A lawyer for West Palm Beach website operator Mark Dougan wants a judge to dismiss the defamation lawsuit brought against Dougan last month by Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw‘s second-in-command.
In his original complaint, PBSO Chief Deputy Mike Gauger claimed Dougan repeatedly sullied his reputation with parodies and doctored photos that appeared on Dougan’s controversial website, pbsotalk.com. The site also allows PBSO members to post anonymously comments about the agency’s administration and publishes public records that usually make the administration look bad.
But with Bradshaw running for a third term, Dougan also published unflattering cartoons and photos of Gauger and Bradshaw, who’s not named in the lawsuit.
Gauger objected to Dougan running fake photos of him standing next to Bradshaw dressed as Adolf Hitler, and in another, engaged in sex with another man made to look like Bradshaw.
Represented by well-known West Palm law guru Jack Scarola, Gauger filed despite the fact that it is traditionally difficult for public official to win defamation lawsuits. Scarola described Dougan as an “Internet terrorist.”
Dougan, meanwhile, is represented by famed First Amendment specialist Tom Julin. One of his goals in taking the case at no charge to Dougan is to force a Florida court to confirm that websites are guaranteed the same protection from defamation cases as newspapers, magazines and television stations.
In his request for the case’s dismissal filed Friday, Julin said Gauger’s complain is “vague and ambiguous” and doesn’t provide evidence. Further, Gauger’s camp failed to ask Dougan to correct the alleged defamation five days before the filing, another legal requirement.