The group of Waldo County residents accused by a Belfast mother and daughter of spreading rumors that the duo runs a brothel are seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed by the end of the week.
Christopher MacLean, the attorney representing the eight defendants named in the lawsuit, sent the women’s attorney an email Wednesday asking that they dismiss the lawsuit before it proceeds any further. The defendants have denied the accusations made in the lawsuit and claim that the Facebook comments provided as evidence have been fabricated.
MacLean said that if the lawsuit is not dismissed by the end of day Friday, the women are opening themselves up to being liable for “serious legal consequences,” including potentially facing monetary damages.
“Each of my clients categorically denies the allegations made in the lawsuit. They completely deny ever having made the posts described in the lawsuit and state, without any qualification, that the posts are fabrications invented by the plaintiffs. There is no evidence that any such posts ever appeared in any social media forum. The allegations are grotesque and ludicrous,” MacLean said.
As of Thursday morning, MacLean had not gotten a response from the women’s attorney, David Walker. Walker did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday morning.
The lawsuit was filed in Waldo County Superior Court on May 10 on behalf of April Walker and her mother, R. M. Woodford. The women have accused the group of publicly spreading false statements about them shortly after Walker and Woodford expressed their opposition to a proposal for a former school to be converted into rental properties more than two years ago.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Belfast City Councilors Mike Hurley and Neal Harkness, as well as Cheryl Fuller, Mandy Marriner-Everett, Anne Saggese, Joshua Ard, Erik Klausmeyer and Allison Ames Goscinski.
The women claim that the group spread public statements regarding Walker and Woodford running a brothel at their home on Church Street and hosting sex parties there. One Facebook comment included as evidence in the lawsuit insinuated that Jeffrey Epstein had visited the house.
However, MacLean said his clients never made the statements or Facebook posts that they are being accused of making.
“The plaintiffs chose the wrong community to spew their poison and they chose the wrong defendants to target. My clients are among the most active civic and community leaders in Belfast,” MacLean said. “My clients do not know why they were chosen by the plaintiffs to be the targets of these absurd allegations, but they are all disgusted and furious.”
In criminal cases, presenting false statements or evidence can result in criminal charges, according to Augusta-based attorney Walter McKee. However, the consequences for making false statements in civil complaints — like lawsuits — are more “murky,” he said.
“The court has a broad range of sanctions it can impose, but you rarely see a criminal charge arising out of it,” McKee said.
If the defense believes the individuals bringing the lawsuit have made false statements, McKee said a counterclaim can be filed for abuse of process or malicious prosecution, through which the defendants could seek monetary damages.
MacLean declined to elaborate on what legal moves he would take if the lawsuit moved forward.