STEUBENVILLE - Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge David Henderson will order the computer servers that contained information pertaining to an Internet blog site that is the focus of a slander lawsuit be preserved until he makes a ruling on what, if any, information from the servers can be used in court.
Cody Saltsman and his parents, James and Johna Saltsman, filed the lawsuit through their attorney, Shawn Blake, in connection with comments made on the blog prinniefied.com, operated by Alexandria Goddard of Columbus, in connection with a rape investigation that led to the arrest of two Steubenville High School athletes and students.
Goddard hasn't been served with the lawsuit and wasn't in court Monday during a hearing about the information on the computer servers. Goddard was represented by attorney Thomas Haren of Independence during the hearing, who refused to say where she is located based on attorney-client privilege.
The Saltsmans are seeking an injunction to have alleged false and defamatory statements removed from the blog site. The family also is seeking monetary damages and a public apology. The injunction hearing can't proceed until Goddard is served with the lawsuit.
Blake has had private investigators searching for Goddard but hasn't been able to locate her.
The lawsuit claims Goddard created several blogs on her Internet site regarding the sexual assault. The lawsuit also names 15 people as defendants by the fictitious names they created and registered on the blog.
The lawsuit states Goddard has control over her Internet site and can publish or remove any comments posted by registered users. Goddard has knowledge of the registered user's Internet protocol addresses, as well as their e-mail addresses, and can ban their postings, the lawsuit states.
Blake issued a subpoena on the Internet server company Hostgator.com, located in Houston to get the Internet protocols that can be used to identify the names of the unknown defendants.
Haren objected to Blake's request and Blake's motion heard by Henderson on Monday seeking discovery along the same lines.
Blake said Goddard has since switched server providers to Kuddos.com, located in Hong Kong.
Haren claims Blake has made no effort to resolve the discovery issue prior to filing the motion heard Monday.
In a letter to Blake, Heren said, "Shawn, your clients' attempts to stifle public debate about a horrible alleged crime in your community are anathema to the founding principles of our liberal democracy."
Blake claims it is appropriate procedure to serve subpoenas on Internet service providers and ask the ISPs to provide notice to the anonymous defendants for the opportunity for them to assert objections on their own behalf. Blake said, at this point, the ISPs are the only source of the information related to the defendants' identities.
Haren said Blake can't use any information received from Hostgator.com until Henderson makes a ruling.
(Law can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)