Updated 07/10/2012 08:24 PM
Judge sides with free speech
A Berkshire County judge rules that a local blogger's reporting on an alleged hit and run case did not amount to harassment. Our Brandon Walker has more on the case and why our legal analyst says we could see more of the same in the near future.
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STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- Berkshire County-based writer and reporter Dan Valenti calls it a victory not only for his website, but for free speech as a whole.
"There's no doubt in my mind and in the court's agreed, as well, that we had a compelling interest to cover this story," Valenti said.
The story, one of controversy and contention in Berkshire County. Meredith Nilan is accused of hitting a man then leaving the scene of an accident last December. News hot as wildfire and according to Valenti, worthy of interrogation.
But how he covered the story has been deemed questionable by some, Nilan included. Journalism as yellow as a school bus, they say.
A judge last month apparently agreed, siding with Nilan that Valenti remove all reference to the case, arguing his posts weren't journalism, they were harassment.
Though, Monday, another judge reversed that decision. A victory for Valenti.
"The founding fathers thought that we should encourage, not just allow, but encourage a wide ranging, knock ‘em, sock ‘em discussion," he said.
This issue of online posts being pegged as harassment isn't new and isn't going away anytime soon. In this case, what worked for Valenti wasn't his claim to be a reporter, but that the case surrounding Meredith Nilan is high profile. Already in the news, and as a result, worthy of discussion.
"You can't harass someone, you can't annoy someone. That's harassment laws and you can't do that in public and you can't do that online. However, you still have a right to talk," said Paul DerOhannessian, a legal analyst.
Which is what a judge said Valenti did and has every right to do. Bigger picture, says legal analyst Paul DerOhannessian, don't be surprised if situations like this stay on the radar.
"Once again, the law is a little bit behind technology in helping us decide what the rules of the game are going to be," he said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Nilan's attorney tells YNN that he and his client respect the judge's decision.