By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The former campaign manager for Attorney General Luther Strange has filed a defamation of character suit against blogger, Roger Shuler.
The civil action filed by Jessica Medeios Garrison against Shuler, whose blog is called Legal Schnauzer, was recorded in Jefferson County Circuit Court on August 27, 2013. The case contends that Shuler published, “defamatory, malicious and intentionally tortious posts about Garrison on his website.
But, it is not just Shuler that the case is filed against. It also includes, “those persons, firms or corporations unknown to Plaintiff that acted in concert with Defendant Roger A. Shuler to fund, foment, direct or, jointly with him, publish the defamatory, malicious and intentionally tortious posts.”
This is a wide net cast to ensnare anyone who may be helping Shuler in any way. (Lawsuit Document) This may also extend to the anonymous posters on Shuler’s website.
Shuler has repeatedly posted stories on his site accusing Garrison of having an ongoing sexual affair with the Attorney General.
Under headlines like “AG Luther Strange Has A Messy Extramarital Affair With Ex Campaign Aide Jessica Medeiros Garrison,” Shuler has unleashed a barrage of stories stating that, “Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has engaged in a lengthy extramarital affair with his former campaign manager.”
According to Garrison’s attorney former Attorney General William “Bill” Baxley, his client is prepared to fully confront Shuler’s accusations in a court of law.
On August 16, 2013, Baxley sent a letter to Shuler demanding a retraction of what he said were defamatory statements made on Legal Schnauzer. Baxley sought a retraction of comments made on the blog. Baxley, referring to posts on the site, wrote of Garrison, “…is not a whore, has no addiction to strangers, has no mental disorder, has had no sexual relationship with Luther Strange, and has not allowed herself to be used sexually to advance herself in Alabama or the Republican Party.”
Shuler responded to Baxley’s in an email saying, in part,
“Mr. Baxley, I am in receipt of your letter dated Aug. 16, 2013. Please be advised that the material you cite in my blog, Legal Schnauzer, is not false or defamatory, and I will make no retraction. Your contention that it constitutes harassing communications for a journalist to present questions to, or seek comment from, an individual who is engaged in the public political arena . . . well, it’s not remotely supported by law-—and such a ridiculous claim should be beneath an attorney of your long standing.”
Shuler, ends his communication to Baxley by saying, “Finally, be advised that anyone who files a groundless lawsuit against me will be met with an appropriate counterclaim and motion for sanctions—against her and her attorney.”
Shuler also stated, “How did I respond to Jessica Medeiros Garrison’s threat of a defamation lawsuit over my reporting on her extramarital affair with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange?
Shuler later adds, “As you can see, two can play the ‘threatening a lawsuit’ game.”
But far from being a threat, as Shuler referred to Baxley’s letter on August 29, the lawsuit against Legal Schnauzer had already been filed in Jefferson County.
On August 29, when the Alabama Political Reporter contacted Shuler about the filing in Jefferson County, he responded by email saying, “I haven’t seen it, and I haven’t been served with it, so there is nothing I can say about it. It may or may not be real, as far as I’m concerned.”
Garrison’s attorney said when she first came to him about the suit, “I spent between three to four hours with her. And I gave her every reason why she didn’t want to file a lawsuit.”
Baxley said that he grilled her like an “old-time New York detective.” He said that he asked her, “Hard, hard, hard questions. And it wasn’t an hour or so before I became totally convinced that there’s not a grain of truth to [Shuler’s] stuff and that she [Garrison] was telling the truth when she said she’s never done anything improper with Luther.”
Baxley said he went over every possible downside with Garrison and she said she had proof to refute every accusation made on Legal Schnauzer.
From the affair to $200,000.00, Shuler’s website says Garrison was improperly paid by the Strange campaign to the scandalous claim that her only son was illegitimate. Baxley said Garrison was in possession of or was willing to produce proof that Shuler’s accusations were lies.
Baxley said he told his client that Shuler most likely had no money to pay in damages but that money was not Garrison’s motivation, “I can’t continue to let him do this to me…it’s causing me tremendous harm.”
Clearing her good name is what Baxley indicated his client was suing to reclaim.
This is not the first time Shuler has attacked a woman’s character without providing evidence beyond anonymous sources.
Defamation lawsuits can be very difficult to prove, especially in the age of the internet.
However, in July 2013 a federal jury in Kentucky found that a gossip website and its operator, “defamed a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader,” according to a report in Huffington Post.
Sarah Jones filed a defamation suit over posts on the website thedirty.com in 2009. Jurors found that the website operator Nik Richie acted with “malice or reckless disregard in posting anonymous submissions.” Jones was awarded $338,000 in damages.
In the way that Baxley has structured the lawsuit, it indicates that on some level he and Garrison think that there are others who have helped Shuler with his website or reporting, and that those individuals will also be held accountable; if Garrison should succeed as Jones has.