I am a bit late to this story, but I feel compelled to add my voice. Last year, a purported “investigative blogger” named Crystal Cox was sued and hit with a $2.5 million dollar verdict for defamation. Although it may not make a difference for purposes of defamation and considering what she did, the judge in her trial ruled as a matter of law that she was not a journalist, a fact which initially got some bloggers up in arms.
Thanks to a bona-fide investigative blogger, David Carr at the NY Times, and thanks to an explosion in the blogosphere following Crystal Cox’s attacks on First Amendment Lawyer Marc Randazza, the truth came out about what really happened.
Kevin Padrick is an attorney who had been appointed as trustee for a company, Summit Accommodators, that had gone bankrupt. Four senior executives of the company had been charged in federal court with conspiring to defaud the company’s clients, but this had nothing to do with Kevin Padrick or his company, Obsidian Finance Group. Padrick was appointed as the trustee, and according to Carr’s article, did an excellent job in that capacity.
Crystal Cox, a self-styled “investigative blogger” began an online assault on Padrick, with a series of blog posts and websites that she had created, accusing Padrick and his company of engaging in bribery, tax fraud, money laundering, payoffs and theft, among other things. According to Carr’s article, Cox created a large number of URL’s and cut-and-pasted documents to portray Mr. Padrick as a “thug,” and a “thief” who “committed tax fraud” and who may have “hired a hit man” to kill her while engaging in “illegal and fraudulent activity,” which filled up the search results if someone were to google “Kevin Padrick” or “Obsidian Finance Group.”
She then sent an email to Padrick, offering “PR services and Search Engine Management Services starting at $2500.00 a month to promote Law Firms . . . Finance Companies . . . and to protect online reputations and promote businesses.” This is what caused the damage to Padrick and his company, this is what the lawsuit was about, and this is why she is not a “journalist” such that she should be given any protection as a journalist. The First Amendment does not protect defamation or extortion.
Cox then asked First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza to take her case and defend her. When he turned her down, she sent him an email letting him know that she had registered the domain name marcrandazza.com, and offering her services as “a very good search engine reputation manager.” When Randazza did not respond, she then began to flood the internet with insane posts and websites attacking him. She then registered similar domains in the name of Randazza’s wife and his three old child.
Randazza writes that “the cure to bad speech is more speech.” I agree. At any rate, it is how we clean up the vomit that Crystal Cox and others like her leave all over the internet. She is not someone to be taken seriously, she is clearly mentally ill and/or emotionally disturbed, and I doubt that any bloggers would take the time to respond to her kind if it wasn’t necessary to clean up after her and, ironically, act as a collective “search engine reputation manager.” But it doesn’t solve the problem. She will probably continue to do what she is doing, despite the massive response and despite the judgement against her that she probably cannot pay anyway.
(d) Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Mark Bennett at Defending People points out that “Crystal Cox calling herself an “investigative blogger’ is like a mobster with a molotov cocktail calling himself an ‘arson investigator.'”
One more thing – a google search for Marc Randazza turns up nothing from Crystal Cox on the first two pages of search results. It appears that Cox’s smear campaigns are not so effective when she is attacking a First Amendment lawyer with an established web presence that includes a network of bloggers who support him.
More on Crystal Cox: