Truth Lies

It has become quite clear that Pam Kohler and Colton Harris-Moore plan on profiting from his crimes. Today KOMO reported that one of their attorneys is investigating “defamation” against his clients as well.

So not only do they want to make money off of people’s misery, now they might want revenge– for what he caused and she might have enabled.

To prove defamation in our state, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted with actual malice, meaning that they knowingly promoted false information. Plaintiffs don’t prevail very often around here because that’s difficult to prove. Other criteria have to be met as well.

Only if the plaintiff is considered a private figure does the defendant have to prove negligence, not actual malice, to win. Given that Harris-Moore made himself a public figure, I doubt he could be reasonably considered a private one.

I’m not aware of anyone who’s been disseminating false information on this side of the issue. Much of the analysis of this case is based on Harris-Moore’s and his family’s own statements and actions. They seemed to have wanted the limelight, and they got it.

It would be ironic for anyone critical of Harris-Moore’s actions to be brought to court for it. Everyone has a First Amendment right to discuss facts and share their feelings on this. But it is also the First Amendment that has been used as justification to invalidate or overlook Son of Sam laws.

So criminals and their families can invoke the First Amendment to make money, but the people who are speaking up for the victims and trying to protect their communities don’t have the same rights?

Another irony I see in this is that when I stood up to domestic violence years ago, the defense attorney– now Harris-Moore’s– made several statements to the press that were completely untrue. I was caught off guard by the same type of statements when I was interviewed by him.

That false information was used by people in the workplace to harass and bully me, and that caused very unsafe circumstances. That’s the job I left because the misinformation and harassment got so bad, and my health crashed as a result.

I don’t know if that attorney was given bad information or if that were a defense tactic. I’m just bothered that crime victims and their supporters can be falsely accused and never see justice for it.

Yet here is a case where a convicted criminal suspected in a slew of felonies, and some relatives, may drag people into court over defamation.

Again, what false information? Hasn’t most of the advocacy and analysis been based on Harris-Moore and his family’s own statements and actions? Hasn’t law enforcement operated on evidence and probable cause?

It’s the victims and people desiring justice who’ve had to endure completely false accusations, unfounded complaints, name calling, stereotypes, generalizations, and insults. Some Harris-Moore supporters seem to have declared open season on anyone who disagrees with them.

It’s the fans and occasionally the media who’ve empowered any mythology. Even today I saw one news outlet reporting that Harris-Moore lived in the woods for two years. His mother’s said he was living with friends, and evidence was found that he’d been living in an airplane hangar on Orcas.

People threatening defamation suits should choose their battles wisely so that their tactics don’t backfire on them. They may be furthering any existing negative image by taking the offensive, which may amount to bullying the poor or innocent.

This is a terrible PR move at a time when Harris-Moore and his mother would be wise to appear as nonconfrontational as possible. Even if Pam Kohler does this without her son’s support, it could still work against him.

If these people want money or vindication from the people who’ve made them look bad, they should be suing themselves. Sounds like they’ll have no problem compensating the plaintiffs.


I am rather sick of the modern assumption that, for all events, ‘WE,’ the people, are never responsible: it is always our rulers, or ancestors, or parents, or education, or anybody but precious ‘US.’ WE are apparently perfect and blameless. Don’t you believe it. –C.S. Lewis

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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