Internet Libel Case Yields $404,000 Verdict

Case CaptionCooley v. Ballew
Court:  Union County Superior Court
Judge:  Honorable David Barrett
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Russell Stookey, Russell M. Stookey P.C.              
Defendants’ Attorney: Pro Se
Alleged Damages: Destruction of reputation
Verdict: Plaintiff awarded $404,000
Date of Verdict: January 13, 2011

Plaintiff Gene Cooley was dating Paulette Harper, who had been married to and divorced from Steve Harper.  Cooley’s legal odyssey began when Steve Harper murdered his ex-wife and killed himself.  While grieving the loss of his girlfriend, Cooley suddenly became the target of vicious internet postings.  Someone began posting anonymously on community websites, accusing Cooley of being a “pervert”, child molester, drug addict, and a convicted criminal.  However, none of it was true.

Most of the comments were posted on a website called “Topix”, run by a California based company.  Cooley successfully discovered the Defendant’s Internet Protocol (IP) address and eventually unmasked Denise Ballew, a woman he barely knew.  In addition to her anonymous postings, Ballew called Cooley’s employer and his girlfriend’s family in an effort to further destroy his reputation.

Cooley filed suit, alleging that Ballew’s libelous and slanderous comments cost him his job and ultimately forced him to leave Blairsville and relocate his family to Florida.  The jury awarded him $404,000 and his attorney is combing Defendant’s assets in order to satisfy the Judgment.

According to an article published in the North Georgia News after the verdict, Cooley’s attorney is currently working with the Georgia Legislature to advocate criminal penalties for those engaged in internet stalking.
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