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The price for libel in Belfair – $25,000

May 15th, 2009 by Steven Gardner

In 2006 Bob Harris, the former owner of a small grocery store and frequent critic of the local weekly, took a photograph of the editor of that paper and pasted it onto a copy of a sex offender notice.

Harris then made copies and posted them on businesses around Belfair and in Allyn. Initially he denied being the culprit. That he was suspected wasn’t a surprise, because he had previously printed signs with the phrase “No Moore Bad News” and posted them around town. The “Moore” in question was Belfair Herald Editor Kevan Moore.

Harris had also used his store’s readerboard and the Herald’s letters section to blast Moore and the paper.

Harris did not fess up to posting the flyers until he saw bank security photos of him doing just that. Then he started making apologies around town.

The poster was a warning for a Level 3 offender who had failed to register, was considered a high risk to reoffend and whose whereabouts were unknown. Instead of the offender’s photo, however, there was the photo of Moore. The incident occurred about a year after two sex offenders had been murdered in Bellingham, so locals in Mason County thought the poster dangerous for Moore.

Moore, according to a story in the Washington Newspaper, sued civilly. The Washington Newspaper is published by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington.

Moore was awarded $25,000, of which $15,000 was for compensatory damages. He had asked for $150,000. Moore, according to the story, said the judgment was the equivalent of the judge telling Harris his libel was “no big deal.”

“If Judge Finlay’s ruling is truly representative of this community’s attitude and stance towards the behavior that Mr. Harris engaged in, then I am clearly out of touch with this place that I have been living in and covering as a reporter for almost a decade,” Moore said in his statement.

The incident happened at a time when North Mason County seemed particularly given to ugly politics. Bill Eickmeyer’s race against Randy Neatherlin for state representative in 2006 had nastiness coming from supporters, often anonymous, on both sides. The school board’s relationship with its superintendent was contentious.

In 2008 the state representative campaign went on fairly well mannered. Neatherlin ran again, this time against Fred Finn. About the ugliest thing to happen was Neatherlin getting Rickrolled online. That’s when you go to a site you think is for one thing, and then you get Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” video. During the campaign it had anti-Neatherlin stuff. Now it has a picture of Che Guevarra. Pretty mild by Belfair 2006 standards.

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8 Responses to “The price for libel in Belfair – $25,000”

  1. Tom Rosendale Says:

    You forgot to mention the greatly altered picture of Netherlin as a used car sleaze put out by the Democratic Central Committee for Fred Finns benefit.

    It was mailed to all registered voters. It didn’t put Netherlin in danger as Bob Harris libel did, but it was just as unscrupulous and sleazy. A pretty despicable thing for an elected representative, Fred Finn, to be involved in.

  2. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Moore needs a new lawyer… and a new lawsuit for ten million dollars.

    “Moore, according to the story, said the judgment was the equivalent of the judge telling Harris his libel was “no big deal.”

    “If Judge Finlay’s ruling is truly representative of this community’s attitude and stance towards the behavior that Mr. Harris engaged in, then I am clearly out of touch with this place that I have been living in and covering as a reporter for almost a decade,” Moore said in his statement.”

    I’ve never believed in lawsuits that I see bandied about – but what Bob Harris did to Kevan Moore was attempted murder. He clearly hoped to incite someone into killing such an apparent menace to their children. Robin Moore could have died or worse directly due to Bob Harris deliberate and malicious attempt to cast him as a dangerous sex offender.

    I don’t know what a ‘class action lawsuit’ entails, but Randy Netherlin needs to join in and gather others who have been innocent victims of a deliberate, callous and brutal disregard for truth and justice.

    Who else out there has been so injured?
    The young girl who committed suicide over a malicious attack on her…how many others?
    And how long will we pretend it doesn’t matter?

    What happened to Robin Moore yesterday could well happen to you today or your child tomorrow.
    Sharon O’Hara

  3. Jim C. Says:

    “Moore needs a new lawyer… and a new lawsuit for ten million dollars.”

    “I’ve never believed in lawsuits that I see bandied about – but what Bob Harris did to Kevan Moore was attempted murder. He clearly hoped to incite someone into killing such an apparent menace to their children. Robin Moore could have died or worse…”

    Sharon,

    Lets be practical. If Harris had 10 million dollars, he probably wouldn’t be living in Belfair! And if it was “attempted murder” then it would be a criminal issue not a civil suit and there would be no money issue.

    Sounds like Harris needs a good old fashioned spanking (or is this considered torture nowadays?)!

    Ps. Dying is about the worse it gets.

  4. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Jim C — The money isn’t the issue, only what it signifies. In this case the judge showed a callous indifference to the ramifications of the Harris vendetta against Moore.

    In my opinion, Harris should have been arrested…that what he did was criminal. At the very least, his mental competence should have been questioned and evaluated.

    “…a year after two sex offenders had been murdered in Bellingham, …locals in Mason County thought the poster dangerous for Moore.””

    Had Moore been injured or killed by someone believing Moore was what Harris claimed he was, would the law care? Or would the person/s committing the physical act be the only people arrested?

    Throwing eggs at a house or car might be considered a ‘prank.’

    Ps… Dying is certainly the most final end to a life.

  5. Mary Swoboda Says:

    Sharon,
    Are you basing your opinion on the blogger’s opinion piece? There’s two sides to every story… Especially in Belfair! :-)

  6. Mrs. B Says:

    Hey, you forgot to mention all the people who were witnesses, for Bob Harris received an intimidating letter in the mailbox on the first day of trial. It was “exactly like the one Mr. Harris was accused of making. It was unmarked who sent it. They chose to use self stick envelopes and self stick stamps. They used a big black felt pin to address them on each envelope. Gee, what could it have been. ARE YOU READY?
    A sex offender flyer with Bob Harris name on it. Stating “Toxic Bob”
    What did Judge Finley do about these dozen or so intimidating flyers to each household, nothing! She would NOT take them in to evidence on this trial.

    So, here we all sit with these “witness tampering, intimidating, sex offender flyer that came directly to all of the homes”

    Here’s another thing to consider: Mr. Harris found the flyer by Lakeland Village all ready posted on a bulletin board. Then he copied it, its alleged he DID NOT MAKE IT. Knowing this person is not into computers, I believe he would not know how to make it.

    Now I do find it very interesting that a flyer made the same way that Mr. Harris was accused of making, winds up in the personal mailboxes on the day of trial, to each WITNESS who is testifying. The only people who had the addresses of the witnesses would be the courts, lawyers, and Kevan Moore and Bob Harris.

    So why is it okay for all those witnesses to be harassed by obviously someone at the other end? AND IT APPEARS THAT THE FIRST FLYER WAS MADE LIKE THE “INTIMIDATING FLYERS, with Mr. Harris picture”

    Kevan was never in any danger due to the flyer someone made. And obviously the courts felt the same way.

    YES, IT WAS ABOUT THE MONEY. Thanks to smarter people then “the clan” the judge also saw this. Mr. Harris was punished. And Kevan Moore is no longer the editor of The Belfair Herald.
    This was a win, win situation!

  7. Mrs. B Says:

    I meant to ask, who paid the initial attorney fees for Mr. Moore? Follow the money, and you will find the source of those who keep the fires burning.

  8. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Mary, My opinion is based on the reporting of the case – I followed the links back.

    Harris may have been ‘punished’ and Moore no longer the editor of the Belfair Herald…but nobody ‘won’… least of all the community.
    Sharon O’Hara

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