Cop Sues Local Blog To Get Names Of Anonymous Users Lying About Him

Hartford, CT – A Hartford police lieutenant has filed a lawsuit against a popular local blogger to get the names of anonymous posters who have been writing negative things about him.

Hartford Police Lieutenant Vince Benvenuto’s lawsuit doesn’t seek monetary damages – he has only asked for the names of the people behind comment posts on “We The People Hartford” that he claimed were defamatory, the Hartford Courant reported.

The blog is run by Hartford resident Kevin Brookman, who has frequently used the platform to express his displeasure with and opinions on city issues, local politicians, and first responders.

Lt. Benvenuto’s lawsuit has alleged that many of the people anonymously posting derogatory things about him on “We The People Hartford” are actually other police officers who have a problem with him, the Hartford Courant reported.

The Hartford Police Department has a social media policy that prohibits employees from posting about themselves or their colleagues, and says that those who violate that general order may be subject to civil litigation.

“As citizens, we enjoy the right of freedom of speech but not the freedom to defame others. If we are successful in exposing the individuals that crossed the line, then appropriate steps shall be taken,” Lt. Benvenuto’s attorney, Patrick Tomasiewicz, said.

Tomasiewicz said that if Lt. Benvenuto is successful at unmasking the authors of the derogatory comments, they may file lawsuits against them, the Hartford Courant reported.

The lieutenant’s lawsuit claimed that “allegations made by anonymous users of The Blog unfairly and untruly painted the Plaintiff as an irresponsible, angry racist” and several of the comments “openly question the Plaintiff’s fitness to be a police officer” in violation of General Order 3.01a, the police department’s social media policy, if they were written by Hartford PD employees.

The suit also alleged that on at least one occasion, an anonymous poster claimed to be Lt. Benvenuto and wrote that he hadn’t be promoted based on merit.

“The October 21 comment authored by an anonymous user impersonating [Lt. Benvenuto] was made with the intent to injure [the lieutenant’s] personal and professional reputation,” the complaint read.

The lawsuit also listed a number of specific anonymous comments, dating back to Aug. 5, 2019, that specifically targeted Lt. Benvenuto.

It said there was a thread that accused the lieutenant of sleeping during his shift in his official vehicle and another that accused him of “inappropriately leaking police information.”

The lawsuit also alleged that an anonymous poster claimed on Oct. 2, 2019 that when Lt. Benvenuto was a member of the New York Police Department (NYPD), he was “racist so they kept him out of queens [sic] and Bronx.”

An Oct. 18, 2019 comment called Lt. Benvenuto “a complete disgrace to the badge” and alleged that he had “threatened to cut [Brookman’s] throat.”

Brookman’s attorney, Robert Killian Jr., filed a reply to the lawsuit that said his client didn’t allow defamatory comments on his blog, the Hartford Courant reported.

“Plaintiff cites ... Hartford police regulations governing conduct of officers which do not apply to the defendant and the public at large and would not be the basis for civil action against the officers he alleges to have violated the in-house policies that appear in conflict with their First Amendment rights,” Killian wrote.

He argued that Brookman was protected by the news media shield law from being compelled to disclose his sources.

Killian has also argued that his client is protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which offered specific protections to bloggers and those who comment on their blogs, according to the Hartford Courant.

The law says “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" and “[no] cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any state or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”

But those protections might not apply because Lt. Benvenuto isn’t seeking to hold Brookman liable in any way.

The lieutenant’s lawsuit is seeking the names of the people Brookman allowed to post defamatory comments on his site anonymously, the Hartford Courant reported.

“It’s a pre-suit discovery petition to try to determine what the source is or who the sources are of disparaging and defamatory comments made against Lt. Benvenuto," Tomasiewicz explained.

Comments (22)
No. 1-10
AnnykaV
AnnykaV

Nothing is truly anonymous on the Internet. If the department wants to know if officers are violating those policies by posting anonymously (and the policy addresses "anonymous" postings), then that's one thing. But not the guy who's being talked about. The chief or the city should be handling it.

ToddS
ToddS

The article states that the intent is to not harm or penalize the blogger. Yet if forced to comply, that is exactly the result he could expect.

I think, as the old saying goes; 'Truth hurts.' Perhaps this administrator needs to do some self reflection.

The Officers apparently have no other outlet for opinion. That might well suggest a 'hostile work environment.'

If the administration has nothing to fear regarding their actions, then the best thing to do is an internal investigation. Even WITH concerns, it is still warranted but then especially so.

Documentation of events; coaching and disciplinary actions as well as perception of atmosphere in the Department can lend credibility to claims or cause a dismissal of same.

I've seen how a bad apple in an administrative position can negatively affect morale. And they have all the cards.

It is an issue.

LivesMatter
LivesMatter

This reminds me of how (unethical) lawyers use the pre-discovery system to find on-line movie pirates names because you cannot sue a IP address. You cannot (successfully) sue the owner of that home account because the router didn't have a password and the neighbor steals the connection. But the lawsuit gets filed as dropped once they get the name based on usernames and linked email accounts. They directly approach the 'pirate' and achieve a payment or be sued. Successful or not the 'pirate' will pay to skip the whole judicial system. The lawyers make money abusing that pre-discovery as a tool to physically find the person that they feel will submit to a threat of legal action. Discovery can lead to blackmail. Lawyers? Blackmail? Nawww.....

Micheal Sullivan
Micheal Sullivan

I'm going with Tim Pool on this one. "It's Complex."

Teijeiro2
Teijeiro2

I believe all "whistleblower laws" should be WIPED OUT. If you don't have the balls to stand behind what you say, SHUT UP! Yes he has the right to know who these people are and, if what they say isn't true, SUE THEM. AND THE BLOGGER (which is not a real thing) SHOULD BE PUNISHED. They have no right to say UNSUBSTANTIATED SHIT ABOUT SOMEONE.

Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

I believe the Kardashians had a similar story plot years ago. Good to see cops on that same wave, apparently.

bryantrent
bryantrent

Crazy

Cop Watch
Cop Watch

this DUMB cop needs to deal with this through his doughnut shop, not try to go after the blogger himself! it will only blow up in his face! and then he will be stuck with the bills! and if his doughnut shop is not willing to investigate, then the allegations MUST BE TRUE!

TarnishedCopper
TarnishedCopper

This Lieutenant has done something or a number of things that severely ticked-off someone somewhere. Are they cops? Maybe, or are they simply friends of cops, or others in government. Will any good be done by revealing who they are? I doubt it. Or if it WAS done by other cops will it cause the hate and discontent to spread through the department like a cancer? I would say that normally when things get to this point that there usually is a legitimate reason for the cops to be upset. He basically has some choices to make:

  1. Let it go and let the department investigate it internally.
  2. Retire honorably.
  3. Put on his "Big Boy pants" and change his ways.

My guess would be that the administration has turned a "deaf ear" to complaints about this guy. The department needs to step-in, investigate and warn all involved about making this a public spectacle on the Internet.

IseeWhereThisIsGoing
IseeWhereThisIsGoing

Ummm, they are anonymous.... that likely means even the blogger doesn't know who they are, because they use email addresses with fake names associated with anonymous accounts. Which is exactly what some of our resident trolls do.