As has been widely touted by Camera Chatham Bartolotta, Goose in the Gallows received a “cease and desist” email from her attorney, Matthew Haverstick of the Philadelphia law firm Kleinbard LLC/ This notice comes in response to the article we published several days ago regarding questions about the potential use of taxpayer-funded resources for political purposes, specifically email addresses submitted to Bartolotta’s official website showing up on campaign mailing lists.
To be blunt, this threat by Senator Bartolotta is utter nonsense, and we are treating it as such. But instead of restating our points and in the sake of transparency, here is the response we sent to Mr. Haverstick upon receiving their initial threat. At this time we have no further comment on this issue and plan on focusing on the facts of the story and the many questions that remain unanswered.
Here is our response:
Thank you for your email. I hadn’t heard your name since back in 2013 when you represented the Corbett administration and the interests of the oil and gas industry by defending Act 13. As that law would have stripped local communities (including all of the 46th Senate District) of their long-held right to carry out zoning activities to allow industrial facilities in residentially-zoned areas. The day that our scrappy challenge to the law was struck down by a Republican-led Supreme Court was probably one of the best days of my life. Although the issue ultimately cost me my seat in the Legislature (as you already know), it’s an easy trade-off now that I have two young sons and don’t have to worry about exposing them to a constant stream of carcinogens as you tried to do based on your advocacy.
But enough reminiscing. I see you’ve moved on, representing the Harrisburg and Greensburg Roman Catholic Dioceses in response to the priest pedophilia scandal and subsequent coverup set forth in the Grand Jury report by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Personally, I don’t know how I could sleep at night or look myself in the mirror, but good for you in finding a way.
Anyhow, we should probably discuss this Goose in the Gallows post.
First, a couple of preliminary matters. I (Jesse) have never been found guilty of a crime. I have never plead guilty, no contest, or nolo contendere to any criminal charge in Pennsylvania or any other jurisdiction. I did have one investigation opened by a former client, but the issue was resolved prior to a preliminary hearing and the charges are being withdrawn by consent of all parties. Should you wish to speak to my counsel to confirm this fact, please let me know and I will happy to connect the two of you.
I bring this up because you say in your email that I am no stranger to “criminal actions.” I would think that an attorney of your pedigree would know that accusing someone of criminality when he or she should have reasonably known otherwise is libel per se, especially since I, unlike Senator Bartolotta, am a private citizen. A cursory review of the Pennsylvania UJS portal would have confirmed this undeniable fact, but it appears you failed to do your due diligence prior to publishing your response.
Be advised that your client and her supporters are actively disseminating your words all over social media, which I think we can all agree constitutes publication to a third-party. Even more alarming is that your client is explicitly telling everyone that the words are yours, not hers, as evidenced by this social media post linking to your response on Bartolotta’s Facebook pages:
Based on your client’s clear statement that the words are yours and not hers, I am formally giving notice regarding the false statements about the non-existent “criminal acts” you reference. Additionally, since you wrote and signed the response in your capacity as an attorney with the law firm Kleinbard LLC, my notice extends to the firm as well. Failure to remove the defamatory content and ordering your client to do the same will result in a defamation lawsuit against yourself, your law firm, and your client.
And let’s not kid ourselves. My libel suit would have a much higher likelihood of success than the one threatened on behalf of Camera Bartolotta. Here are just a few of the reasons:
Senator Bartolotta is undeniably a public figure, which places the standard for a defamation action very high. As we both know, there must be an element of actual malice present. To argue that actual malice exists here is absurd. We have numerous records of attempts to contact your client in a variety of ways for over a day before we published our story. We let her know exactly what we were writing and offered her an opportunity to respond and refute any potential errors.
We had two responses. The first was from Campaign Manager Haley Bova stating that our facts were inaccurate. She provided no facts to support her vague claim, and as we had not yet published, she could not have known what facts we were going to report.
The second response came from Camera Bartolotta herself in the form of an email to Amanda Gillooly, who we all know worked on her original 2014 election campaign. Instead of offering any kind of explanation or offer to answer the very legitimate questions posed in our article, Bartolotta responded with a brief message insulting Ms. Gillooly that included the phrase “et tu, Amanda,” implying that your client views herself to be comparable to Julius Caesar. Once an actress, always an actress, we suppose.
The fact remains that to date, not one shred of evidence has been presented to impeach the credibility of our reporting; should such evidence be presented, we will examine it and act accordingly. We also have a sworn affidavit from Mr. Redfern confirming the timeline and veracity of the events we published. If Senator Bartolotta would also like to present an affidavit sworn under the penalty of perjury, she is free to do so, but we both know that isn’t going to happen.
Nowhere in our reporting did we accuse Senator Bartolotta of criminal activity. We merely laid out a set of facts and asked the question of how they could have occurred. We set forth two potential theories, one of which would likely absolve your client of any responsibility. We didn’t editorialize with our own opinions and did not engage in personal attacks against her. As taxpayers, we have the right to know if public dollars are being used for political purposes… again. Senator Bartolotta’s refusal to answer these questions and instead respond with a threat of a base lawsuit hardly qualifies as exculpatory evidence.
Finally, should Senator Bartolotta choose to proceed with a frivolous lawsuit, we would look forward to engaging in the discovery process. As you know, the truth is an absolute defense to defamation, which means we would be entitled to information through discovery that would likely be of great interest to the public and the press, but may actually provide us with some basic answers. At this rate, it may be the only way short of a criminal investigation that we will find out the truth.
Until your client stops threatening us and provides us with credible evidence to support her claim that what we wrote was false, the story stays up.
Also, remember the notice of potential defamation liability for falsely accusing Mr. White of engaging in criminal acts. Your client is posting it all over the place as I write this, which is not only troubling but potentially quite costly.
Jesse White and Amanda Gillooly
Goose in the Gallows