Magistrate Gives RipOffReport Split Decision, Still May Be Prosecuted

Magistrate Gives RipOffReport Split Decision,

Still May Be Prosecuted

In January, Xcentric Ventures, LLC, operator of RipOffReport.com (“ROR”), filed a federal lawsuit in Iowa seeking to block further investigation of its activities by Sac County, Iowa District Attorney Ben Smith.  Smith had indicted one ROR operative, Darren Meade, for witness tampering and other charges.   ROR sought an injunction blocking Smith from further pursuing the investigation and last week a federal magistrate recommended granting the injunction in part.

 CDA Immunity

The court rejected ROR’s claim of Section 230 immunity since

there is substantial evidence suggesting that the plaintiffs materially contributed to the alleged illegality of the information at issue.As noted above, there is an undisputed connection between Magedson and Meade concerning the Richter case, as they have participated in a “common cause” to free Richter. Xcentric made substantial payments to Meade during the period of time Meadwas gathering information and posting complaints about the case, including complaints with titles that associate certain state’s witnesses with illegal and/or embarrassing conduct.

ROR attempts to argue that, although it paid Meade substantial sums it did not have any advance involvement.  The court rejected claim, noting that it could not believe that ROR “was blissfully unaware of what Meade was planning to post.”

Note – Meade has testified that ROR founder Ed Magedson directed him to make posts about Bennet Kelley out of concern that he might represent one of their adversaries.

Injunction Approved

Despite the fact that the record indicated that ROR had conspired with Meade, the magistrate recommended granting the injunction since it found Smith’s actions to be retaliatory for their posting negative content about him on each of ROR’s pages.  The court explained:
there is substantial evidence that Smith’s actions have been motivated, in large part, by statements made about him on Ripoff Report. Smith admits that he has worked over a thousand hours and has issued over one hundred subpoenas during his investigation into Ripoff Report. Smith presented no evidence that in his role of SaCounty Attorney, he has devoted similar time and resources into other investigations of potential misdemeanor offenses. The finder of fact could easily determine that Smith is treating this investigation differently, and indeed obsessively, because he is angry and embarrassed by Ripoff Report posts that have criticized and ridiculed him.
This ignores the fact that Sac County is a tiny county with only 10,350 people.  Counties like Sac County are not normally targeted for abuse by large websites, so of course this investigation would take substantially more of Smith’s time than prior cases.


The court, however, recommended limiting the injunction only to Smith, such that it would not “prevent the Attorney General of Iowa, or a special prosecutor, from investigating potential criminal charges against plaintiffs.  So ROR is by no means out of danger of indictment.


The court’s opinion is below.


One thought on “Magistrate Gives RipOffReport Split Decision, Still May Be Prosecuted

  1. Pingback: RipOffReport Loses Another Section 230 Case | Cyber Report

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