JERSEY CITY – Attorneys representing two Hoboken-based bloggers accused of defamation moved to dismiss the case against their clients in Hudson County Superior Court on Monday, stating that the plaintiffs had failed to make a prima facie, or sufficient, case against the defendants.
“The plaintiff has shown no tie to his employer, and nothing that would cause harm to his reputation,” said attorney Stephan Katzman, who is representing Nancy Pincus, a Hoboken-based blogger, against plaintiffs Lane Bajardi and his wife Kimberly Cardinal Bajardi, after the jury was dismissed for the day. “The statement ‘paid political operative’ is meaningless in and of itself. It is not defamatory. Congress is full of paid political operatives. And if they are getting paid, so what?”
The trial, which began last week, is rooted in a lawsuit filed by the Bajardis, who are Hoboken residents, in July 2012 in Hudson County Superior Court seeking $2 million in damages. The Hoboken-based bloggers Pincus and Roman Brice are named as defendants, as well as 10 other unnamed individuals – listed in the court documents by their on-line screen names – for allegedly posting remarks in 2011 and 2012 that allegedly injured the careers and future employment of the Bajardis. Lane Bajardi is a WINS 1010 radio reporter.
Pincus and Brice blog under the names “Grafix Avenger” and the “Hoboken Horse,” respectively, both often focusing on Hoboken government and politics. Pincus and Brice both generally support Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, while Bajardi is an ally of Councilman Beth Mason, a vocal Zimmer opponent.
Among the accusations that the Bajardis assert Pincus made against them under the name of her “Grafix Avenger” blog is that Lane Bajardi is a political operative for Mason. Another allegation made on the Grafix Avenger blog inferred that Bajardi was somehow involved in stealing emails from Zimmer and was being investigated by the FBI, the Bajardis claim.
As Jonathan Cohen, attorney for the Bajardis, listed statements made during testimony that he believed demonstrated a pattern of defamation against his clients by the bloggers, presiding Judge Patrick J. Arre tried to keep the trial, which has both raised First Amendment questions and reminded observers of the brutish tone of Hoboken politics, guided by strict legal precepts.
“What facts do you have for the jury that [the defendants] recklessly disregarded the truth?” Arre asked Cohen. “They have to be aware that their statements were false, not that contrary evidence exists.”
Arre said that he would make his ruling about whether or not to dismiss the case on Tuesday morning.