Pat Cotton has hired Dallas lawyer James Murphy to sue The Dallas Morning News and political reporter Gromer Jeffers over quotes Cotton says she never said. On September 6, in a story that appeared in the paper that was republished online, Jeffers quoted Cotton as threatening to "destroy" city council member Mitchell Rasasnky if he ran for mayor.
Cotton says she didn't say it. She wants Jeffers to pony up his notes to prove she did say it. And she wants a hundred grand.
Murphy, by the way, ain't no slouch. Three years ago he won a $4.8 million libel judgment for bizarro lawyer Catherine Shelton, arguing that Marissa Hierro and her son, J.T., had libeled Shelton by suing for the wrongful death of Hierro's husband. This guy's good. If I ever run anybody over with my car, I'm going to hire Murphy to sue them for mussing up my bumper.
After the jump is the entire demand letter, delivered to the News this morning. --Jim Schutze
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"September 14, 2006 The Dallas Morning News, L.P. d/b/a The Dallas Morning News 508 Young Street Dallas, Texas 75265
Belo Corp., d/b/a The Dallas Morning News 508 Young Street Dallas, Texas 75265
Mr. Gromer Jeffers 508 Young Street Dallas, Texas 75265
Mr. Dwayne Bray Editor, The Dallas Morning News 508 Young Street Dallas, Texas 75265
RE: Pat Cotton v. The Dallas Morning News, L.P., et al.
To the above Addressees:
You are advised that I have been retained by Pat Cotton to pursue libel claims against each of you for the libelous statements made about Ms. Cotton by Dallas Morning News Reporter Gromer Jeffers on September 6, 2006, in circulation print, and, on line on September 6, 7, 8, 2006, in the Dallas Morning News.
Ms. Cotton has previously advised you that the written statements made by Gromer Jeffers, in quotes, attributed to Ms. Cotton, are false. In fact, we have evidence that Mr. Jeffers never spoke with Ms. Cotton about the subject matter of Jeffers' writings, between September 1, 2006, and September 6, 2006, the date of initial publication of the defamatory materials. The Dallas Morning Newshas refused to print an apology and retraction of the mentioned "Note", and has maliciously refused to print Ms. Cotton's reply, in the form of a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News."
We deem, and will allege and show, that Mr. Jeffers' article was written and published with malicious intent, particularly because we will be able to show that Ms. Cotton never spoke to Jeffers about the subject matter of Jeffer's writings. We will also show that Ms. Cotton has been severely damaged in her profession, livelihood, and reputation, along with damages to Ms. Cotton's sensibilities, and mental suffering and anguish. The Dallas Morning News entities have perpetuated these damages by refusal to retract the false statements, and by refusal to print Ms. Cotton's reply to the false accusations.
In one last effort to resolve this case before institution of what will likely be protracted litigation, Ms. Cotton hereby makes formal demand on each of you:
1. Retract the article, in circulation print and online.
2. A written apology to Ms. Cotton from Jeffers, published in circulation print and online.
3. A written apology to Ms. Cotton from the Dallas Morning News entities, published in circulation print and online.
4. Publication of Ms. Cotton's letter to the editor on three consecutive days, both in circulation print and online, in a prominent section of the print and online version of the Dallas Morning News.
5. A written apology to Donna Blumer and Mitch Rasansky.
6. That Jeffers pay Ms. Cotton's attorney's fees in the amount of $5000.00 to date.
7. That the Dallas Morning News entities pay Ms. Cotton the sum of $100,000 for actual damages.
Ms. Cotton's claims in a court of law, if necessary, will also include a request for punitive damages in a sum sufficient to punish this willful and malicious conduct, and to deter such conduct in the future, considering the net worth of the Dallas Morning News entities and Gromer Jeffers.
Finally, because Jeffers and representatives of the Dallas Morning News have published at large that Jeffers has notes to back up his story, we demand that such notes [whether electronic or physically written] be preserved for future discovery, in their unaltered state, should suit be necessary. Any destruction, modification, or alteration of such notes will be considered spoliation of evidence.
I have been instructed to sue each of you in the event we cannot settle this case within the above parameters, within ten (10) days of the date of this letter. Please have your respective attorneys contact me if settlement is within the realm of possibility.
If you have any questions, or desire additional information in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours, James M. Murphy"