The land of the free

A question for the several disgruntled HA subjects and their attorneys who have threatened me with defamation suits over the past year alone… is this the sort of shameless, disregard for free speech you’d prefer become the norm here in the United States?

Italian authorities have served the parents of Amanda Knox with legal papers notifying them they are under investigation for defamation, an accusation related to their allegations that police brutalized their daughter.

Still jetlagged from their long trip from Seattle, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox were served the papers Friday evening by Italian Caribinieri police officers while at the law offices of their Perugian lawyer, Luciano Ghirga. Both are in Perugia to hear closing arguments in their daughter’s murder trial, which is expected to conclude next week with a jury decision on whether Amanda Knox had a role in the November 2007 slaying of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.

The developments came as a surprise to the family.

“It’s ridiculous,” Knox’s stepfather, Chris Mellas told the

“And the timing is very curious,” added Curt Knox. “With this coming five days before a high-profile case is going to come to a close, for an article written 18 months ago.”

I haven’t really followed the Knox drama, and I have no opinion one way or another as to her guilt or innocence. But this defamation investigation is harassment, pure and simple, and a vindictive, anti-democratic effort to crush dissent. The prosecutors have the full weight and resources of the state behind their efforts to convict Knox, and now they’re threatening her parents for daring to criticize their actions? That’s the sort of overreaching exercise of state power that most Americans rightly find repugnant.

Fortunately, here in the U.S., we not only enjoy the protections of the First Amendment, but also perhaps the most restrictive defamation laws in the world. One can still harass critics by threatening to bring suit, and in fact, one can still harass critics by bringing suit, however unfounded. But the kind of free speech the Knox’s exercised (and the kind of free speech I exercise here on HA) is exceedingly difficult to prosecute.

Ain’t it great to be an American?


  1. 1

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Goldy, you are really hanging it out on a limb on this one. THe prosecutor there seems to be all powerful, jurisdictions don’t matter. It is great to be an American. Now can Senators Murray and Cantwell, as well as all our Congressmembers please call Secretary Clinton and see what she could do. Was the embassy notified of this latest turn in events in the case.

    And yes, it is great to be an American, but with a caveat, as long as you stay in the Land of the Free. Too bad there is nothing we can do for them, the mom might as well hope they give her life too for defamation, it might be the only way she will be able to be near her daughter. Parents should agressively defend their kids, same goes for the family of the victim.

    Time for an all out diplomatic war on this. Bad enough we gave Italy time off for Good Behavior during WWII, they changed sides when the wind changed. THey got to hang onto Libya and Somalia a little longer. Say, can the crew of the Maersk Alabama sue Italy for leaving Somalia in such a bad state it deteriorated into anarchy, making it easy for pirates to flourish. Then again, the crew of the Maersk Alabama ruined the status quo, usually just waited for the ransom negotiations. Instead they turned tables on them the first time, the second time they have armed guards waiting for the pirates.

  2. 2

    I Got Nuthin' spews:

    I have followed the case closely, and there is no doubt whatsoever that Amanda had nothing to do with Meredith Kercher’s death. A man named Rudy Guede has already been tried and convicted of the murder. Any theories of orgies and such are nothing more that the fantastic fantasies of the Itialian prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini a man who is under investigation for corruption. What kind of sick system would allow a man like Mignini to try a case as high profile as the Knox case? I’ll tell you: the same system that would allow this preposterous slander charge against her parents.

  3. 3

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    To try to stick to the defamation part, I was thinking. The Defamation happened in an interview done on AMERICAN Soil, might be jurisdictional issues. Jurisdiction also plays into this with the paper it was done with, a British Paper, in a country where Libel Laws are so liberal that a person from out of country can come in and sue. Although I think the Parents should stay and fight, they are in danger.

  4. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “Guns OK Outside Obama Town Hall; Kerry Pins Brought Arrest At Bush Rally

    “By Lori Price 12 Aug 2009

    “Bush’s Waffen-SS arrested (and strip-searched) people with Kerry-Edwards buttons pinned to their T-shirts and paper protest signs at his at his GOP-only appearances. But, when a Reichwinger attends a New Hampshire town hall meeting with a gun — merely yards from President Obama — the protester not only gets to remain at the meeting but also gets to be a guest on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball.'”

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: It reminds you of this, doesn’t it?


  5. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “Ain’t it great to be an American?”

    For now, yes, but we can’t afford to forget that rightwingers are actively talking about overthrowing our elected government, are flashing guns in public places, and have promised to put liberals in “concentration camps” and “execute” us.


  6. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    They don’t have free speech in Italy. You go to jail for criticizing the gummint there. Remember, Italy is run by a rightwing media baron who’s fucking a showgirl half his age.

  7. 8

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Roger, it’s a right wing media baron who is on trial for corruption, and the immunity law he passed, got thrown out. Called them activist judges. He also is getting divorced, too. Guilty or Not, America has lost a citizen to an Italian Prison. I am sorry, but although I think our politicians should see what they can do, there is probably nothing. Even her own countrymen believe she did it. I am not sure myself, the prosecution claims they have a lot of evidence, but the defense has that in doubt.

    Italy allows for automatic appeals. The State Department operative that works with the Italian Justice System better gets aggressive. He gets kicked out, send somebody else.

  8. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 I have several observations.

    First, European criminal justice systems don’t work the same way ours does.

    Second, when you travel to a foreign country you subject yourself to their laws, courts, and legal systems.

    Third, that poor girl didn’t die of natural causes; someone killed her.

    Fourth, of the seven billion people on this planet, the field of viable suspects can be narrowed to about six, and Amanda is one of ‘em.

    Fifth, an American legal expert was quoted on teevee as saying she would be acquitted in an American court because the evidence against her isn’t strong enough to meet our “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof in criminal cases.

    Sixth, the fact a person can’t be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt doesn’t necessarily mean they’re innocent.

    Seventh, after their kangaroo court convicts her, the Italians probably will be more than happy to hand her over to American authorities, as opposed to being responsible for her room and board for fifty to seventy years. After all, the victim wasn’t even an Italian. Why would they want to jail an American for killing a Brit? Probably all the Italians care about is making her legally persona non grata in their country so she never graces their shores again.

    Eighth, I’m sure the Italians will be happy to kick an American attache out if we give them an excuse. After all, we kicked their asses in World War 2.

    Ninth, Knox’s parents don’t know when to keep their mouths shut. When your kid is on trial for her life in a foreign country, you don’t start mouthing off to the media about the police and prosecutor until after the verdict is in — and you’re safely back on your own soil — if you have any brains.

    Of course, as Americans, we’re inclined to judge our fellow American by our own legal standards; and we don’t like it when a foreign government imprisons one of our citizens on what to us is flimsy evidence, after convicting our fellow citizen in a court system that doesn’t work like ours and which we don’t understand or trust. That’s only natural. But, as I said, even if they convict her I think they’ll get rid of her as quickly as they can, and she’ll be repatriated relatively soon. She’ll serve about five years and then they’ll put her on a plane with a one-way ticket back to the States.

  9. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 “He also is getting divorced, too.”

    I’d divorce him, too, if I was his wife. I don’t know how they handle these things in Italy — they seem to take marriage less seriously than we do — but in an American divorce court she could expect to walk away with considerably more than half of his $9.4 billion fortune.

  10. 11

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Roger, I did not mean you in my comment. You do got some points, but I do wonder if she had had a chance to call the embassy that night, would things have been different. Yes Meridith Kercher was murdered, the parents probably should have not said anything, but the case has been tried int he press over there, and the jury is not sequestered, so they probably have been seeing the tabloid media reports.

    Some probably would not want here in our prisons either.

  11. 13

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Roger, sounds like a good idea. Have you seen the First Wives Club, the part with Ivanna Trump, she said, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Everything”.

    Also, when the news his wife was leaving him, Berlesconi said it was the media spreading rumors or something like that. Funny, I am surprised he did not fire everybody who works for him then.

  12. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @2 “What kind of sick system would allow a man like Mignini to try a case as high profile as the Knox case?”

    Well, ours, for example. They’re no worse than the cops, prosecutors, and judges we had in the American South during the civil rights days.

  13. 15

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    14, you forgot the jurors. They either acquitted or went for a hung jury. Jury nullification I believe it was called. Got to hand it to the jurors in the first two trails for the murderer of Medgar Evers, if they were headed for an acquittal, they probably were the ones responsible for justice being able to be served 30 years later.

  14. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @2 I’ve barely followed the case at all, and I have no idea whether she’s innocent or guilty, but she didn’t help herself by placing herself at the murder scene during her police interview and then changing her story later. A number of other factors make her look bad, too. But none of this adds up to direct evidence that she participated in the murder. I don’t know what evidence the Italian police have that physically links her to the crime, or whether blood and DNA evidence has been mishandled or tainted. I’ve heard an American legal commentator say on American TV the evidence isn’t good enough to convict her in an American court. Of course, at this point, we don’t know for sure whether the Italian Inquisition Court will convict her, either. The fact Italian authorities have held her in jail for investigation for over two years isn’t necessarily a harbinger of what the Italian court will decide — but then again, maybe it is.

  15. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @15 You’re right, how did I overlook the White Southern Jury’s contributions to justice? My bad.

  16. 19

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    In various comment threads on other sites, there was talk about a bra clasp that had everybody’s DNA on it, but allegedly it was first picked up at the scene, and then discarded, but they went back and picked it up a month later. What is being considered slander by the prosecution is what she said about the interrogation, and the details or what went on. The Cops say they did not harm her, she says otherwise. Since Italian Law does not allow for suspects testifying in their own defense to swear an oath, it’s easy to take whatever is said by a defendent on the stand as slander. I have been seeing news coverage off and on. She had cousins in Germany, and they offered to take her in to calm down, but she said she wanted to talk to her friend’s parents, but never had the chance.

    I think there is one thing we could do about the civil suit though, the US should say we are not going to be their collection agency. The civil attorney for the Kerchers said he he knows they will not get a cent, but Human Life is invaluable, so he wants $12 million each from each defendant.

  17. 20

    Mark1 spews:

    ‘…..threatened me with defamation suits….’

    Again Goldy, even if they did get a judgement against you, still being chronically unemployed I seriously doubt your massive net worth of nothing would prove to be a hollow victory. But then again, if you keep sticking your little limp dick in the fire, one day it will get burned, and justifiably so. Tread lightly douche bag, and good luck!

  18. 21

    RatCity Spawn spews:

    @7 A showgirl half his age? More like a quarter or fifth his age! If Silvio wanted to be with a showgirl half his age, he’d stay with his wife.

    Italy is the ultimate result of media concentration. Berlusconi has controlled all six TV channels(3 public, 3 private) for almost 20 years, all radio, and nearly all print media. His only newspaper/magazine competitor died last year and Silvio may buy up his holdings. It may be the only country where the entry of Murdoch and his Sky satellite system into the market improved the public discourse.

  19. 22

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    The Italians want to send Amanda Knox to one of their prisons to give America another black-eye on the world stage. The trial has nothing to do with guilt or innocence: it’s just the vehicle for getting the desired “shame on America” shtick done.

  20. 25

    Proud Defamer spews:

    roger pal

    if thepaents can’t mouth off when it matters, you think they should wait until Amanda is convicted?

    your lack of concern for free speech is amazing.

    yes we know nations are diff, but do you only believe in free speech cuz it’s in our laws, our because you believe in free speech?

    “defaming the government” = alien and sedition acts = cuba = mao = stalin, etc.

  21. 26

    mirror spews:

    Knox left herself open for a lot when she accused an innocent man of the murder. Her defenders keep forgetting this fact…

    The rest of it. i can’t see the facts through the hype either way so I’m out of it.

    Did the parents imply that she was sexually abused? Sort of sounded that way…

  22. 27

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    It is the Italian Police. All the SPD did on this one is hand over a noise complaint ticket that was paid by her.

    Politically Incorrect, I think you may got a point, but again, there is nothing we can do, except maybe ask our Senators to call Secretary Clinton. Don’t know if there was anything she could do either.

    mirror, there are conflicting stories on how long that interrogation was. Who knows, if she had said she did it when first brought in, maybe she would would have not brought an innocent man in on it. Plus, if I were him, I would be suing the police too.

  23. 28

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Goldy, earlier you had this topic posted but on the RSS Feed when I went to it, it said file not found. Did you at first have second thoughts? If so, I can understand, this prosecutor has gone after some media outlets for defamation as well, including the West Seattle Herald.

    As for Ms. Knox, I heard her sisters were with her parents to be there for the verdict, if this gets messy, such as an arrest, should not have any more of the Knox Family in jail. Italy should just settle for her and her parents. I do not know if the sisters have spoken out as much as the parents have. The case has gotten too unpredictable. As I said, it looks like they should have not said anything but they needed to defend their kid, now, the parents seem to pay the price, and will lose their kid anyway. Her parents were divorced, and her mother had remarried, but the case seemed to bring them back together as well.

    As for seeing if Italy would expel the diplomat, our response would be just silly. Expel in kind. That does not seem to be working out much for Australia and New Zealand handling a coup on Fiji. Their ambassadors(since all three are Commonwealth Members, they call them High Commissioners) keep raising the ire of the Coup Leader, he expels them, Canberra and Wellington expel in kind, and now there are no diplomatic channels left for all three.

  24. 29

    Mirror spews:

    It’s possible that the Italian authorities are just trying to disuade them from making the whole thing even more of a circus, but since circus is all they’ve got at this point it probably won’t matter to them. It’s their child…

    I seem to remember this defamation thing coming up a number of months ago…

  25. 30

    Chris Stefan spews:

    I think the Knox case has little to do with any diplomatic pissing matches between the US and Italy other than in a very indirect way.

    More likely this has to do with Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and his passion for crazy conspiracy theories involving satanic cults. By the way this isn’t the first time Mignini has used the Italian justice system to silence critics. He is currently under indictment for abusing his office to harass journalists investigating the Monster of Florence serial killer and the way the case was mishandled by the authorities. If Mignini is true to form this is just the first step against Knox’s parents, he’s likely going to bring the full force of the state against the Knox family to investigate and harass them. He may even come up with some elaborate theory about how the Knox family was involved in the original crime.

    The two pieces of “good” news here are that Knox may very well be acquitted at this trial. If not there is an automatic appeal with a new prosecutor and court.

  26. 31

    Chris Stefan spews:

    The Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini is the one responsible for making this case a circus with his elaborate conspiracy theories and his selective leaking to the press.

    Mignini has a past track record of using similar tactics against his critics. He harrassed an Italian and a US journalist who were investigating the Monster of Florance serial killer and the way the case was mishandled by Mignini.

  27. 32

    Chris Stefan spews:

    Apparently this isn’t the first time Giuliano Mignini has used criminal defamation charges to try to silence his critics in the Knox case either. In January he filed defamation charges against the West Seattle Herald for publishing quotes from Amanda’s supporters accusing Mignini of grandstanding and being mentally unstable. In September of this year he filed criminal defamation charges against California journalist Joe Cottonwood for saying Mignini was “egotistical”, “preening”, and an “intelectually dishonest bully” who “cares more about making newspaper headlines than in serving justice”.


  28. 33

    rhp6033 spews:

    As Chris in # 32 noted, Italy has criminal defamation laws, in addition to civil laws. The news media reports haven’t been clear on whether the prosecutor is bringing criminal or civil defemation charges, I’m assuming it’s criminal.

    But notice that this case didn’t occur in a vacume. The Italians have been attempting to prosecute American agents for kidnapping a suspected terrorst during the Bush administration; I’m not sure if he was subject to “rendition” or if he is currently being held in Guantanamo. The U.S. has refused to turn over the agents to Italian prosecutors or to release the suspect. This entire Knox case may be an attempt by the Italians to send a message to the American government:

    “You think you are free to ignore us, but as this case demonstrates, we have lots of places where we can apply our own pressure as we see fit. Think about this when you chose to send your agents into our country, ignore our laws, kidnap our residents, and ignore us when we protest.”

  29. 34

    Chris Stefan spews:

    I don’t think the Knox case is some sort of signal from the national Italian government. It is more that a regional prosecutor is out of control.

    I’m sure the Italians will find a way to make their point but I don’t think trumping up murder charges against an American college student is the way they would do it.

  30. 35

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    RHP, if it were the case, she has no hope, we are not going to turn over the CIA Agents, President Obama cannot do that. Maybe the CIA can forget to tell these guys they can’t go overseas anymore, but other than that, there is nothing we can do on that. That is the sad thing. She may still be acquitted, but I doubt it. Bad enough in past entries on the blog Perugia Shock, our region’s past serial killers were brought up. When somebody said Bundy was from Tacoma, they said Seattle-Tacoma, same thing. The two cities may share the same body of water bordering them to the west, but they have vastly different characteristics. Tacoma is a military town, with three military garrisons next door.(I counted Camp Murray too).

    The verdict in the prosecutors own case is also expected anyday, but conveniently after the verdict in this trial. I wonder if she is guilty, he will be acquitted. Then you have the guy already convicted’s appeal going on right now, in fact the first arguments in that case were days before the prosecutor’s closing arguments. Convenient?

    The defense are finally making their closing arguments, hope it works, but most likely conviction by the end of the week. The Prosecution and Civil Plaintiffs get one last rebuttal before the jury renders it verdict.;page=1

  31. 36

    rhp6033 spews:

    “I’m sure the Italians will find a way to make their point but I don’t think trumping up murder charges against an American college student is the way they would do it.”

    I don’t think they would go to the extent of trumping up murder charges. But in a case where there are a handful of suspects, one of which is an American student, and there is considerable prosecutorial discretion, there may be a tendency to “lean” a bit toward prosecution.

    The libel prosecutions against the parent are obvious overkill – they show that the Italians aren’t at all concerned about American diplomatic reaction to the verdict, and are willing to raise the stakes considerably. They are also playing to the anti-American crowd who were tired of the U.S. pushing Italy around since WWII.

  32. 37

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I heard on one site(I think it is one of the “Friends” groups) that the prosecutors expectation that they would just be quiet now backfired, the local media there have been interviewing them more.

    If you noticed in the ABC Link I posted, some of the comments were directed towards the Italian Justice System being too lenient. Problem is, the punishment that those commenters wanted, is illegal in Europe and could get Italy kicked out of the EU. In fact, in Rome, every time a jurisidiction somewhere in the world outlaws the death penalty, there is a special celebration at the Coliseum. They even do it for subnational governments abolishing it, such as when New Jersey and New Mexico did so(although New Mexico just abolished it’s use from now on, existing cases continue)

    If it is getting back at us for WWII, she had two strikes against her going in. She is an American, and from Seattle. 2 plants that built B-17s are located here. As for that, it was the British that sank the Italian Fleet at Taranto, giving the Japanese the validation for the plan to attack Pearl Harbor.

    By the way, can the PI be sued for libel for defaming an Italian Company nearly 20 years ago? It was back when investigative journalists actually did some investigation.

  33. 38

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    I wonder if the Embassy did not get involved at first because they were afraid they would be defaming the United States by even being associated with this case. Something caused them to not be as aggressive. Allegedly they are in the courtroom now, but they were needed 2 years ago when she was first arrested and interrogated. I do not want to talk down our state department, but it is one rumor that I saw on a website devoted to the victim’s point of view. They were saying the latest defamation suit would make the State Department and the Embassy in Italy happy because it might silence the parents slamming of Italy. Although Anne Bremmer, a local lawyer who has pointed out flaws in the prosecutions case is still talking, but says she will not go to Italy. Would the US extradite her if defamation charges are filed against her, or will they just have to try her in absentia too like the CIA Agents were?

  34. 39

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Goldy, if you did have second thoughts posting this Sunday Morning, I understand. For anybody posting something that does not paint the prosecution in a good light or say she’s guilty, this case is a headache. Then there are the comments to the online stories. does not attach soundoff pages to the stories from the AP nor a freelancer who is covering the trial for them, the accidentally did this morning, but took it down before too many posts were made. A reader blog following the case that has been tearing apart the prosecution has not seen activity in days.

    Meanwhile, her Defense Attorneys are making their final arguments, for her sake, they better be good.;page=1

  35. 40

    righton spews:

    goldy, glad to hear you are opposed to all left wing efforts to use coercive laws to crush the right wing folks on the TV and radio. By this post i assume you would oppose any reintroduction of the (poorly named) “fairness doctrine”

  36. 41

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    The final arguments are beginning. Conviction(most likely, although still could be a chance for acquittal) could come as early as Friday. They deliberate after each day of trial, maybe the defense witnesses worked in her favor, maybe the prosecution managed to win them over first, we will know by Friday. If she is acquitted, that is why the parents bought the plane ticket that some hope is refundable. If acquitted, she would be free to go, would you stay in a country that already has taken 2 years of your life, and still wants more?(The acquittal can be appealed)

  37. 42

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    As for the Fairness Doctrine, I think it was origially instituted because of one of the way first the fascists took over in Italy, and the Nazi’s in Germany, was they gained control of the media. In America, forerunners of the FCC, including the Federal Radio Commission, first required those that held commerical radio licenses to provide some programming in the public interest. Even if brought back, should not be applied to cable as there are now an infinity of channels, while terrestrial broadcast channels are finite. Although one on the left could probably make a case that cables are laid in public rights of ways and the satellite radio and TV systems are probably launched in part from government-run space launch complexes(including Cape Canaveral and Vandeburg AFB). Although private space launch complexes do exist, including the failed attempt to launch from a sea-based platform.

    How it worked

    There are many misconceptions about the Fairness Doctrine. For instance, it did not require that each program be internally balanced, nor did it mandate equal time for opposing points of view. And it didn�t require that the balance of a station�s program lineup be anything like 50/50.

    Nor, as Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly claimed, was the Fairness Doctrine all that stood between conservative talkshow hosts and the dominance they would attain after the doctrine�s repeal. In fact, not one Fairness Doctrine decision issued by the FCC had ever concerned itself with talkshows. Indeed, the talkshow format was born and flourished while the doctrine was in operation. Before the doctrine was repealed, right-wing hosts frequently dominated talkshow schedules, even in liberal cities, but none was ever muzzled (The Way Things Aren�t, Rendall et al., 1995). The Fairness Doctrine simply prohibited stations from broadcasting from a single perspective, day after day, without presenting opposing views.

    In answer to charges, put forward in the Red Lion case, that the doctrine violated broadcasters� First Amendment free speech rights because the government was exerting editorial control, Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote: �There is no sanctuary in the First Amendment for unlimited private censorship operating in a medium not open to all.� In a Washington Post column (1/31/94), the Media Access Project (MAP), a telecommunications law firm that supports the Fairness Doctrine, addressed the First Amendment issue: �The Supreme Court unanimously found [the Fairness Doctrine] advances First Amendment values. It safeguards the public�s right to be informed on issues affecting our democracy, while also balancing broadcasters� rights to the broadest possible editorial discretion.�

    Indeed, when it was in place, citizen groups used the Fairness Doctrine as a tool to expand speech and debate. For instance, it prevented stations from allowing only one side to be heard on ballot measures. Over the years, it had been supported by grassroots groups across the political spectrum, including the ACLU, National Rifle Association and the right-wing Accuracy In Media.

    Typically, when an individual or citizens group complained to a station about imbalance, the station would set aside time for an on-air response for the omitted perspective: �Reasonable opportunity for presentation of opposing points of view,� was the relevant phrase. If a station disagreed with the complaint, feeling that an adequate range of views had already been presented, the decision would be appealed to the FCC for a judgment