Haiti's Prime Minister wins case against Website for disseminating false and malicious information

Feb 19, 2013, 13:57 ET from Perlman, Bajandas, Yevoli & Albright, P.L.

MIAMI, Feb. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A US Federal Judge ruled on February 6, 2013 against the Haiti Observateur, a New York based Website noting that it had published false and defamatory statements against Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and Patrice Baker, his former business partner and prominent South Florida businessman.  The ruling also notes that the Website and its reporter acted with malice.   

In  August 2012  Leo Joseph,  a reporter for the Haiti Observateur,  wrote two articles making allegations against Baker and Lamothe in relation to the sale of a bankrupted telephone company in Haiti.    

Noting the false and malicious nature of the accusations, Baker and Lamothe immediately sued Joseph and the Haiti Observateur in a US District Court, Southern District of Florida.   Federal Judge Ursula Ungaro provided a sweeping ruling that sided entirely with the plaintiffs.  Judge Ungaro notes in her ruling that the Haiti Observateur's publications are "replete with statements that are outrageous, scandalous and reminiscent of a tabloid publication."

Judge Ungaro further ruled that the statements made by Joseph on the Website "are entirely false and conjured to destroy the reputations of Baker and Lamothe" and that the "Defendant's statements were made with actual malice."

Noting that Baker and Lamothe's reputations had suffered an "immediate and irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law," Judge Ungaro's ruling permanently restrains Joseph from publishing anything in the future "concerning or regarding the Plaintiffs in either their personal, professional, or political lives."

Miguel Armenteros, the attorney who represented Baker and Lamothe notes, "This ruling will finally hold accountable individuals who believe that they can widely disseminate false, malicious and frivolous statements about our clients and not suffer any consequences."   According to Armenteros, should the Website and Joseph continue to defame Lamothe and Baker, they could be held in criminal contempt and face graver legal consequences.

For some legal experts, this was a clear cut victory for the Prime Minister and his former business partner.  Professor Jose Gabilondo of Florida International University's School of Law notes that, "Judge Ungaro made it absolutely clear that the Website and its reporter acted with malice.  This is an important threshold that any public figure such as Lamothe must demonstrate and it looks like he was able to do so."


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