Round one of hate-mail saga to Vaz

Court says former minister can subpoena Google, Yahoo!

Monday, May 21, 2012

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JAMAICAN-BORN Florida attorney, Professor David Rowe failed last week to get the courts to block Daryl Vaz from serving subpoenas on Google and Yahoo! in his bid to unmask the author of an e-mail in which he was libelled.

The court on May 17, 2012 threw out Rowe's bid to stop Vaz from serving the subpoenas on the two giant search engines, effectively giving round one to the former government minister, in the continuing hate-mail saga.

"Objections are over-ruled and the subpoenas may be served," Judge Richard D Eade ruled in favour of Vaz in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, Florida.

Vaz, the former minister of information and telecommunications, filed a lawsuit on April 13, 2012 in which he accused Rowe of using a pseudonym to libel him and some of the biggest names in Jamaican politics and business.

Using smart technology, experts traced the e-mail back to its origins and the subpoenas were served as part of efforts to have this evidence admitted into court.

The e-mail under the name "Paul Azan", also libelled former Prime Minister P J Patterson; former Prime Minister Bruce Golding; former Finance Minister Audley Shaw; former Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Christopher Tufton; Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, chairman of the Sandals and ATL Group which includes the Jamaica Observer, and Stewart's son, Brian Jardim, proprietor of Margaritaville.

Vaz, the first to react, filed his lawsuit against Rowe in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County, Florida.

Patterson said that he had referred the matter to his lawyers for their advice and Dr Tufton said he too was seeking legal advice.

The others named in the offensive, e-mail which was distributed globally via the Internet, are expected to follow suit.

In his court documents, Vaz accused Rowe of "hiding behind pseudonyms" to fabricate and publish a document purported to be an official 'US Law Enforcement Memo to Turks and Caicos Special Investigation and Prosecutions Team'.

The document made "direct accusations of bribery, money laundering, corruption and close affiliations with a notorious convicted drug lord".

Rowe is denying that he is the author of the document and has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He also took the unsuccessful action against the subpoenas on Google and Yahoo!

The case against Rowe is important for its potential to discourage individuals who use the Internet anonymously to malign and damage other people's reputation, even when they have no evidence against them that can stand the light of day.

Lawyers examining the case argue that while free speech is a right to which everyone is entitled, it is "absolutely irresponsible and cowardly to use that right unjustly to assassinate the character of others who have worked hard to achieve the high esteem in which they are held".


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