Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Herald contributor attempts to silence Herald Watch

On Novemember 27th of 2006 I posted a report about cerain allegations being made about FIU Professor and Herald Editorial Contributor Marifeli Perez Stable. The allegations were transmitted to me in an email from Indiana University Latino Studies Professor Antonio de la Cova. de la Cova claims that his source for the allegations was an FBI debriefing summary of a Cuban intelligence defector named Jesus Perez Mendez. I won't repeat the allegations here, you can read them by reading the original post.

In any case, I recently received an email from an attorney named John de Leon. The email begins thusly:

Personal and Confidential (Not for Publication) and for Settlement Purposes Only

March 23, 2007

Editor, heraldwatch.blogspot.com

I have been retained by Dr, Marifeli Perez Stable in connection with the following.

The purpose of this letter is to address the slanderous and libelous comments made by Antonio de la Cova, and published by your website which has caused significant injury to the personal safety and reputation of Marifeli Perez Stable. Antonio de la Cova's slanderous and libelous comments, published by heraldwatch.blogspot.com, are in violation of Dr. Perez-Stable’s rights under Florida state law. Your publication of said statements subject you to the libel laws of the State of Florida.

Marifeli Pérez-Stable is vice president for democratic governance at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. Her opinion pieces have appeared in El País (Spain), El Clarín (Argentina), Excelsior (Mexico), El Nuevo Herald and The Nation. She is also an editorial contributor to the Real Instituto Elcano, a foreign-policy think tank in Madrid. She is also the author of 'The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy.' Dr. Perez-Stable is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Miami’s Florida International University. Her Miami Herald column on Latin American topics appears every other Thursday.

On November 27, 2006, Professor de la Cova, caused to have been published on the internet on the www.babalublog.com website the following libelous and slanderous statements:
First of all, I have been advised by an attorney that I have no obligation to keep confidentiality on this matter. I received an unsolicited email and am entitled to do with it whatever I wish.

Secondly, notice the reference to babalublog.com which must be the remnant of a cut and paste job that Mr. de Leon did after sending a similar email to Val Prieto the editor of that blog where I also posted the piece in question.

Mr. de Leon then includes a long excerpt from the piece I wrote that supposedly include the "libelous and slanderous" statements. Afterwards he continues:
To further aggravate the seriousness of Mr. de la Cova’s outrageous actions, the aforementioned libelous statement was sent to the publisher and editor of the Miami Herald, which is not only the leading newspaper in the region in which Dr. Perez-Stbale resides and works, it is an entity with she enjoys a professional relationship as a contributor.
Notice first the misspelling of his client's name. I don't understand what Professor de la Cova's act of emailing the editor of the Miami Herald has to do with me. The letter continues:
These accusations are not only false they are also extremely injurious to Dr. Perez-Stable’s reputation as a respected academic and as a member of the Cuban-American community. Further, these outrageous accusations connect Dr. Perez-Stable, a peace-loving and lawful professional with serious criminal activity that she not has participated in or been accused. The accusations have caused severe emotional pain and distress to her and more importantly they have created a tremendous risk to her livelihood and to his personal safety and well being. Accusing anyone of espionage, or being a paid agent of a foreign government, is as serious an accusation one can make against another in this country. This is per se libel and slander. “[W]ords amounting to a libel per se necessarily import damage and malice in legal contemplation, so these elements need not be pleaded or proved, as they are conclusively presumed as a matter of law.” Layne v. Tribune Co., 108 Fla. 177, 146 So. 234 (1933).

Regrettably, this is not the first instance of such abuse against Dr. Perez-Stable; this is part of a long term pattern and practice by Mr. de la Cova, and published by your website, and or blog, of making accusations of espionage against Dr. Perez-Stable. It is highly inappropriate and negligent for heraldwatch.blogspot.com to continue to allow such blatant abuses of media outlets, outrageous lies, and personal attacks against innocent members of the Cuban-American community.
I'm not exactly sure what pattern Mr. de Leon is talking about since Ms. Perez Stable's name has appeared only twice in this blog. Perhaps this too was a remnant from an email he sent to Val Prieto at babalublog.com where similar allegations have been posted by readers in the comments of various posts or perhaps a similar email he may have sent to Oscar Corral since the same allegations are all over the comments sections posts at that Herald Reporter's blog as well. The letter then cites a bunch of case law, that a lawyer I trust assures me is not relevant, and finishes with this:
Please provide me within thirty days of receipt of this letter or April 28, 2007 the name of your insurance carrier with information of all available limits.

Please contact my office immediately in regards to the retraction, at 305-740-5347. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter

Sincerely,

John de Leon
Attorney at Law

Law Offices of Chavez & De Leon, P.A.
5975 Sunset Drive, #605
South Miami, FL 33143
e-mail: jdeleon@chavez-deleon.com
Mr. de Leon's bio on his firm's web site states:
Mr. De Leon currently serves as Vice President of the Greater Miami American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), after having previously served as President, he also sits on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Florida...
Ironic isn't it, that a person who dedicates a fair amount of time to protecting civil liberties would attempt to infringe upon mine by threatening me with what amounts to a baseless lawsuit?

I responded to Mr. de Leon as follows:

FOR SETTLEMENT PURPOSES ONLY

Dear Counselor,

I am in receipt of your electronic communication dated March 23rd. As you are well aware, any allegations made against Ms. Perez Stable were not made by me. I merely reported, in a blog post on November 27th, that some serious allegations had been made by others, notably a well-known college professor/author, regarding Ms. Perez Stable. Since Ms. Perez Stable is, as you have rightfully noted, a public figure, any allegations made of her are a matter of public concern and is protected free speech.

Since my actions were of a journalistic nature, I believe that, in this case, I have the same defenses available to me that any newspaper or publication has in a similar circumstances. Furthermore I believe that my reporting is protected by the constitutions of the United States of America and the State of Florida given the fact that your client is a public figure and the report involved a matter of public concern.

As a result, I will not be taking down the post in question, nor will I be offering Ms. Perez Stable a retraction or apology but I will more than gladly extend to Ms. Perez Stable equal space to rebut any allegations made against her that were reported on Herald Watch. So please advise your client that if she would like to accept my offer that she limit her remarks to 1,150 words.

Most sincerely,

Henry Louis Gomez
I have yet to receive a response but will post it here if and when it comes.

5 comments:

Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal said...

Interesting...

Tio said...

Kudos, Henry. Your abuelo would have been so proud to see the way you beat these Commies at their own game. The Cuban exile community has been denouncing Marifeli Perez-Stable as a Castro agent for three decades and it is now that she objects to it? Also interesting to note how this ambulance-chasing showboat lawyer John De Leon addresses professor De La Cova as "mister," instead of his title of doctor, which in contrast he uses to refer to his client. This matter can be solved when the case goes to court and Perez-Stable is forced to give a deposition, present her passports, and detail all her dealings with the Castro dictatorship for more than 30 years; the FBI is ordered to produce the debriefing document; and the defector is subpoenaed to testify of his former espionage dealings with Perez-Stable. De Leon is bluffing his way into a mine field.

CABA said...

That was an excellent response. De Leon is supposed to be a good attorney. While I am surprised that he would stoop to the level of an ambulance chaser (that letter is a classic tool used by lesser lawyers to try to intimidate their adversaries), when he clearly should know better given his position with the ACLU.

Your response was on point. Congrats for debunking his empty threats.

alberto segrera said...

It's been more than a year since this lawsuit threat was made. Apparently, it was a big bluff. The lack of legal action reinforces my belief that Marifeli Perez-Stable indeed was working for Cuban intelligence.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this posted on
http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/marifeli.htm
and see that two years later Perez-Stable was accused in the Washington Times of being a Castro spy
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jun/18/their-men-in-higher-ed/
and neither she nor John de Leon took legal action against such serious accusation. They could have gotten more money from a lawsuit against a newspaper than against a blogger.