Tom Stienstra, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist and a man once arrested after cops found a marijuana grow at his house. Pic from his Twitter profile.
Big news from Siskiyou County! San Francisco Chronicle columnist Tom Stienstra’s small-claims lawsuit against our friends at The Trout Underground, one of the best blogs in Northern California, has been thrown out!
Trout Underground editor/publisher Tom Chandler has all the details here.
Stienstra, we will recall, was arrested back in 2010 after what the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office found what they were pleased to call a “sophisticated cultivation operation” in his barn. (Sixty plants, 11 pounds — oh, innocent Siskiyou!)
The District Attorney’s office didn’t bring charges, but given Tom Stienstra’s high (?) profile the arrest was covered in major newspapers around the state, as well as in the Underground.
Fast forward three years, and Stienstra filed a small claims suit against the Underground (and no other publication), theoretically on the grounds that Chandler’s neutral report defamed Tom Stienstra’s character.
Coincidentally, the Underground’s story on the arrest was, at the time, the only one that appeared on the front page for a Google search for the phrase “tom stienstra“.
Chandler reports that the small claims judge who heard the case threw it out on procedural grounds. The statute of limitations on the matter had passed. He’s calling it a bittersweet victory:
The only downside? I was eager to prove my article wasn’t defamatory, and I never really got that chance.
Three newspaper editors, four newspaper reporters and three attorneys (two of whom are defamation experts) agreed my original article wasn’t defamatory, but I wanted a judge to say it.
Even in victory there is loss.