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Ex-commissioner plans lawsuit over Web site comments

A former Vance County commissioner seeking office again wants to sue up to 20 Web site users commenting on a local blog for posts that he believes are libelous.

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HENDERSON, N.C. — A former Vance County commissioner seeking office again wants to sue up to 20 Web site users who commented on a local blog for posts that he claims are libelous.

A court hearing is scheduled for Monday in which an attorney for Tommy Hester will request that a judge require the identities of the bloggers be turned over from the site's editor, Jason Feingold.

Feingold's attorneys plan to challenge the request.

The debate stems from a news report out of Henderson in which police charged a boarding house manager after finding eight people living in unsanitary conditions in a house that Hester owned.

Bloggers of the Home In Henderson Web site posted negative comments about Hester on the site that Hester's attorney, Boyd Sturges, thinks are not protected speech.

"They are, in fact, libelous," Sturges said Friday. "That means they are somehow defaming Mr. Hester."

Sturges says he is especially concerned about comments in which posters call his client a "slumlord."

"People just aren't allowed, under the cover of darkness, to say things that aren't true," Sturges said.

Not everyone agrees.

Tim McAllister is protesting what he calls a "frivolous lawsuit." He and others argue the move is political and stepping on people's rights to voice their opinion through social media.

"I don't agree with an attack on anyone's First Amendment rights of freedom of speech," he said. "I did not see anything in there but a couple of personal insults. Having run for office myself, it's part of the game."

"I don't think this has anything to do with his campaign," Sturges said. "I believe it's got to do with the fact that he feels he's been wronged."

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 Credits

Mike Charbonneau, Reporter
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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