Ruling on defamation case doesn't change the truth

September 12, 2013 

Dee Torres

While I am deeply disappointed that the judge has refused to let my defamation case proceed, has refused to allow us to question the defendant and the people behind the blog he was working for, the ruling does not change the truth, nor does it change why the truth should ultimately prevail.

For a year now I, my children, and my staff and programs have been subjected to a series of maliciously false attacks that have been posted on the blog Mr. Brennler volunteers his services to, and also rebroadcast on a local radio program. This has occurred despite all attempts to provide verifiable information that would invalidate the claims. Thus, I had no choice but to answer their dare and turn to the court, and unfortunately, this judge has not allowed me to make my case.

My children have been specifically named and maligned — which is hurtful beyond explanation.

My programs have been harmed; the homeless are a very vulnerable population. Those who have mental health issues, when given incorrect or untruthful information, can stop getting much needed services, which can be harmful to them as well as others in our community.

The truth that needs to be underscored today, which a loophole in the law would not allow the court to hear, is that none of the claims against me or my children or my staff have been supported by any evidence. There is no evidence because there is no truth to the claims posted on the blog and rebroadcast many times on a local radio show.

The claims have come from people with malicious motives, chief among them someone I was involved with more than 13 years ago. Out of respect for my daughter I won’t detail the abuse we’ve all survived from this man, all of which is a matter of public record. My family and I have fought relentlessly and suffered privately to stay safe and flourish despite the abuse we’ve endured. I believe most people would agree with me that abusers should not be allowed to victimize again.

While I understand and appreciate the protections provided for legitimate press, when persons calling themselves the press or acting on behalf of the press behave without any regard for journalistic principles and ethics, and seek to malign organizations, people, and even their children, out of spite and for sensationalistic purposes, one has to ask if it is just for a judge to grant them such latitude.

The truth should matter above all, and claims that cause great harm should have to be supported by evidence in a court of law. That has been denied me. The truth has lost, and lost on technicalities rather than substance. What is Mr. Brennler afraid of? What is the blog he works for afraid of? What is their radio promoter afraid of?

I believe they are afraid that people who take them seriously will discover the sordid manner in which they operate, providing credibility to people with agendas of revenge and personal destruction. I believe our community deserves better, and when it comes to the media, I hope our community will still expect high standards of conduct.

It has gotten so toxic and so ridiculous that I was even accused of somehow being involved in a conspiracy when the founder of the blog was arrested recently for DUI. Paradoxically, that ended up providing a revelation for me, and I am hopeful that others will now join me in ignoring the figures of our local outrage industry, those who make money by stirring up people’s emotions and anxiety, which damages responsible and reasonable discourse on critical issues.

In the end, I place my faith in our community, as I have always done. We are a generous and compassionate community, and my staff and I have always relied on this powerful spirit of helping others as opposed to tearing others down.

Dee Torres is the director of homeless services for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County.

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