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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Jorge Estrada

With few more pictures of Dee Tores on the front page, I may be able to rapidly scroll the page read her lips, the devil made me do it?


Cindy

I’m reminded of Stew’s last homeless case and the award of his attorneys fees. So, Will Dee threaten to appeal this case unless Stew donates half his awarded attorney fees to CAPSLO? LOL


To all the whistle blowers who were threatened and those who stayed silent under the fear of costly and unaffordable law suits. Come out, come out where ever you are and tell the truth in the streets if you like.

This is indeed a great day for the citizens, the REAL ADVOCATES and the less fortunate.


abigchocoholic

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.

———————–

This was a pathetic joke to begin with. Even if she had survived this motion to dismiss, the allegation is that her public reputation was harmed because somebody lied about her to one of her ex-husbands. Really? As if this particular ex-husband had a high opinion of her let’s say a 6 (that’s high for ex’s) and then after hearing the lie about her this particular ex-husband’s opinion went down to a 3.


Ok, what does Torres get for going from a 6 to a 3 in the eyes of one ex husband? $10 $100 $1000? Point is, this was a small claims action to begin with as it could not have affected her reputation in the eyes of the general public.


Now, not only is Torres not ever going to see her $100 over going to a 6 to a 3, she’s going to pay Defendant’s attorney fees on top of paying her own attorneys fees–total bill probably 20k or more.


Now this unbelievably dumb move to sue really is going to affect her reputation in the eyes of the public.


isoslo

True, before this case I rated her intelligence at a five, after this dumb move she is down to a three


kayaknut

You may need to re-think your rating, because so far she has been able to keep her job so either she is ranked higher than we think or is it her boss(es) is/are just below her so she looks smarter?


So where does Ms. Steinberg rate on your scale?


SLOBIRD

Down the Hill!


mbactivist1

As people applaud and celebrate this important victory, I think it is also important not to lose sight of the nature of the alleged actions of Ms. Torres. We are talking here about someone accused of stealing from the poorest of the poor.


If the allegations are true, what do Torres’ actions mean in terms of the impact on the victims? What could they have had if they had received the allegedly-stolen gift cards? I’m thinking of the sweaters and the socks that help a person keep warm in winter, the personal hygiene items needed for basic personal dignity, the small gifts that might have made a homeless child happy at Christmas – and the list goes on.


My point is, obviously, that this is just the beginning and that every effort needs to be made to look further into all allegations and, if they are true, make sure that what happened can never happen here again.


SanSimeonSam

So, Ontheotherfoot, you object to my tone and i respect that, but where is the statement innaccurate. The individuals in question, Torres, biz and John Ashbaugh conspire to steal money from the homeless. John Ashbaugh has directed local police on raids and systematic harassment of homeless folks until they join CAPSLO (an organization from which he receives consideration for his participation on the board) Once in CAPSLO, the homeless are subjected to various forms of harrassment. In addition, and this is where it gets filthy, Dee steals donated gift cards and uses them for her own benefit. But whats worse is she sells eating utensils,again donated by the public, and pockets the money. She sells diapers to homeless mothers for a profit. This is not something one person has said, these accusations have come from a myriad of independent sources. Would you not consider these to be actions of a filthy human being? I certainly do. If Dee and her cohorts are proven to be innocent of these charges I will be among the first to line up to eat crow. You have swallowed the kool aid of the politicians who are clammering for civility. Civility is an unreasonable response to an unreasonable situation. We need Chemotheraphy not civility.


karma2come

SanSS, I doubt there will be any reason for you to eat crow, even if she is never convicted of theft, filing this law suit is proof enough. If it were all lies she could have proved herself innocent without having to make up bogus law suit! She is running scared! My suggestion to you regardless of a conviction, eat Chicken!


Pelican1

In the absence of any character, there can be no defamation.


freshair

With all the damn money that Capslo makes, you’d think they’d have higher morals than to keep and invest money from homeless Social Security recipients they put up in the Maxine shelter.


Time now to crank up the heat on these crooks.


Dee’s unaccounting for the missing gift cards at the Prado Day Center is just one facet of Capslo’s corruption. The Family Ties program is next.


Thanks once again to CCN.


toobleak

Gee Dee! Gosh, didn’t win! I hope to see all the employees that have been wrongly dismissed, or a bad ending at capslo at dee torres hands to come forth with a class action suit. Maybe capslo can see this is possible and get start supporting the staff that is working under this monster. its not about revenge but about righting wrongs done to hard working people who dedicated their lives to working for this agency and then get stomped on. Say what you will to this comment but unless you experience it and live it..you don’t know!


karma2come

Toobleak, you are correct! CAPSLO is being negligent in failing to act upon statements of former employees! They need to get rid of this woman and begin protecting employees and the population they serve! It’s time to act CAPSLO, all eyes are on you!!


Kevin Rice

I am very impressed with the depth and scrutiny LaBarbera applies in his ruling. It reads with all the quality and thoroughness of a published higher court opinion. Nice work, your honor.


Slowerfaster

I thought that you despised government…any government in any of its applications.


I guess that is selective on your part.


So convenient.


racket

OT, ad hominem, petty. Kinda worthless.


r0y

or, in other words, a typical response from slowerfaster.


Kevin Rice

Well, if you begin your analysis with an erroneous pre-conceived conclusion, then your analysis is bound to be just as faulty. Like APCD’s faulty dust study, for example.


Conversely, if i were to believe that you love all forms of government, i could call you out for disagreeing with the court. Do you disagree with the court?


Slowerfaster

Oh, i don’t love all forms of government. There are some obvious negatives involved with a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’,

I just eschew those models supported by ostensibly Randian/anarchists that so often then embrace a form of authoritarianism and repression.


One can disagree with individual decisions of the ‘court’, without opposing the concept of a court, or of a supernumerary court system.


Can I get a witness? (Yeah ! )


racket

+1 for big words.


The rest is calling the kettle black.


Word

Slowerfaster says: “I guess that is selective on your part.”


Like every comment you make.


You wanted a lawsuit and got it, not our fault it failed.


Bis and Dee could have ended this all in the first week, but no.


So convenient.