Judge upholds jury verdict against truthful blogger

Nicole Lozare | Libel | Feature | September 2, 2011

A Minneapolis blogger will continue his fight to overturn a jury's verdict that he should pay $60,000 to a former university employee whom he wrote about scathingly --- but truthfully --- in a blog post that led to the employee's termination the next day.

John Hoff, who writes" The Adventures of Johnny Northside" blog, announced in a post this week that he will appeal the recent ruling of District Judge Denise Reilly in support of the jury's verdict to award Jerry Moore $35,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress, according to the Star Tribune.

"For bloggers out there, this is a pretty expensive penalty that would otherwise be investigative journalism from the grassroots level," said Hoff's attorney Paul Godfread. "We're disappointed, but we do plan to appeal."

In the nine-page ruling, Reilly wrote that Moore provided "direct and circumstantial evidence" that Hoff's blog post led to his termination by the University of Minnesota, the paper reported.

Moore was hired at the university's Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center to study foreclosures in the spring of 2009. When Hoff, whose blog focuses on community development and attracts about 300 to 500 visitors daily, found out about Moore's new employment, he wrote a post accusing Moore of being involved in a “high-profile fraudulent mortgage.” The university fired Moore the next day.

The Star Tribune reported that Moore was connected, but not charged, in a criminal case involving a former real estate agent who was sentenced to 16 years.

The jury agreed that Hoff's statement about Moore’s involvement in the fraudulent mortgage was true and, therefore, not defamatory. But the panel also concluded that the statement improperly interfered with Moore’s employment at the university.