Author asks judge to toss legislator's libel suitBy JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent
June 12. 2018 8:36PM
BRENTWOOD — Well-known New Hampshire author and storyteller Rebecca Rule is asking a judge to dismiss a libel suit filed by Northwood state Rep. Brian J. Stone, who claims she posted defamatory and false statements suggesting he didn’t vote in the March town election.
Rule, also a Northwood resident, argues Stone has failed to provide sufficient facts to support the defamation claim. Rule also contends that since Stone is a public figure, a higher standard is required to prove that she acted with malice.
Rule also claims that Stone has no case because the alleged defamatory statements were expressions of opinion.
The Republican legislator, who describes himself as a “legal scholar” on his Twitter page, filed suit in Rockingham County Superior Court in March after he had an exchange with Rule on a Northwood community Facebook page called “Northwood NH News.”
The exchange began when Rule posted a question on the page asking Stone if he had voted in the election on March 13.
She referred to him by his initials, “BJ.” Stone claims he told her in the past not to use his initials and to call him by his first name. In response, he called her “Ronald” and told her that he would stop only when she called him by his first name.
When Stone didn’t answer her question about whether he voted, Rule posted additional questions asking if he voted and later wrote that he “didn’t even bother to vote.”
Rule posted a public apology the following day after she said she visited the town hall and confirmed through the voter checklist that Stone had voted.
“I hope that this heartfelt apology will prevent him from suing me for libel,” she wrote.
In the motion to dismiss filed by Rule’s attorney, Hilary Holmes Rheaume, she noted a similar defamation suit that Stone filed against New Hampshire author Susan Bruce in December in Merrimack County Superior Court. According to Rule’s suit, the court granted Bruce’s motion to dismiss that case for failing to allege actual malice, but Stone recently appealed the decision.
“Unfortunately, Representative Stone appears to now be targeting a new individual, Ms. Rule,” the motion said.
Rule argues that as a state representative Stone is a public official and that a governmental role “invites scrutiny and discussion of the person holding such an elected position apart from any alleged defamation.”
“To prove actual malice, Representative Stone must offer evidence that Ms. Rule ‘acted either with knowledge of the falsity’ of the alleged defamatory statements or ‘with a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity’ of those statements, the motion said.
While Stone also alleges Rule defamed his reputation when she insulted him by calling him a hypocrite, Rule argues that the statement was an expression of opinion, which isn’t actionable under the defamation law.