Torres defamation suit tossed

September 10, 2013
Dee Torres

Dee Torres

Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) director of homeless services Dee Torres has lost her slander case against Mike Brennler, a private investigator who had been working with CalCoastNews on news articles about abuses of the homeless.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera ruled Friday, dismissing Torres’ case and noting that Torres is a public figure. Also, he wrote, it did not appear likely that Torres would be able to prove her case.

“There is no evidence that the defendant  fabricated the story, or that the statements were so inherently improbable that there was an obvious reason to doubt the veracity,” LaBarbera says in the ruling. “Defendant meets his burden to establish his alleged activity arises under his constitutionally protected free speech.”

CalCoastNews had been publishing an ongoing series of articles on abuses of the homeless, and reported that Torres had taken gift cards donated for the homeless and used them for herself, her family, and others.

Brennler was investigating those reports when Torres sued him for slander, asserting that he defamed her by telling one of her ex-husbands that she stole money from clients at the homeless shelter.

Included in Torres’ filing were “Does 1-100… radio broadcasting stations and individuals and individuals associated with those stations,” “online news agencies in San Luis Obispo County” and sources who may have talked to reporters.

Brennler filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit To Prevent Public Participation) motion to dismiss Torres’ lawsuit, citing the California law protecting against lawsuits intended to prevent people from discussing matters of public interest.

In addition to the slander suit, CAPSLO threatened to sue whistle-blowers who revealed specific abuses of homeless people.

Torres’ attorney Roy Ogden argued his client was not a public figure; that Brennler made the statement with malice; and that one of  the people interviewed was lying in order to hurt Torres, the source’s former girlfriend.

Stew Jenkins, Brennler’s attorney, argued that Torres was unable to prove malice or that the allegations of theft were untrue. In order for a public figure to prove slander, the alleged statement must be provably false and said with actual malice. In addition, Jenkins noted the scores of sources made allegations of misappropriation of funds or misdeeds against the homeless.

Part of LaBarbera’s ruling suggested that reporting on the issues was a public service. The judge concluded that the management of homeless services by CAPSLO can broadly be construed as an issue of public interest.”

If an anti-SLAPP motion is successful, the plaintiff is generally ordered to pay the defendant’s attorney’s charges and court fees.

“Defendant shall prepare, file, and serve a proposed judgment in his favor,” LaBarbera wrote in his ruling.



Torres v Brennler CV130145 Ruling 090613 by CalCoastNews

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Both proud of and grateful for Karen Velie, Mike Brennler, and Stew Jenkins. The first of several legal victories for CCN to come. Let’s see if any of the other local media pick up this story.

I hope you’re not still holding your breath on that one, Dave.

Outstanding! Way to go Mike.B. and CCN! Keep the pressure on these leeches. Maybe they will go away.

So there is a God after all…..or at least a LaBarbera. Good decision Judge.

CAPSLO is publicly funded, both state, local and federal. I want to know if CAPSLO will be paying the court costs incurred by Torres as a result of this bogus suit. And i want to know if the county board of supervisors or the City council which give our tax dollars so freely to this band of filthy human beings are planning to provide tax funds to pay damages.

That is a fair question but phrased in such a prejudicial manner that you already have decided that there is only one likely and acceptable answer. What will your response be if CAPSLO lets Torres suffer the consequences of this ill-advised suit? Will you apologize or modify your opinion of CAPSLO? Based on your rhetoric, I would bet not.

Apologize to CAPSLO for what? for allowing the abuse of the homeless to go on for years after being told there was a problem and failing to properly look into the situation?

Your mother wears combat boots……

Ad hominem, red herring.

I, also, would like definitive information regarding who is going to pay for BedBug Torres’ malfeasance in filing a lawsuit against Brennler when she obviously knew from the start she did not have what it took to prove her case.

The financial supporters of Torres’ regime at homeless services need to be made aware of the ways in which Torres’ reign over CAPSLO’s homeless services is fleecing CAPSLO’s contributors. Maybe then enough pressure can be brought upon CAPSLO to drop-kick her to the curb, where she belongs.

I am inclined to agree with OnTheOtherHand’s first sentence. I can’t imagine how CAPSLO could legally defray any cost and would be shocked if they did so. However, I can imagine private support.

The question I have is how many millions of tax payer dollars does Capslo oversee? It’s amazing to me that we continue to disburse TAXPAYER money like water bottles at a marathon and not vet these organizations the way private business would be based on performance. Is it just a routine or slumber we fall into that we citizens don’t see some of this coming down the pike? Thank you Cal Coast News.

Great news! It is so good to see Mr. Brennler come out the winner. Not only is he vindicated by this ruling, but I think Cal Coast News is too.

Keep on telling us what really goes on. Don’t give the crooks any place to hide.

I guess I am glad to see Brennler prevail. But I would have been glad, too, to watch the suit continue, and all the unsavoriness that would have been uncovered during the Discovery phase.

Brennler should get back every penny lost on his defense, his time and his lawyer’s time.

Let’s see what the connected “boyfriend” comes up with in the way of retaliation. Will the judge be targeted? Will CAPSLO finally get involved in cleaning up this mess? Will Torres keep her job?

Mysteries abound!!!!

This is not over by a longshot.

Attempting to retaliate against LaBarbera would be political suicide. I doubt even Dee’s boyfriend is foolish enough to try that.

Fantastic strategy, Stew & Mike!

Now: let the deserting of the sinking ship begin!

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