By: E&P Staff
It didn’t seem possible, but the battle at the Santa Barbara (Ca.) News-Press turned even nastier on Sunday.
A front-page story in the paper — which carried no byline — revealed that images found on the hard drive of a computer used by ex-editor Jerry Roberts (who with many others have left or been fired in the past year) included some 15,000 involving child or adult pornography. It cited a police as a source for this, but the paper itself had hired a data recovery expert last summer.
Robert heatedly denied it, demanded a retraction and threatened to sue the paper, saying, among other things that he had merely inherited the computer used by previous editors.
The San Francisco Chronicle, where Roberts previously worked as a top editor, reports today that Eric Hanson, chief trial deputy for Santa Barbara County District Attorney Christie Stanley, told Santa Barbara police in a letter March 2 that there is no way of knowing who put the images on the computer “given that multiple persons had either access to or use of the computer during its several-year existence at the News-Press.”
At a news conference on Sunday afternoon Roberts stated, “Today’s front page story smearing and libeling me is utterly false, defamatory and malicious — and published with knowledge that, as to me, it is completely untrue. My family and I are outraged beyond measure at this desperate attempt to ruin my reputation.”
He said no one from the paper or Ampersand, the company that owns it, had contacted him before they published the article.
Roberts’ statement on Sunday follows.
Today?s front page story smearing and libeling me is utterly false,
defamatory and malicious — and published with knowledge that, as to
me, it is completely untrue. My family and I are outraged beyond
measure at this desperate attempt to ruin my reputation.
My attorneys are evaluating legal action against the News-Press and its
owner and management seeking massive damages for defamation and other harm inflicted on my family and me by this unconscionable story. The damage done to my personal and professional reputation is incalculable and we intend to move aggressively to hold Ampersand and its owner and management fully accountable for this deplorable action.
My attorneys who are handling the $25 million arbitration claim against me by Ampersand became aware some weeks ago that Ampersand was making preparations to use this scurrilous information to try to destroy me in a way their meritless legal claims against me could not.
My legal team has made available to the press and public a package of
documents that proves that I had nothing to do with material referred to in the story. The documents being released also expose Ampersand?s
malicious machinations behind this vicious effort. My attorneys stand
ready to answer any and all questions regarding them.
I cooperated fully with the Santa Barbara Police Department in its
investigation of this matter, after News-Press executives went to the
department with their bogus complaint. The police and the district
attorney’s office found it impossible to attribute the downloads to any
one or more of the past users of the computer in question. Ampersand is well aware that the computer was used by other people.
As a journalist, it is notable that this cowardly story was published
without a byline, and without any attempt to contact me for comment in advance of its publication.
From the first day of this tragic situation at the News-Press, this
controversy has been about ethics. Today, the shameful ethics of the
News-Press and its owner are on full display for all the world to see.
Finally, I have been honored and humbled to receive the support and
help from hundreds if people in this community during this awful legal
and journalistic assault by Ampersand and its owner. It is this
support, and the support of my family, that keeps me going, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.