Maggy Hurchalla made me write this story. Her day in court sucked me in like a Venus flytrap.
This is election season. I had no intention of wading into any aspect of Hurchalla's maneuvers to protect her assets, or mining company Lake Point's attempt to collect the $4.4 million judgment it won against her.
But then -- if we are to believe reporter Jose Lambiet, writing a story on Tuesday's Martin County hearing in The Capitolist, environmental activist Hurchalla "claimed (she and her husband James) were 'defrauded' by the (Bank of America), but she didn’t sue because, she said ... (and, wait for it, here's where the Venus flytrap opens) ... 'I don’t sue everybody.'"
That's what she said. How could I not jump in and clarify the facts for Circuit Judge William Roby?
When Hurchalla told the court, "I don't sue everybody," either she has a very short memory or she means she only sues Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News and Martin County Currents Publisher Barbara Clowdus.
Because she certainly initiated legal action against the three of us last November. And all for a factual error that would have been corrected far more quickly with one phone call to any of us. All news organizations want to correct their errors. SSN and Currents are no exception.
Who threatens suit before they ask a publication for a legitimate correction of fact? Who calls in the lawyers before the publication refuses to correct?
We did make a mistake by claiming Hurchalla was part of a grand jury's "criminal investigation for actions relating to the Lake Point operation ..." She was not part of a grand jury's criminal investigation. The mistake was neither intentional nor malicious, but it was a mistake all the same. See the correction here.
It is our opinion that correcting a factual error wasn't what Hurchalla and her law firm Littman, Sherlock & Heims, P.A. wanted. Rather, they wanted to force me to stop writing my opinion -- something former reporter and Hurchalla attorney Virginia Sherlock knows is protected speech. They wanted Barbara Clowdus to stop her Hurchalla court coverage, in both Currents and in SSN. They wanted to intimidate us, drive us off with the threat of a costly lawsuit so we would no longer cover or comment on Hurchalla news.
That's not going to happen.
In more than 50 years in this business, as a reporter and as an editor, I've made mistakes, God knows. But when I have, I've always tried to correct them promptly and apologize publicly. My reputation depends on it. Only three times in all those years -- including this one -- was I threatened with a lawsuit. None of them got to court.
It's interesting to note that even after the correction and apology, Sherlock fired back a Dec. 11 letter to Reeder with a "fear of God" closing: "Mrs. Hurchalla intends to seek recovery of damages from Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Clowdus, the Sunshine State News and the Martin County Currents for continuing to disseminate false reports fueled by malice and willful disregard for the truth."
Hurchalla's hollow "I don't sue everybody" looks to me like an attempt to deceive a judge. I thought it was important to call her out for it.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith.