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Erin's Defense Fund

$17,767 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 266 people in 8 months
Created June 4, 2017
You may know the general outlines of this story already.

Erin (aka SophiaSunday), an out-of-town woman, was visiting friends in the Baltimore area last year, including a well-known man who is a community leader and teacher at events.  One night, something went very wrong.  Later, after Erin’s attempts to deal directly with the man were not successful, she posted in the community online forum a recounting of the events.  She alleged consent violations and described events that can be characterized only as sexual assault.  Erin took down the post shortly thereafter and did not file charges.  The man did not provide any factual rebuttal of her allegations.  Some event organizers and community leaders banned the man from their events and groups after reaching out to him unsuccessfully to invite him to share his side of the story.

The man filed suit against Erin for $1.5 million, alleging defamation.  Erin was served in May.  The suit lists Erin’s real and screen names.  The man also sent letters from his attorney to local event organizers and community leaders demanding public apologies and threatening suit against them if they do not comply.  The man is also now threatening anyone who talks about the incident.

Why should we care? We weren’t there that night and Erin doesn’t live here. It’s just one incident. It doesn’t affect us.

We should care because filing public lawsuits against people who allege consent violations is a good way to ensure no one complains, regardless of merit.  Even assuming this suit is unsuccessful, likely it will cost Erin tens of thousands of dollars for legal expenses, travel, and missed work.

And we should care because event organizers and community leaders must be able to make difficult decisions on the basis of allegations; rarely is there definitive proof of anything.  Do you want your event organizer or community leader to make decisions based on the financial means and threat capability of accused consent violators?

If we do not actively reject this approach to settling community differences, we are leaving room in the community for this type of public and expensive retaliation against people who dare to talk about consent violations.   When people are not free to complain and organizers and community leaders are not free to make attendance decisions for their events, everyone is less safe and fewer people will organize or attend events.

This is bullying.  The implications of this on the continued viability of the Baltimore and D.C. communities cannot be understated.  Not to mention the implications for potential sexual assault complainants of any stripe anywhere.

You don’t need to have met Erin or know anything about this particular case.  The broader implications to the Baltimore/D.C. community, and to victims in general, affect all of us.  Your donation is not about who is right or wrong on the merits.  Rather, your donation says that it is not OK with you when someone tries to silence or retaliate against a person who has complained of a sexual assault.  Your donation says that you would like to promote a community environment in which people are free to make complaints and organizers are free to make attendance decisions that take into account those complaints.  Your donation can be anonymous.

We have set an initial fundraising goal of $20,000 for Erin’s legal defense, but anticipate that the legal and travel expenses associated with this matter may be much higher.   We will make adjustments to the goal as the case proceeds.

Thank you.
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Yesterday, Dec. 18, after the plaintiff withdrew his motion to reopen the case, the court issued an order closing the case for good. Check out today’s blog post about the case by Erin’s attorney:

http://thekaplanlawfirm.com/settlement-in-case-involving-first-amendment-and-slapp-issues/

As her attorney notes, Erin’s legal battle finally is over, but her financial battle is far from over.

Thank you for all you have done to support Erin’s defense and please continue to spread the word!

Thank you for standing up!
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Hello, everyone. Thank you once again for your support. Some of you gave more; thank you, thank you! Erin needs your help more than ever; her bills already are far more than the $20,000 set for this campaign and it appears the case may not yet be over.

Again, this fundraiser fundamentally is about the principle that it’s not OK to sue someone for $1.5 million for defamation simply because she complained of a sexual assault. She didn’t sue him, she didn’t file charges, she simply complained to others. Community complaints could be addressed in the community. He chose the public outing and financial ruination option.

So now it appears (after her obvious counterclaim for sexual assault) that he may want to drop the suit, after she owes tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Guess who won. This is a good way to eliminate all complaints regardless of merit.

There’s been nothing new in the court since the last update (except her additional attorneys’ fees). I wanted to post an update anyway because things seemed a bit unsettled at that time and still are. I hope to be able to report on closure soon, but, alas, not today.

To recap: On Oct. 25, the court issued an order dismissing the case because the parties settled (both sides dropped everything). On Nov. 22, Mr. Wade moved to reopen the case on grounds that there really hadn’t been a settlement. Erin’s attorney responded Nov. 27 attaching a settlement agreement signed on Oct. 24 by Erin, Bret, and the magistrate judge. More attorney’s fees for Erin.

No further filings as of this afternoon.
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Case update: As previously reported, a court order on October 25 dismissed the case on grounds that the parties had reached a settlement in which they both agreed to drop all claims. Last week, however, Mr. Wade’s attorneys filed a motion to re-open the case on grounds that a settlement had not, in fact, been reached. Erin’s attorney filed a response this week opposing the motion and attaching a copy of the settlement agreement bearing the signatures of both parties and of the magistrate judge.

Each new matter the plaintiff raises, no matter how frivolous, requires time from Erin’s attorney and money Erin doesn’t have. The first posting for this campaign recognized that the key concern with suing people who complain of assault is about the financial ruination (through lawyer and court fees) of people who dare to complain. It discourages all complaints, regardless of merit.

As reported already, Erin lost her job this fall (after 13 years) shortly after her religiously-affiliated employer received an invasive subpoena from the plaintiff (asking for things like her job performance reviews. Which everyone knows is relevant to a sexual assault allegation, right?).

We’ve done a great job raising money but we haven’t done enough. At this point Erin’s legal bills far exceed the $20,000 goal for this campaign.

Thank you for donating already and please consider an additional donation if your resources allow!

Thank you for standing up!
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On October 25, the court issued an order dismissing the case because the parties agreed to drop all claims and counterclaims. We have no further details at this time regarding the settlement terms and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

While this is good news to some extent,, Erin still owes her attorney significantly more than the campaign has raised so far. Also, as you know already, Erin recently lost her job of 13 years.

Please continue to spread the word so that we can help Erin clear her legal debt. Your support made her vigorous defense possible and showed that the community as a whole will stand up to a bully who sued a complainant for 1.5 million dollars.

Let’s help her move past this and let’s also reinforce the message that attacking a complainant (for 1.5 million dollars) simply for complaining is not where the community needs or wants to be.

Thank you for your support and thank you for standing up!
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$17,767 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 266 people in 8 months
Created June 4, 2017
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