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DEMAND MADE FOR RETRACTION AND APOLOGY…BUT FOR WHAT?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 25, 2011) — On Monday evening, June 20, 2011, The Post & Email received a letter through its email@example.com address from Attorney Philip J. Berg accusing us of libel against two of his clients who have an active lawsuit against Atty. Orly Taitz in California.
Berg was the first attorney to file a lawsuit against Barack Hussein Obama claiming that he was not a “natural born Citizen” and therefore ineligible for the presidency. In his lawsuit, Berg requested the court to order Obama to release a “certified copy” of his long-form birth certificate, certification of citizenship, and oath of allegiance. Berg described himself as “a licensed attorney in good standing” who had “taken an oath to uphold the United States Constitution.”
The suit was filed shortly before the Democratic National Committee held its August 2008 conference to nominate its candidates for president and vice president.
Currently, Berg’s website featuring the April 27, 2011 release of what Obama claims to be his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii urges potential donors to his cause to “Become a supporter of our effort to find the truth.”
In his letter to The Post & Email, Berg claimed that we had published an article defamatory to clients, one Lisa Liberi and one Lisa Ostella. He stated that “the bulk of this article contains false statements about my clients, Liberi and Ostella by Orly Taitz, who is a Defendant in a case pending against her by my clients in California. Your agency and your reporter, Sharon Rondeau, failed to conduct any type of verification to verify the truthfulness of said statements and instead disseminated the false, libelous, defamatory and slanderous statements all over the Internet, further damaging and harming my clients.”
The Post & Email has cited Berg’s work in regard to the question of Obama’s eligibility here, here, here, here, and in many other articles. We conducted a personal interview with him last fall. Prior to that, we had made several other requests by email and phone calls which were not answered. The Post & Email bore no malice towards Mr. Berg whatsoever, nor did we ever have any quarrel with him.
The story to which Berg was objecting was published on June 13, 2011 and reported primarily on Taitz’s case against the Social Security Administration for denying her access to Obama’s social security number application. Taitz and at least two private investigators have declared that Obama’s social security number was stolen or manufactured.
In composing the article, The Post & Email wrote several introductory paragraphs and obtained information directly from Taitz, who described the progress of the case and possible next steps by Judge Royce Lamberth. She diverted to expound on the Liberi lawsuit reported before that time on her website which Berg had filed against her. Taitz alleged that Berg was guilty of prior misconduct, referencing a lawsuit filed and won against Berg in 2005 for acting negligently on behalf of his clients. The court had sanctioned Berg under Rule 11 “in order to preserve the integrity of this Court and the legal profession” (page 2).
In Holsworth v. Berg, Berg’s Third-Party Complaint was dismissed due to his failure to respond within the required time frame. The court stated that “Mr. Berg filed a complaint completely devoid of any basis in fact or law, that such inadequacy would be apparent to any reasonable attorney after the slightest inquiry, and that Mr. Berg’s improper filing qualified as an exceptional circumstance warranting Rule 11 sanctions” (page 5).
A footnote at the bottom of page 5 of the “Memorandum and Order” dated July 26, 2005 by Judge “J. Joyner” states:
Sanctions imposed on Mr. Berg include:
(1) Damages of $10,668.78 for attorney’s fees and costs incurred by Carpenters Health through May 9, 2005;
(2) Mr. Berg must complete six (6) credits of ethics courses certified by the Pennsylvania Board of Continuing Legal Education;
(3) Further investigation of this matter by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility;
(4) Carpenters Health may petition for additional legal fees or costs in association with the collection and enforcement of this matter.
Berg has served as Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania and has been active within the Democrat Party in his state. His website reports that he has performed a great deal of work pro bono, is a member of the ACLU and NRA, and is active in his local fire police squadron. He has filed lawsuits against former President George W. Bush and putative president Barack Obama, claiming that Obama “was born in Mombasa, Kenya; was adopted/acknowledged in Indonesia where Obama’s ‘legal’ name became and is ‘Barry Soetoro’ as there is no evidence that Obama ever ‘legally’ changed his name from his adopted name of ‘Barry Soetoro.'”
Contrary to Berg’s claim that The Post & Email “failed to conduct any type of verification” of what Taitz told us, we reviewed PDF documents from Taitz’s website before publication. The documents are also available through public court records systems. Judge Robreno’s report of a December 20, 2010 hearing in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania states that Liberi admitted to being a convicted felon (page 8). It asserts that Liberi “was often combative and evasive, and much of her testimony was argument without factual basis.”
The Post & Email also reviewed a letter with Berg’s signature on it which acknowledged that his employee, Lisa Liberi, was a convicted felon.
The pertinent text found in paragraph 3 reads:
It is true that Plaintiff Liberi has been convicted of a felony, in one case, not multiple cases, however, Mrs. Liberi has worked extremely hard putting her life back together…
There is also a conviction report posted on Taitz’s website which she sent to us in PDF format bearing Liberi’s name and those of apparent aliases.
In a different matter, a Petition for Discipline signed by two members of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board related an incident wherein a case initiated by Berg on behalf of a client, Ms. McCracken, had been dismissed without Berg having informed the client of such. The summary states that Lisa Liberi had promised Ms. McCracken that Berg would respond to her queries about the outcome of her case, but that “the Respondent” (Berg) promised to look into it and call her back but he never did” (page 5). That Petition for Discipline against Berg is active at this time with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
The first letter Berg sent to The Post & Email was completely unexpected and consisted of nine pages:
Page 4 above states, in part:
The dissemination of this information on your web site and article has caused my clients loss of reputation and damages. As you are aware, this article will likely be re-posted throughout the Internet, across the country and in many parts of the world. Indeed, you have purposely sought to ensure the article is more widely disseminated by posting links on Google Discussion Boards, found at…and disseminating them via numerous RSS fees [sic]; Twitter; friends feed; Facebook; and email, just to name a few.
Berg’s claim is completely false. The Post & Email does not have the time nor the inclination to post links to its articles anywhere. Because The Post & Email has proven to be a source of reliable hard news, many sites and discussion boards post our links for purposes of dissemination, but we neither promote this activity nor take part in it. We cannot control what other people do, although we appreciate proper attribution for our work. Our purpose is to research, write and report the news in a factual and responsible manner, not damage people’s reputations.
The next paragraph on page 4 states:
Accordingly, on behalf of my clients, we must respectfully demand that you immediately remove the articles from your Internet site and post retractions that are of, at least, equal prominence in positioning on your Internet site that clearly provide both an apology to my clients and unambiguously retracts the statements contained in the article. We demand that this article be corrected in the manner required by California Civil Code, Section48a(3).
Prior to that statement, Berg referred to one article. Then he referred to multiple articles but reverted back to identifying one article.
The Post & Email is incorporated in Wyoming; therefore, it is unknown why Berg mentions California Civil Code.
Pages 6-9 of Berg’s letter are a reproduction of the our June 13, 2011 article:
When Berg or his assistant reproduced the article, apparently the “printer-friendly” function was not utilized, as the information directly quoted from Taitz was not indented as is our practice. Those indentations appear both in the printer-friendly online published versions. Below is page 2 of the printer-friendly version:
Berg’s reproduction of the article contains a left-aligned margin throughout and could give the impression that information provided by Taitz was our own writing when it was not.
After receiving the letter on the evening of June 20, 2011, this writer responded to Berg by calling the phone number shown on page 1 of his letter. He answered but said he was tied up with another long-distance call. He stated that he would return our call shortly and did so shortly before 10:00 p.m. EDT. When we asked, “How are you?” he responded, “I’m trying to get the usurper out of office.” He then told us that Lisa Liberi was on another line to participate in the phone call. We asked Berg if we could record the call, and both he and Liberi gave their permission for us to do so. Berg appeared affable and relaxed.
It was stated on the tape that the call was not to be published. The Post & Email kept its word and neither published the audio recording nor a transcription of same.
However, we did contact Atty. Orly Taitz regarding the statement Berg had made on page 5 of his letter in which he said:
Otherwise, it is our suggestion that you contact your legal counsel as soon as possible since we believe that there is ample cause to file numerous claims against you and your operations. This can easily be done by replacing “DOE” Defendants with your paper, The Post and [sic] Email; Reporter and Editor of the article, Sharon Rondeau; and John Charlton, as Editor Emeritus & Founder into the current lawsuit against Orly Taitz, Liberi et al v. Taitz, et al, Case No. 8:11-cv-00485 AG in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Southern Division before the Honorable Judge Andrew J. Guilford.
[Editor’s Note: It should be noted that John Charlton has been gone for over a year and is not listed as an officer or director of the company; therefore, it is unknown why Berg has included his name. Charlton retained no financial interest in The Post & Email whatsoever when he departed.]
Because The Post & Email has no business in California other than readers who reside there, we contacted Taitz about a potential attorney-client relationship should Berg follow through on his threat to include us as a defendant in his lawsuit against Taitz. We also asked if there were any inaccuracies in the article, and, in fact, Taitz pointed out that there were. Those were corrected that same evening accompanied by an editor’s note at the bottom. We asked Taitz if there was any chance that there were two “Lisa Liberis” which were perhaps mixed up. During the phone call, we had asked if there were two people with her name, and neither Berg nor Liberi responded.
As a responsible journalist, it was incumbent upon this writer to ascertain whether or not the article was factual. The recording of Taitz for the June 13 article had been of unusually poor quality, which we didn’t know until after the interview had finished. We are grateful that Taitz pointed out some minor errors which did not change the focus of the story but were nevertheless important. Our conversation with her was not intended for publication; we did not ask Taitz to publish nor disseminate any of it; nor did The Post & Email publish Berg’s letter.
Orly Taitz published two paragraphs about what had transpired on her website the following morning which then went on to detail her own case with Berg.
Toward the end of the phone conversation, Berg provided us with his cell phone number and asked us to call him after consulting with our counsel, which we did. The following day, Tuesday, June 21, this writer contacted Berg on his cell phone, and we had a brief but cordial conversation. At this point the story must be told in first person to reflect complete accuracy and context. The call was not recorded, so the language used is approximate; however, this writer took notes as we were speaking.
Upon the advice of counsel, I asked Berg if he actually intended to sue The Post & Email, and he immediately answered, “No, no. We’re looking for a retraction.” I then said, “Before I published the article, I reviewed court documents from a hearing between Taitz and you from December 20, 2010, and the documents indicated that Liberi is, in fact, a convicted felon. If you can send me documentation that my story was inaccurate, I will be happy to post a retraction or correction.” I explained to Berg that I always obtain documentation to support the information provided by an interviewee and gave him an example of a specific story on which I have not reported because documentation has been very difficult to obtain. Berg stated that he was familiar with that particular story.
Berg then asked me, “What documents were you looking at?” and I listed them specifically. He asked me to send them to him, which I said I would do. I then said, “Please send me any documentation you have which refutes the accuracy of the documents from Orly’s site,” and Berg replied, “Well, send me the documents and we’ll do the best we can.”
Before ending the call, I said to Berg, “I must tell you that my father is dying in a nursing home, and the deadline of 5:00 p.m. on June 23, 2011 you have given me to provide a written response might not be possible.” Berg quickly asked, “What’s wrong with him?” and I briefly explained the long illness he has had in violation of his living will upon the decision of certain family members. (The group of readers receiving our weekly “Editor’s Note” is aware of this, as are other close friends.) I offered to give Berg my father’s name and the nursing home where he is staying, but Berg declined, saying, “No, no. Don’t worry about the deadline. We’ll work with you on that.”
Following the phone conversation with Berg, The Post & Email followed through on its promise and sent Berg the following email:
From: Sharon Rondeau
Sent: Tue 6/21/11 4:41 PM
To: Phil Berg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subj: DOCUMENTS ATTACHED PER OUR PHONE CALL
Thank you for speaking with me today, Atty. Berg.
Here is the updated story with the changes which Orly Taitz stated needed to be made and a correction noted:
I have also attached the documents which I reviewed before publishing the article on June 13, 2011. A letter signed by you dated December 22, 2010 states that Liberi was convicted of one felony. The second document entitled “Memorandum” with Judge Eduardo Robreno’s name at the top left contains a transcript of the court proceedings from December 20, 2010 which provided background information. The last document, which I believe is actually the first attachment, is an 87-page conviction record for a “Lisa R. Liberi.” If there is documentation proving that this is the wrong Lisa Liberi, please send it to me and I will take appropriate action.
I am also extending another invitation for you, Lisa Liberi and Lisa Ostella to do a telephonic interview to refute Taitz’s claims to be published at The Post & Email along with all documentation which you have.
Thank you for understanding the situation with my dad. He is a World War II veteran and deserved, and wanted, much better than this.
The Post & Email, Inc.
The Post & Email never received any documentation from Berg at all, so “the best we can” ended up yielding nothing to refute Taitz’s claims, the court documentation, and The Post & Email’s article of June 13, 2011.
However, on the evening of June 22, 2011, The Post & Email received a second threatening letter.
The first paragraph of page 2 reads:
Unfortunately, it is apparent that you and the Post and [sic] Email are assisting Orly Taitz with her continued cyber-stalking; cyber-harassment; cyber-bullying; harassment; distribution of her false statements regarding my clients; and you are a bully pulpit for Orly Taitz.
To further substantiate the Post and [sic] Email’s improper intent and yours, you immediately communicated with Orly Taitz our discussion regarding the first “Cease and Desist” and “Demand for Retraction” letter sent to you, as she (Orly Taitz), as an Attorney and an Officer of the Court, placed aspects of our call on her website, her Facebook pages, her “Before its news” pages and sent it through numerous RSS feeds to thousands of locations, on your Corporation’s and your behalf.
The Post & Email never asked Taitz to post anything “on our behalf.” We never asked her to post anything at all regarding this matter; therefore, Berg’s assertion is false. As noted above, we were consulting her regarding a potential client-attorney relationship.
Farther down on page 2, Berg repeats his demand for a written response to his letter “no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 24, 2011 to my office.” He disregarded the imminent death of this writer’s father and imposed another inordinately short time frame for a response in any event.
The letter is identifying the principals of The Post & Email as individuals as well as corporate officers. However, as a corporation, the persons involved are protected from “individual” liability. That was one of the purposes of establishing The Post & Email as a C-Corporation. One attorney we consulted even stated that if Berg pursued the personal property of either of the principals, it would “likely be illegal.”
On June 24, 2011, this writer contacted Berg again on his cell phone. He stated, “I’m not happy with you, frankly. You went right to her – that tape was not for publication and you went right to her and she put it out there. You did us wrong. I need to hear from you or your attorney in writing. Goodbye,” and he hung up. Again, this is an approximation, as the call was not recorded.
The Post & Email will be publishing the actions it has taken against Berg after Berg himself is notified of them. The Post & Email stands by its June 13, 2011 article as corrected until such time as documentation is provided to prove that our assertions and those of Orly Taitz were wrong. We reported on a lawsuit which was already public knowledge, which fact Berg affirmed himself by referring to the case number “8:11-cv-00485 AG” in his letter to us and contained the names “Lisa Liberi” and “Lisa Ostella.”
Editorial Note: Recently, a reader communicated to us that he has given “thousands of dollars” to Berg for the purpose of disclosing Obama’s records and background. Where did those “thousands” go? How much money has Berg collected? Are the funds being used to harass small media outlets such as The Post & Email which obtain and publish the truth, as opposed to the Big Media companies which are nothing but corporately-controlled mouthpieces for the government and have failed to seriously report on the Obama eligibility question, thereby defrauding the public?
The Post & Email is a small company with few assets except our intellectual property, but we will survive this unwarranted attack on our credibility and integrity. If the American people want truth in media rather than “spin,” we will continue to grow. We will fight any and all false claims made against us and admit it if we are wrong. We will not be manipulated nor intimidated.