Libel suit still in limbo
by Kendall Wright | Patterson Irrigator
Jul 01, 2010 | 1629 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
George Logan
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A ruling remains to be decided following a hearing late last week to determine whether a local Web commentator behind Patterson IrriTator.com, Arsenio Mataka, has a stake in libel litigation filed by former City Attorney George Logan against an anonymous online blogger called “Fred Ross.”

In the second hearing in the suit, Judge Brian McCabe of the Merced Superior Court heard additional arguments for both sides Thursday morning, June 24, with the idea that he would determine whether Mataka is the Fred Ross targeted in Logan’s lawsuit. Instead, McCabe took the suit into submission — delaying a definitive ruling on the issue until an undecided date — to allow him more time to review each side’s arguments.

“At this point, the judge has read everything and just wants to make sure he’s completely thorough before making a decision,” said Mataka’s attorney, Paul Clifford said. “There are many possibilities, and now we just have to wait to see what he wants to do next.”

If McCabe ruled in Mataka’s favor, Clifford said, it would give Mataka the right to counter the suit by filing a motion to strike Logan’s complaint under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which aims to protect citizens’ rights to speak out against public issues and the government.

Filed in early March, Logan’s lawsuit argues that his professional reputation was damaged after someone using the name Fred Ross wrote that he was a “joke” and “in the pocket of developers,” on the Patterson Irrigator newspaper’s website in 2009.

After Mataka revealed to the courts that he had written under the online pseudonym for years, the suit took an unexpected turn, when Logan claimed Mataka was not the “Fred Ross” he was after.

Instead, Logan’s court declaration paints the Fred Ross named in the lawsuit as a 6-foot-tall Caucasian man from Colorado who Logan said had admitted to writing about him online during a November Rotary Club meeting at the Del Lago Hotel.

Logan could not be reached for comment before press time.

McCabe will continue to oversee the suit at the Merced Superior Court. At this time, the next hearing remains unscheduled.

• Contact Kendall Wright at 892-6187 or kendall@pattersonirrigator.com.
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