Early last month I posted an exchange of emails between myself and James E. Prince III, editor and publisher of the Neshoba Democrat and co-chair of the Philadelphia Coalition.
Last February, a person who identifies herself as Suzy Sharino, and who claims to be a former reporter for Prince, left a comment on HungryBlues, which enraged Mr. Prince. Sharino's comment was made in response to this post. There and elsewhere (more), I am critical of Prince and the Philadelphia Coalition, which has charged itself with "establishing a perpetual structure that will foster racial harmony and reconciliation" in Neshoba County, MS.
Prince claimed that Sharino's comments are false and defamatory. For that reason, Prince demanded that I remove them from my blog. Prince was unclear in those initial emails, which specific statements by Sharino were false and defamatory; instead, he insisted I remove the entirety of Sharino's comment and made vague threats about contacting his lawyer.
In my last email message to Prince, I explained that neither bloggers nor their ISPs are liable for comments left by third parties, like Suzy Sharino. I concluded by saying:
If you have a specific request to make of me, please make it with the appropriate rationale, so I can consider it. Be advised, however, that since the statements that you mention were made be [sic] a third party, retractions are purely a matter of my discretion. Your threats have no sway with me. You are of course welcome to make a comment on my blog to rebut any of Suzy Sharino's statements.
That was on June 4 in the afternoon. That evening, Prince wrote to me again, making specific denials by asserting that:
Among other things, my grandfather was never in the Citizens Counsel, I certainly didn’t embezzle funds from the Coalition and give them to Haley Barbour and I have never sexually harassed an employee.
Prince also denied that anyone named Suzy Sharino ever worked for him. He made an insinuation about Sharino's real identity and then amplified his previous legal threats:
You may smugly hide hide behind the “third party” assertion but it’s my reputation and I believe that I will ultimately prevail in having this post removed if we have to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
I can’t print statements in my newspapers that are knowingly false without consequences. I would not mind making a point with someone as arrogant as you and who clearly possesses such a reckless disregard for the truth. The First Amendment is not a license to mount a slanderous attack on anyone as you have allowed.
I did not respond to this, but on on June 5, Prince sent me two separate email messages that included what he believed to be evidence that he did not sexually harass a former employee, as Sharino had claimed. I did not consider Prince's evidence to be conclusive. To avoid acting or speaking impulsively, however, I took no further action and did not respond to Prince.
Having heard nothing further from me, Prince wrote to me again on June 16, saying that he is backing down from his legal threats for now. He then launched into a vicious attack, saying, among other things that I am "no better than the band of thugs who took the lives of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney."
I did not want to respond to Prince in kind, so again I remained silent.
I have at this point decided on two courses of action.
- The one allegation by Suzy Sharino that Prince addressed substantively was that Prince sexually harassed a former employee. Therefore, as a courtesy, I am deleting that portion Suzy Sharino's comment.
- I am publishing in its entirety Prince's last message to me. I believe it will say more than I ever can about the character of James E. Prince III.