Blogger sued by Anna Nicole's mom sent to jail
By MARY FLOOD
Aug. 22, 2009, 9:34AM
A second blogger being sued by the mother of the late Anna Nicole Smith is set to spend a weekend behind bars for failing to do what a local judge asked.
Teresa Stephens, accused in a civil lawsuit of defaming Smith's mother, was arrested Thursday in the Fort Worth area and is due in Harris County court Monday morning.
A judge will ask Stephens, whose blogging name is Butterfly according to the lawsuit, to show why she should not be found in contempt for failing to follow court orders to turn over her computer and to appear in court to explain why she didn't do so.
Neil McCabe, attorney for Virgie Arthur, said his client was defamed by these bloggers and others, but that the jailings aren't about blogging.
“This is because a couple of people have defied court orders,” McCabe said. “The case is not really about people blogging. It's about people ginning up a couple stories and getting them in the mainstream media.”
McCabe said the gossip was vicious and it was around the time of custody hearings for Smith's infant daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit an $88 million fortune. Smith died in 2007.
Arthur also sued lawyer Howard K. Stern; Stern's sister; Dannielynn's father, Larry Birkhead; TMZ Productions Inc.; TMZ's Harvey Levin; and others.
In May, Lyndal Harrington, a local real estate agent and blogger, was jailed for contempt of court by state District Judge Tony Lindsay, the same judge Stephens will face. In Harrington's case, the judge did not believe Harrington lost her computer in a home burglary.
Lindsay released Harrington after she spent a holiday weekend in the Harris County Jail. Harrington, who has said she has no computer to turn over, could risk further sanctions.
Stephens and Harrington are both accused of moderating defamatory discussions about Arthur on a Web site called Rose Speaks.
And both Stephens and Harrington have denied they defamed or harmed Arthur.
Earlier this month, Lindsay issued an order to have Stephens arrested and brought to court. Lindsay allowed for a $3,000 bond, conditioned on Stephens bringing her computer to court.
Stephens does not have a lawyer and has tried to appeal Lindsay's ruling without success yet.
It is highly unusual for a judge to use civil laws to place someone, especially a non-lawyer, in jail.
Groups that monitor Internet law say bloggers are increasingly being sued for defamation, copyright infringement and privacy invasion. One group offers insurance against these lawsuits.
Dave Heller, of the New York City-based Media Law Resource Center, said many bloggers are surprised to be sued “for the loose, hyperbolic language often used in private speech that they post on a public platform.”
Arthur's case is scheduled for trial in 2010.
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