False light? Would-be killer wants vampire stories removed

When Kurt Kroboth was tried for a vampire mask-assisted attempted murder of his estranged wife on Halloween night in 2004, the details of an upper-income couple's bitter divorce-turned-horror movie rocked Charlottesville. The former financier went to prison for six years, and now that he's released, he's ready to make a fresh start. The only thing he believes is standing in the way of "a reconstructed, normal life," he writes in a June 10 email, is the Hook's website, which contains "lurid" details of his case.

Now living in retirement in the Arizona community of Green Valley, the 56-year-old Kroboth says that due to the Hook's "ongoing attack on my reputation," he may pursue a legal remedy, including "monetary damages."

Kroboth's warning comes in a December 16 registered letter, in which he claims that a defamation lawsuit filed in Arizona doesn't require the plaintiff to prove false information, only that it creates a false implication.

Kroboth notes that online articles can be hidden from search engines by adding a line of code, and that the Hook should cloak the stories dated February 16, 2006, May 11, 2006, and February 21, 2011, "a simple and acceptable corrective measure that would not require removing anything."

In a phone interview, the Columbia-educated Kroboth says the overall impression created by the articles is inaccurate– although he declines to specify how.

"Since this may be heading to litigation, I'm not going to elaborate," says Kroboth. "I didn't intend my communications with you," he adds, "to be the subject of an article."

This isn't the first time the subject of an unflattering story has attempted to clean up the online record. In 2007, former Charlottesville School Superintendent Scottie Griffin, who endured a tumultuous stint heading city schools, hired a company called ReputationDefender to scrub her image.

Kroboth says he's not interested in the larger issues of privacy in the age of search engines.

"I'm only interested in my case," he says. "It's only one publication that comes up, and it's yours."

Kroboth claims that someone Googling his name got him disinvited from a current-events club in Green Valley. He says he's aware that an attempted murder conviction is something that he should disclose to potential employers– but he wants to do the revealing.

"I'm willing to disclose it myself," says Kroboth. "The difference between that and the articles is considerable. Your reporter made an attempt to spectacularize that incident and the circumstances."

He declines to specify how the case was spectacularized. "I don't think it's necessary to go into that," he says.

According to the court file, Kroboth– allegedly thwarted by a friend's refusal to kill his estranged wife for $10,000– hatched a plan of his own. Prosecutors contended that he donned a vampire mask, severed phone and electric wires, crept into his sleeping wife's house with a bottle of chloroform, and planned to incapacitate her to stage a bathtub suicide.

Bob O'Neil thinks Kroboth would face an uphill legal battle. The founding president of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, O'Neil says a landmark 1964 Supreme Court libel decision, New York Times v. Sullivan, forces public figures to prove "reckless disregard" for the truth to win a libel suit.

Sometimes, says O'Neil, a person can become a limited public figure, like Richard Jewell, the security guard wrongly accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Given the extent of publicity surrounding the trial of Kroboth, "He is almost certainly a public figure," O'Neil opines.

"This isn't like a juvenile offender where you wipe away the record," says O'Neil. "If the conviction was valid, the fact that you wish it never happened doesn't make it go away."

UVA law professor Fred Schauer, who stresses he knows nothing about Kroboth's situation, says in an email that the law can be murky.

"Here we are dealing not with defamation, and not with falsity, but with invasion of privacy by disclosure of (true) embarrassing facts," writes Schauer. "In a 1965 case called Time v. Hill, the Supreme Court held that if the action is for so-called false light invasion of privacy– disclosure of facts that may not be defamatory, but create a false impression about the subject– more or less the same standards applied as for defamation."

Still, Schauer contends that court rulings make it difficult to punish news organizations.

"Again, what is or is not newsworthy has been the subject of much litigation, but it is a basic premise of the First Amendment that publication of the truth is to be valued," says Schauer, "and thus the scope of possible liability for publications that publish true facts is very, very narrow."

Hook editor Hawes Spencer says he gets occasional requests to remove material from the newspaper's website.

"I respond to those who say there are inaccuracies," he says. "[Kroboth] wasn't asking for a correction. He's asking for expungement, which I think is anathema to freedom of the press and openness."

As for Kroboth, in his December 16 letter, he gives the Hook 30 days to hide the three news stories from search engines and to notify him when that's been done. Will he sue?

"Unless such a response is forthcoming," he says, "I will consider such action."

26 comments

This dude needs serious mental help! I think his children and ex-wife were ironically blessed by this all because he was completely out of their lives physically and they could work on healing.

Hook - keep the links out there - there is plenty out there in the web that is inaccurate and no one can have it removed and people hide behind and sites envoke their privacy policies. This dude doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Deleted by moderator.

This must be a coincidence. I was just visiting family in Tucson, and some of the teens around there are talking about "the Green Valley Vampire."

Oh boo hoo... did the crime and guess what it stays with you Forever! You can't just rewrite history because it makes other people think you are an idiot. THAT'S WHY PEOPLE GOOGLE STRANGERS! You can run but you can't run from your icky horrible past.

Haven't read the previous articles but the invasion of privacy issue is puzzling . Information that comes out in a trial in open court is not private from that point . It becomes public knowledge . . It just looks like he is trying to bamboozle the Editor into hiding this public information hoping he can control it . Too bad the genie is out of the bottle and he is looking silly at trying to stuff it back in .

Cutting off phone and electric wires would have given off a hint of an implausable suicide .

Kurt Kroboth tried to murder his sons' mother. This is the kind of inconvenient truth that tends to follow one around.

Famous last words of most jerks, "I'm gonna sue you". Some nut case tried to sue me once, judge threw it out of court. His whole case was based on his own poor judgement as a parent.

Lisa, I recall this isn't the first time reporters at the Hook have the honor of a threat and then an actual lawsuit for reporting the facts. Maybe Mr. Kroboth could take a look at this case before proceeding.

http://www.readthehook.com/73263/seniors-star-buckingham-publicist-sues-...

you go Hawes. tell him to "bring it!"

hmmm, maybe he has a point. i think it looks more like a demon of some sort. at least in the twilight stuff, the vampires don't have pointy ears.

Kroboth if you readin dis mane - jus change ya legal name

Memba when we used ta ball at da open gym? Wat happen 2 you mane???

Not surprised in the least that Lisa Provence wrote this article. She should just retire as her career is rock bottom and she is not even assigned to actual news but to write about news that is already written about. You are a leach on society. You should write an impartial review and the fact is that the news should report facts and not 'dramatize' a story no matter how bad it is.

Um....really? I mean, no matter what, once on the internet the info is there. Whether it was the Hook or someone else taking the Hook's link and posting it to their blog or website. IT WILL ALWAYS BE THERE, just like the fact that you tried to murder another human being...that WILL ALWAYS BE FACT. Learn to live with what haunts you most, as you created the ghost!

While you boys and girls debate the little stuff.....

I wanna know why Kurt Kroboth only served 6 years for this crime?

GSOE, see Courteney's February 2011 article:
http://www.readthehook.com/88969/free-and-defiant-vampire-assailant-rele...
Toward the end of the page, Kurt's son Mike makes some fascinating comments.

First, judging by this chap's history, it seems the author should have specified that--by "Columbia-educated"--she means Columbia School in Fluvanna County.
Secondly, why would this cat want to join a current events club if the members had no ability to research current events??? That's what they did when they Googled him.
Thirdly, maybe Kurt should join a martial arts club in Arizona. It seems his missus--regardless of his element of surprise--kicked his rear in the botched murder attempt
Finally, GSOE, does it not surprise you this little rich jogger served very little time?
Anyways, I suspect Hawes, Lisa and anyone else who followed this story is laughing loudly at this turn of events.
R.I.P.: John Holmes

So someone who moves away from Va to any other State in the US is allowed to sue a newspaper published in one mid-small city in Va. in any state Court they move to, apply the law of that State against a Va. entity, and then request and get service on a out-of-state entity.

Thanks Barbara, the son's comments are touching, but I doubt if this guy would have been capable of being a good father, and maybe the son was lucky he was gone for 6 years, although it should have been longer.

One moral to this story: be careful who you marry, the traits that the son outlines are ones that certainly would have been present when his mother met him. If you are with someone who blames you or criticizes you for the small short comings you may have, bad sign, time to move on.

Mike's assessment of his father:

" I have to say I am not at all surprised by my father's reaction to doing time: blaming everyone but himself. This was always habitual behavior of his, and it has made me grow to hate people who think they're better than everyone else and can't show a little goddamn humility. "

I would think that to prevail, he'd have to prove that the injury he claims to have suffered, some sort of alienation of community, came about not because people discovered the true nature of his actions, but due largely to the false impression of those facts he claims the Hook's articles have created. Good luck getting the other members of the current events club to testify that they were fine with the fact that you tried to kill your wife but were horrified by some subjective analysis of your failed plot. Yeah. good luck with that. Why not just move to Transylvania where all of this counts toward street-cred?

What communication does he refer to that he didn't intend to be part of a story ? The Jun 10 e-mail or registered letter of 16 Dec advising intent to sue ? Is the Feb 21 2011 article part of the issue where Courtney called looking for the X in Arizona but got Kurt on the phone ? He is quoted from that conversation extensively and the quotes were expanded on . Is he claiming he didn't intend that conversation with Courtney to be part of an article ? Courtney claims that her accidental conversation with Kurt was actually an "exclusive interview" . Is Kurt claiming it not to be an exclusive interview and the ensuing speculation to be the spectacularation that he intends to claim damages for ?

What court is he trying this in? What jurisdiction? the trial would generate a vast amount of new web postings and news filings, that woulld bring ten times the amount of unwanted attention. The guy is dreaming.

The Hook is reading more and more like a tabloid. Clearly, this guy isn't a good guy, but I'm turned off by the Hook's tendency for slander and sensational and one-sided reporting. Let this guy go-- he's served his time and will carry the legal record.

Outside of this article, I've found clear exaggerations and omissions of importance in features over the past year that just constitute poor reporting and marginal ethics. It's just in bad taste. I won't choose to advertise in the Hook in the future.

Forget this guy. He tries to kill the mother of his children, gets caught, receives a fair trial, gets an absurd sentence (Really, 6 years), and now he's miffed it shows up in a google search. He wants to be the one who reveals his crime? "Oh yeah, I did have this little misunderstanding that now makes me a FELON, but here is what really happened and the rest is a big misunderstanding." If memory serves me, was'nt he supposed to watching his kids when this happened.

Let's hope that apples can fall far from their trees.

Shouldn't the son try to have a relationship with him . You only have one set of parents and Kurt was provoked into bad behaviour by an unfair shoddy divorce system akin to racketeering .