Slap happy? After Hook suit, man rattles another saber
On the heels of Buckingham publicist and chicken farmer Tommy Lightfoot Garrett's $10.7 million defamation lawsuit against the Hook and two of its reporters, a blogger in Australia has received an email purporting to be from Garrett that instructs a Melbourne lawyer to file a defamation suit against the blogger.
Neil Walker, creator of the Media Mook blog, received a December 31 email from Garrett's longtime email address instructing attorney "D. Salters" to proceed with a defamation and harassment suit against Walker. However, the Aussie law firm whose email address was used, Kempsons Lawyers, has no "D. Salters" on its staff, according to partner Peter Kempson.
Garrett filed a December 22 complaint [pdf] against the Hook's parent company, Better Publications LLC and Hook reporters Lindsay Barnes and Courteney Stuart.
In February 2008, Barnes reported on the status of 15 forgery counts against Garrett in an article, "Tommybrook: Publicist to the stars ready for trial," that "lampoons" Garrett and his attorney, according to the complaint. Garrett also takes issue with Barnes' mention of Senior Magazine: The Arizona Edition depicting Garrett on its cover, with the article remarking that the magazine was "a publication of which the Hook could find no evidence."
Hook senior editor Courteney Stuart finds herself sued for her April 24 article, "Senior Magazine: Garrett mystery solved?" detailing her attempts to locate Senior Magazine: The Arizona Edition.
The lawsuit accuses the Hook of creating a fake cover of Senior Magazine. In fact, according to Stuart's email archive, it was a publicity-seeking Garrett himself who emailed the disputed Senior image to Stuart, a transmission that occurred, according to Stuart's records, on May 28, 2005.
The Hook has recently learned that Garrett's friend Julia Herriott was then co-publisher of a now-defunct magazine called Senior Arizona, which ceased publication in December 2005. Garrett never responded to Stuart's requests for assistance in finding the magazine.
Another April 24 Stuart story, "Garrett's plea: Publicist guilty of reduced charge," according to the complaint was defamatory because it "unequivocally attested to the evidence of Garrett's guilt of forgery, notwithstanding the fact that no such evidence existed and the charges were dismissed." Hook editor Hawes Spencer, however, maintains the article was a fair treatment of the criminal case.
Garrett pleaded guilty to entering the property of another with the intention of damaging it, a class-one misdemeanor. He was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence, two years unsupervised probation, and was ordered to pay the man who accused him of forging checks, David Kimbell, $3,500 in restitution.
“The lawsuit has no merit," says lawyer Garrett Smith, who represents Better Publications, the LLC that publishes the Hook. "While Better Publications has yet to file a formal response to the lawsuit," says Smith, "it stands behind the Hook’s story and its reporters’ work."
Tommy Garrett did not return a phone call from the Hook for this story, but his attorney, Daleville-based lawyer James Creekmore, declining to elaborate on the issues, said, "I'm just happy to stand on the allegations we've made [in the lawsuit], and we'll look forward to moving forward with the litigation and stating any positions that we have in court."
Creekmore would not comment on whether Garrett has other legal action pending in Australia.
In the lawsuit against the Hook, Garrett claims that newspaper stories caused him to lose his spot on what was then, with an alleged seven million listeners, the "top-rated radio show in Australia." That listenership claim was questioned on the Australian blog Media Mook, the day before Garrett allegedly threatened blogger Neil Walker, who noted that Australia has a total population of 21.5 million and that the show wasn't nationally broadcast.
Garrett also claims the Hook articles prevented him from renting an apartment in Los Angeles, "jeopardized" his standing with Canyon News in Los Angeles, which lists Garrett as an editor and writer, and "impugned and damaged" his relationship with a Christian academy in Buckingham.
Hook editor Spencer told Cvillenews.com he was "particularly surprised to be sued when no effort has been made to tell me how our paper might have defamed this person."
In August, Richmond lawyer Irving Blank demanded that the Hook remove all Garrett stories from its website. Spencer noted the Hook's interest in correcting errors and asked Blank what was wrong with articles–- and heard nothing further until the December 22 suit was filed by another lawyer.
So far, Cvillenews.com has not been sued by Garrett, despite operator Waldo Jaquith accusing Garrett of being a "sock puppet"–- one who posts comments on blogs using fake names. According to Jaquith, two of Garrett's defenders on Cvillenews.com used an anonymizing proxy to hide their unique IP addresses, but the comments, says Jaquith, came from the same computer.
Media Mook in Australia also notes a "torrent of abusive comments (seemingly from the same PC) from Tommy supporters claiming they’re NOT Tommy" in May.
According to what appears to be Garrett's website (one of the "NOT Tommy" defenders claims it was set up by a friend), Garrett represents nearly 40 Hollywood stars, including Ed Begley Jr., Tab Hunter, and the late Glenn Ford.
In 2007, Garrett appeared on Begley's HGTV show, Living with Ed. He's written several books, including this year's Cosmic's Adventure: A Science Fiction Novel, as well as the 2005 Letters from a Known Woman: Joan Fontaine, released by a self-publishing house called Wasteland Press.
UPDATE: After this story went to press, Melbourne attorney Peter Kempson emailed the Hook to say he's representing Garrett.