gleaned (which has contained shocking stuff including police records and believe it or not an illegal child abduction by LE).
She recently received an angry visit to her home from a local magat constable. To her credit she told the guy he was out of line and probably treading close to an illegal act meant to intimidate. He backed off and she called the PD to get a copy of the report. Funny they had no such record.
These local races are getting crazy as more and more magats try to take over every aspect of govt. I give my daughter so much credit for facing them down and using brainpower to fight them bc god knows these mfers have none.
charges against this raging bully.
whatever it is called there. His actions could probably be considered assault. Don't forget. Assault is basically threats. Battery is actual physical contact.
He can't legally sue you though he may try. Have you filed a police report? He has no right to threaten people on their own property.
Is there a board rule about sending kids to public schools?
Was reelected several times.
But he also wasnt an asshole
Last edited Sat Mar 25, 2023, 08:27 PM - Edit history (1)
One you didn't name him.
Two He'd have to prove that saying 2 unnamed out of how many candidates home school their kids is some how going to hurt his reputation and that you KNEW the statement to be false. His kids don't go to public school so you were at worst misinformed. You're allowed to say the truth "his kids don't go to public school, what business would he have on the school board?".
Look up the particulars for your state but that sounds like it would be a frivolous lawsuit and you could win by countersuing for your attorney fees plus the damage of being named that way.
Not an attorney, just saying focus on securing your home.
Finally maybe write another ltte about the incident and how he now pays lots of tuition to not school his kids in the district where they want to sit in the school board.
Edit: Look for an Attorney to review outline of situation or at least find one or more who can do that kind of case.
Making the losing party pay the other side's attorney fees is the exception, not the rule.
Defamation is pretty nuanced law. I'd never advise anyone to defend against a claim of defamation without an attorney. (That's not just protectionism - just the reality that some laws are more complex than others.)