Sensational 'hate-mail' trial shaping up

Prof David Rowe could face a barrage of lawsuits

Sunday, April 22, 2012

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A trial involving some of Jamaica's most prominent politicians and businessmen shaping up in a Florida court is likely to be sensational and could impact the way people use e-mails.

Professor David Rowe, a Jamaica-born Florida attorney, will face Daryl Vaz, the former information and telecommunications minister, in a Broward court in a lawsuit stemming from what is now being called a "hate-mail" that Vaz said libelled him and others.

But Rowe could also potentially face a slew of lawsuits from P J Patterson, Audley Shaw, Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, Bruce Golding, Dr Christopher Tufton, Brian Jardim and others who were alleged to have been libelled in the e-mail that was widely circulated across the globe, Vaz said.

In court documents filed April 13, 2012 in the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward Country, Vaz alleged: "The defamation occurred through March 13, 2012 e-mail transmissions sent by defendant Rowe... who practices in the State of Florida, fabricated and published a document which purported to be an official 'US Law Enforcement Memo to Turks and Caicos Special Investigation and Prosecutions Team'.

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

Rowe, the son of the late Jamaican judge Ira Rowe, denied he was the author of the offensive e-mail and suggested the document in question originated from the United States Homeland Security. But in pressing his defence he was forced to admit that he had assisted one of its special agents, by the name of Brian McCormack, a fact most collaborators with US security agencies usually opt to keep a secret.

Writing to Vaz's lawyers, Rowe revealed: "In my capacity as a Florida lawyer, I am professionally assisting a Justice Department US attorney and Homeland Security special agents in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Grand Jury investigation of Jamaican targets. This is why I forwarded the relevant memorandum to Homeland Security."

He added: "My e-mail correspondence with the Justice Department and/or Homeland Security is absolutely privileged."

Jamaica-born Florida lawyer David Brown, who is representing Rowe, also told Vaz's lawyer: "As you are aware, both Mr Rowe and Mr Vaz are politically active in the beautiful island of Jamaica for opposing political parties. Mr Rowe testified against Mr Vaz in a Jamaican Supreme Court case, which led to Mr Vaz having to renounce his US citizenship. At the same time, Rowe, through his attorney, indicated on April 17 that he would be open to an amicable settlement based on mediation, even as he filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Vaz four days earlier.

"Perhaps Mr Vaz would prefer to resolve this amicably through the mediation process, since he is a member of parliament in Jamaica and particularly in light of the serious underlying national security implications for both Jamaica and the United States of America," Rowe told Vaz's lawyer Jennifer Cohen Glasser of the US law firm Akerman Sentefitt.

Rowe also appeared to soften his stance by telling Glasser that he bore no malice towards Vaz.

"Mr Vaz is an experienced Jamaican public servant who can appreciate the landscape of Jamaican politics," he said, describing himself (Rowe) as "a distinguished officer of both the Florida Bar and the Jamaican Bar" and "a valuable asset to both Jamaica and the United States of America".

But Vaz scoffed at the idea of mediation, vowing to fight the case "to the bitter end".

He said he had spoken to the other people named in the e-mail and either received "overwhelming support" for his action or an indication that some or all might join the lawsuit against Rowe.

"I have what I consider to be conclusive evidence (through technology) and I have a responsibility to myself, my family, my friends, my country and, not least of all, to all of the persons who have been implicated, not only in this e-mail but who suffered similar fate, to pursue this relentlessly to a conclusion by the court," Vaz insisted.

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