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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Appeals Court Rules in favor of The Valley Patriot

Appeals Court Rules in
favor of The Valley Patriot

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals has dealt another devastating defeat to Kevin Thompson of Methuen who unsuccessfully sued The Valley Patriot newspaper for libel and defamation of character stemming from an opinion piece published in 2006 (Father’s Priorities are out of Whack). The Valley Patriot is a monthly publication headquartered in North Andover and was established in 2004.

Thompson filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper and it’s owners individually, first claiming that Valley Patriot owner/editor Tom Duggan was the author of the piece credited to freelance writer Tom Dunham. But, after weeks of harassing Duggan by phone and sending crass and abusive emails, Thompson then changed his story and blamed Valley Patriot co-owner Paula Porten when he learned that Porten was also an attorney who has cases in family court.

A Public Figure

Thompson wrote a book claiming he was a victim of conspiracies in the family court, the book was banned by Judge Manzi during his custody battle with his ex-wife. The ban further fueled his conspiracy theories which he used to gain sympathy from local fathers who also felt (some legitimately) that they had been treated unfairly by the family court.

Thompson began to engage in long, rambling rants on his website and on local blogs accusing Porten and Duggan of being part of the “conspiracy” with Judge Manzi, his ex-wife and others to deny him custody of his child and cover up the conspiracy against him in the family court.

He also accused dozens of bloggers (who ridiculed him) of “being Duggan” or “his douche bag family court girlfriend Paula Porten”.

Neither Porten nor Duggan had anything to do with Thompson’s custody case, were not present during the proceedings and were in no way affiliated with Thompson’s failures to convince the court he was a fit father.

Porten and Duggan contended all along that Kevin Thompson had a history of frivolous lawsuits and was looking for a quick payday “because he had always enjoyed positive press before we came along and he just couldn’t handle it when one of our writers took him to task,” Duggan said.

The Valley Patriot had previously given Thompson and his friends in the “Fatherhood Coalition” positive, free publicity including an “interview” that editors later found out Thompson had written himself and conspired to publish under someone else’s name.

Judge Marita Hopkins said in her initial ruling: "One cannot be so prominent and vocal a partisan in a public debate, particularly when one has had a hand in creating the debate in the first place, and then cry foul at the rough and tumble of the merketplace of ideas. Thompson cannot establish that any of the claims in the op-ed are anything other than opinion or, if they are fact, that they are false. Therefore, he cannot, a fortiori, prove that they were made with “actual malice." Consequently his claim must be dismissed." – Judge Merita Hopkins, Justice of the Superior Court.


Judge Hopkins also ruled that Thompson he had to pay legal and attorney’s fees to Paula Porten, Tom Duggan and The Valley Patriot.

Valley Patriot editors estimate that they have shelled out more than $11,000 defending against Thompson’s “frivolous suit”, an amount they say will take them years to recover. As he did in his failed attempt to gain custody of his son, Kevin Thompson represented himself in the initial lawsuit against the Valley Patriot as well as the numerous failed appeals that followed.

After losing in Lawrence Superior Court in January of 2009, Kevin Thompson appealed Judge Hopkins’ ruling, attacking her on his website and adding her to the long list of alleged conspirators he claims are “out to get” him.

In court paper the disgruntled father accused Judge Hopkins of conspiring with the Valley Patriot, his ex wife, her lawyer, judges and members of the press. Thompson even personally attacked Judge Hopkins on his website (HYSTERICAL RANTINGS AGAINST JUDGE HOPKINS). He also has a list of judges on his site whom he claims have committed "crimes" against him. (LINK)

“Clearly we are dealing with someone who has some personality and social issues,” said Valley Patriot owner/editor Tom Duggan.

“I feel bad for Mr. Thompson, I pity him really. He has lost his kid, his wife, his job, his election and every lawsuit he has ever filed. If you think about it, the poor guy has convinced himself that I, Paula Porten, judges, lawyers, the entire Methuen School System, the teachers union, court clerks, police officers, members of the press, and anyone in his line of sight are all part of some secret plot against him. I hope he gets the help he needs.”

A History of Failed and Frivolous Lawsuits

After being warned several times not to discuss his book or his personal issues concerning his ex-wife and son, Thompson repeatedly discussed his personal issues with students at Methuen High School and after disciplinary actions failed to stop his behavior he was fired.

Thompson sued the City of Methuen, the superintendent, members of the school committee the principal, his superiors and the teachers union for failing to defend his actions. Thompson lost each of those lawsuits after he had admitted on CNN’s Tucker Carlson that he spoke to his students about his book and his custody battles with the court.

Lawrence Superintendent of Schools Wilfredo Laboy brought Thompson on board to teach science at Lawrence High School two years ago. He is still employed by the Lawrence Public Schools.

Thompson ran for Mayor of Methuen in 2009 but finished third out of three candidates in the primary. He was called a “loon” by fellow candidates and ostracized by political activists for his outrageous behavior on the campaign trail and his bombastic, angry and sometimes incoherent blog postings on the Eagle~Tribune website.

The Valley Patriot is represented by Andover Attorney, Peter Carusso of Divine Millimet. "We are quite confident that, if Mr. Thompson decides to appeal this to the Surpeme Court the result will be the same," Carusso said.

“We never took this guy seriously,” Duggan added. “He’s just a disgruntled father who was trying to blame his numerous failures in life on everyone else but himself. I know he’s looking for some kind of redemption after losing his kid but he’s not going to use us to get it. There was never any doubt that Mr. Thompson would lose at every stage of this charade, and we’re just glad we can now see light at the end of the tunnel,” Duggan concluded.

2nd Suit Pending

The Valley Patriot still faces a lawsuit by Attorney William DiAdamo who was fired by the City of Lawrence after losing the Andrea Traficanti worker's compensation case.

DiAdamo is suing the newspaper in an attempt to force Valey Patriot President, Tom Duggan to reveal his sources on the story of his firing.

Fired attorney's firm member made millions on taxpayers: Andrea Traficanti files for permanent disability

RELATED STORY NUMBER 2: Defending the First Amendment and protecting confidential sources - Lawrence Attorney was confidential source

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