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Bianchi sues over anonymous comments online

Published: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 5:05 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 11:33 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – In a civil lawsuit, McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi is alleging defamation and seeking damages – but from whom isn’t exactly clear.

Bianchi filed the lawsuit as a private citizen in Chicago last month. He says anonymous comments posted on a local blog were intended to “defame, discredit and disparage” his reputation.

Under the username “Fukoku Kyohei,” the person – who is listed as John Doe on the civil suit – posted comments on the McHenry County Blog that are critical of the state’s attorney.

The poster accused Bianchi of arranging plea deals for politically connected defendants, embezzling taxpayer funds and other criminal activity.

Fukoku Kyohei often refers to Bianchi as “Mr. Corruption.”

“People need to realize that there are consequences for the statements that they post online,” said Charles Lee Mudd Jr., Bianchi’s attorney. “Others should not have to be engaged in defending meritless allegations that some defendant posts online.”

Bianchi referred all questions to Mudd, but he provided the Northwest Herald with a copy of the complaint.

The IP address, and thus the identity of the commenter, will come out as the case plays out, Mudd said.

As a public figure, whether Bianchi’s claims are supported by the law will be determined in court. Mudd believes they will.

“With respect to defamation whether somebody is a public official or a private citizen, there can always be defamation,” Mudd said. “… That doesn’t change the fact that false statements can give rise to defamation, and false statements about criminal activity in particular do constitute defamation.”

Under the law, the defamation burden is higher for public figures than it is for private citizens.

Bianchi is seeking $75,000 in damages.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court because the poster is believed to be from Japan, the complaint states.

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