Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Blogger in Virginia sued for "libelous" sexual assault allegation made against a fellow West Point cadet from three decades ago
A retired Army colonel from Alexandria VA is suing a blogger, Susan Shannon, for accusing him of raping her in the 1980s (apparently 1986) when they were both cadets at the United States Military Academy, West Point. The case is now in a Fairfax County VA court. It's interesting that this case is pursued in state, not federal, court.
Shannon says she didn’t accuse him when the alleged offense first occurred because of military culture (of "silencing" women about male advances) in the 1980s. That, as we know from history, fit in well with the ban on gays that ended finally with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011. But the colonel says she played judge and jury on her own three decades later.
But the colonel says he was denied a promotion when the accusation was found on her blog in 2013, It’s a little incredible that the Army used “amateur” web content as pertinent to a background investigation.
The case also illustrates that bringing up an old, obscure “injustice” or incident from the past, otherwise forgotten, can sometimes lead to litigation.
The blog had named the accused cadet. That certainly increased the probability that it would be uncovered.
But the government is now more likely to take random accusations on the web discovered by search engines seriously now as part of its concern over terrorism and gun violence, and this was apparently a totally public blog, so surveillance is not an issue.
The news story is here.
The blogger has apparently written other controversial posts, claiming that the Sandy Hook shootings were a conspiracy.
Truth would be a defense to libel. But the question is how to establish the truth when there was never a formal accusation and criminal or civil procedure before.