Photo: Prince Alwaleed bin Tatal of Saudi Arabia
Over the years, there have been a litany of "legal" attempts to chill my reporting on fascism foreign and domestic, but the latest is the most curious -- and arguably least substantive.
On May 8, I received an e-mail from a Mr. Burak Hunkaroglu, a legal assistant at the Rubbit LLC law firm, 3960 Howard Hughes Parkway in Las Vegas. According to Mr. Hunkaroglu, I had defamed Prince Alwaleed bin Tatal of Saudi Arabia, one of the world's richest men.
His legal hounds were baying at my door, thirsting for blood.
But I read the e-mail with some amusement. Primarily, I had committed libel by posting a report from ThinkProgress on June 6, 2010 regarding derisive comments made about the prince -- a part-owner of Fox News -- by silly far-right commentator Glenn Beck ... on Fox News.
"Alwaleed should sue himself," I thought.
The letter informed me: "WALEED BIN TALAL is an educated, respected professional in the community. He has spent years serving the community in his profession and building a positive reputation. ... "
At first, I thought the e-mail was a joke. I'd never heard of Rubbit LLC. The name evoked visions of a Warner Brothers cartoon. And the "Official Letter" cited New York defamation law. A libel lawsuit filed in New York City -- by attorneys for a Saudi royal, no less -- hadn't a chance in Hell in this case. Why? For one reason among many, there is a one-year statute of limitations for defamation in New York. Under the state's single publication clause, the statute of limitations clock begins to tick when a defamatory statement is first published. The post is three years old, and I wasn't the first to publish it. Besides, Prince Alwaleed is a highly public figure. If public figures could sue, Barack Obama would haul the Tea Party to court for claiming that he is not an American citizen, and had written "death panels" into the Afffordable Health Care Act, etc., etc.
A lawsuit is extremely improbable, but you never know. It will have a brief lifespan in a New York courtroom, however, and would draw an immediate counter-suit. I happen to disapprove of extortion, this is clearly the intent of the e-mail, as worded. It demands that I admit in writing to making "defamatory" statements about Alwaleed, or Rubbit LLC will drag me into court. Such a letter would not only be false, it could be used to as the basis for the filing of a more substantive lawsuit against me, one based on my own "confession."
My response to Mr. Hunkaroglu and his threats was short and quite helpful: "Please seek psychiatric help."
If the prince is truly an "educated, respected professional," he should steer clear of shysters plying legal threats to chill First Amendment rights.
The text of the e-mail that I received from Mr. Hunkaroglu:
From: Rubbit Teck <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:13 AM
Subject: Official LetterPages:http://www.constantinereport.com/media/beck-blames-one-of-fox-news-largest-shareholders-saudi-prince-alwaleed-bin-talal-for-911/To Whom It Concern,CEASE AND DESIST ALL DEFAMATION OFAL WALEED BIN TALAL’S CHARACTER AND REPUTATION.AL WALEED BIN TALAL is an educated, respected professional in the community. He has spent years serving the community in his profession and building a positive reputation.Under New York law, it is unlawful to engage in defamation of another’s character and reputation. Defamation consists ofAccordingly, we demand that you (A) immediately cease and desist your unlawful defamation of AL WALEED BIN TALAL and (B) provide us with prompt written assurance within ten (10) days that you will cease and desist from further defamation of AL WALEED BIN TALAL’s character and reputation.If you do not comply with this cease and desist demand within this time period, AL WALEED BIN TALAL is entitled to seek monetary damages and equitable relief for your defamation. In the event you fail to meet this demand, please be advised that AL WALEED BIN TALAL has asked us to communicate to you that he will pursue all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and an order that you pay court costs and attorney’s fees. Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable.Before taking these steps, however, my client wished to give you one opportunity to discontinue your illegal conduct by complying with this demand within ten (10) days. Accordingly, please sign and return the attached Defamation Settlement Agreement within ten (10) days toRubbit LLC3960 Howard Hughes ParkwayLas Vegas, Nevada 89169United StatesTel:+1 (702) 990-3624email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSincerely,Regards,Burak HunkarogluLegal Asistant