Idaho Republican Sues Spokane's Newspaper, Shows How to Turn Non-Story into Headlines

This is a story that is embarrassing to a Republican Party chair in Idaho, and you have her to thank for it. She apparently feels someone has accused her of a crime - taking $10,000 and hiding it on "her person." This was said in a Spokane newspaper column called Huckleberries Online - not by the columnist, but by an anonymous commenter.

The claim was later removed, and might have since been forgotten. But Kootenai County GOP Central Committee Chair Tina Jacobson has now filed a lawsuit to force the newspaper to identity the commenter, turning a little story into a bigger one.

As a commenter says now that the bigger story has developed, "Cool... this should be fun to watch..."

The Spokane Spokesman-Review says it will file a motion to quash the Republican's subpoena, not wanting to get into the habit of revealing names or e-mails of its registered commenters. Jacobson wants the names of three of them - "almostinnocentbystander," "Phaedrus" and "OutofStaterTater" - who posted on a February 14 comments thread. In particular, she was offended by a comment from almostinnocentbystander.

Says the lawsuit, which cost $88 to file:

The entry as published via the internet stated there was $10,000 missing from the Republican Central Committee funds and that the missing funds were hidden on the person of Mrs. Jacobson. The blog statement of missing funds was false. The blog statement that the missing funds were secreted on Mrs. Jacobson was false.

She has been libeled, her attorney says, by "a malicious defamation" and must identify almostinnocentbystander if she is to sue successfully for having been "offended and embarrassed." She wants the names of Phaedrus and OutofStateTater because they commented on the comment, the attorney says.

Jacobson also wants an injunction, apparently against the newspaper, to prevent the commenter from "committing future acts of libel."

The writer of the column, Dave Oliveria, removed the comment the same day and later posted his own comment stating the claim was baseless, says the suit.

Jacobson says the comment has damaged her reputation, her emotions, her standing in the community, and "drawn suspicion to her" by claiming she took $10,000.

She seeks damages of "not less than $10,000."

Several Spokesman stories about the lawsuit have created a comment heyday, with more than 150 chiming in, anonymously. Some debate the legal angles, including the responsibility of newspapers in allowing, if only briefly, anonymous commenters to fire wildly away.

Columnist Oliveria says "the position of The Spokesman Review is that we will protect the names of confidential sources and anonymous posters to the extent provided by law."

But most clearly it's a story with a new life, deepened, as one commenter says, by "the mystery" of "the phrase '$10,000 hidden on her person....'. "

Does that mean, the commenter asks, "ten thousand dollars in cash? A check? Money spent on personal services, clothing, jewelery, entertainment, fancy dining? Was Almost Innocent Bystander trying to be funny or was he actually making a serious accusation against her integrity?"

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