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|March 05, 2001 Complaint|
Linda Hoffman-Pugh vs John and Patsy Ramsey
|"LHP Libel Complaint"|
Posted by New York Lawyer on 05:16:25 3/05/2001
NOTE: This message was last edited 05:16:25, 3/05/2001
This is the libel complaint being filed in Atlanta Federal Court on behalf of Linda Hoffmann-Pugh. Due to the death of Nedra Paugh, the complaint will be filed on Thursday, March 8th, instead of Monday, March 5th as originally planned.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
COMPLAINT FOR LIBEL AND SLANDER
Linda Hoffmann-Pugh, by her undersigned attorneys, respectfully states her Complaint for Libel and Slander against Patricia Ramsey and John Ramsey as follows:
Statement of the Case
On the night of December 25, 1996, or during the early morning hours of December 26, 1996, the defendant Patsy Ramsey sexually assaulted, and killed her daughter JonBenet Ramsey, either accidentally or intentionally, in their Boulder, Colorado home. In an elaborate and transparent attempt to cover up her crime, Patsy Ramsey prepared a handwritten kidnap ransom note in the hope of making her crime look like the work of a third party intruder. Over the next three and one half years, Patsy Ramsey, along with the knowing help of her husband, defendant John Ramsey, willfully, intentionally, maliciously, and with a reckless disregard for the truth, directed suspicion away from herself by hiring private detectives to investigate the personal lives of innocent Boulder citizens, such as the plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh, turning that information over to the Boulder Police and District Attorney in the hope of encouraging the authorities to arrest the plaintiff for the murder of her daughter. Although the plaintiff has been cleared of all suspicion by authorities, the defendants continue to this day in their efforts to cast suspicion upon the plaintiff, with the help of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Onyx Books, New American Library and Penguin Putnam, Inc., by publishing a book in which the plaintiff is publicly named as a murder suspect in the brutal sexual assault and horrific slaughter of their daughter. The defendants have also repeated this false allegation against the plaintiff, again with the help of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Onyx Books, New American Library and Penguin Putnam, Inc. in television interviews promoting their book. Because of the defendants' conduct, which was certain or substantially certain to cause severe emotional distress, and which is so extreme, outrageous and shocking that it is intolerable and goes beyond all possible bounds of decency in a civilized society, the plaintiff has suffered extreme humiliation, embarrassment, and emotional distress as a result of the defendants' having made her the unwanted focus of a murder investigation into the sexual assault and death of a six year girl. Patricia Ramsey and John Ramsey's conduct has caused the plaintiff to be shunned, hated, ridiculed and held in contempt by members of her community. She has suffered and continues to suffer substantial injury as a result of the false accusations made against her by the defendants. The plaintiff seeks general and punitive damages for libel and slander.
1. Plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh resides in Plattville, Colorado.
2. Plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh is a citizen of the State of Colorado for purposes of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332.
3. Defendant Patricia Ramsey resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
4. Defendant Patricia Ramsey is a citizen of the State of Georgia for purposes of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332.
5. Defendant John Ramsey resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
6. Defendant John Ramsey is a citizen of the State of Georgia for purposes of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332.
Jurisdiction and Venue
7. This Court has original subject matter jurisdiction with respect to this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332 as there exists complete diversity of citizenship between plaintiff and defendants and the amount in controversy exceeds Seventy Five Thousand Dollars ($75,000.00), exclusive of interest and costs.
8. Defendant Patricia Ramsey is domiciled in the State of Georgia and is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1391.
9. Defendant John Ramsey is domiciled in the State of Georgia and is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1391.
10. On the night of December 25, 1996 or during the early morning hours of December 26, 1996, defendant Patricia Paugh Ramsey (Patsy Ramsey) killed her daughter JonBenet Ramsey, either accidentally or intentionally, in the defendants' home at 755 15th Street, Boulder, Colorado. According to the Boulder County coroner's autopsy report, JonBenet received a massive head wound before dying of strangulation from a nylon cord tied around her neck. The coroner found that there was evidence to suggest that JonBenet's vagina had been assaulted and digitally penetrated sometime before her death.
11. In an elaborate and transparent attempt to cover up her crime, Patsy Ramsey wrote a three page ransom note in the hope of making her crime look more like the work of a third party intruder bent on kidnapping and/or sexually molesting her daughter, than like the work of a parent who flew into a rage and assaulted their child.
12. Five questioned document examiners, a forensic linguistics expert, and a Boulder police detective have since determined that defendant Patsy Ramsey was the author of the ransom note found at the scene of JonBenet Ramsey's murder. (Exhibit 1)
13. In order to further cover up her crime, Patsy Ramsey, along with the help of her husband John Ramsey, gave the Boulder Police Department and the Boulder District Attorney's office the names of people who she declared should be "suspects" in the killing of her daughter. As a result of the sensational nature of the crime, and the tearful protestations of innocence by Patsy Ramsey on national television, this case has been subject to massive international media coverage, the likes of which have not been seen since the Lindbergh baby kidnapping or the O.J. Simpson case.
14. John and Patsy Ramsey gave Boulder law enforcement the names of these innocent people willfully and maliciously and with reckless disregard for the truth. John and Patsy Ramsey knew, or should have known, that their conduct in covering up her crime was certain or substantially certain to cause severe emotional distress in the people who would become, as a result of the defendants' accusations, police "suspects," and, consequently, the subject of intensive and intrusive law enforcement investigation and worldwide media coverage.
15. Upon information and belief, innocent "suspects" were required to submit to police demands that they produce samples of their blood, hair, saliva and handwriting, while, at the same time, being subjected to intrusive police questioning into their private lives. Frequently, "suspect's" neighbors would be interrogated by the police with respect to the "suspect's" general character and demeanor, often to the "suspects" extreme embarrassment and emotional suffering. "Suspects" were also the subject of unwanted and often unflattering media attention and speculation.
16. Patsy Ramsey, along with the defendant John Ramsey, went on national television several times and "warned" the American public that "there is a killer on the loose." John and Patsy Ramsey repeated these statements in a television documentary, at various press conferences, in newspaper interviews, and in a book they co-authored, and published with the help of Thomas Nelson, Inc., and reprinted in a paperback edition with the help of Onyx Books, New American Library and Penguin Putnam, Inc.,called The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth (Thomas Nelson, 2000; Onyx 2001). Patsy Ramsey, willfully, maliciously, and with reckless disregard for the truth, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the death of her daughter despite knowing these statements to be untrue.
17. Defendant John Ramsey also denies any knowledge of the circumstances surrounding his daughter's death, and he has publicly proclaimed a belief in his wife Patsy's innocence. John Ramsey knows that his wife is lying about her responsibility for his daughter's death
18. John and Patsy Ramsey have hired private detectives to investigate and check into the private lives and backgrounds of these bogus murder "suspects," invading the privacy of these individuals through their private investigators, while providing Boulder authorities with information on these "suspects' in what has been, and continues to be, a blatant attempt to direct suspicion away from Mrs. Ramsey. The defendants have done all of this, willfully and maliciously, and with the intent of encouraging the authorities to arrest an innocent person for a crime that Patsy Ramsey has committed.
19. From December 26, 1996 until the present time, John and Patsy Ramsey have been and continue to be engaged, willfully, maliciously, and with reckless disregard for the truth, in a continuing course of conduct designed to direct suspicion away from Mrs. Ramsey by providing the Boulder district attorney's office, the police, and the general public, through the efforts of their private investigators, through interviews on national television, a documentary, and a book published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., with the names of innocent people, who, because of this continuing course of conduct, have suffered extreme emotional distress as the result of their being publicly named, and privately being investigated, by the John and Patsy Ramsey, as "suspects" in the brutal homicide of a six year girl who may have been sexually assaulted in the process.
20. John and Patsy Ramsey have engaged in this continuing course of conduct willfully and maliciously, knowing full well that Patsy Ramsey was responsible for the death of her daughter.
21. Beginning on or about September 1997, and, upon information and belief, continuing until the present time, private investigators working on behalf of, and at the direction of, John and Patsy Ramsey, have urged and continue to urge the Boulder authorities to investigate the plaintiff, Linda Hoffmann-Pugh, as a possible murder suspect in the death of their daughter in the hope that she would be arrested and charged with the murder of their daughter. The defendants have done this, and continue to do it, willfully and maliciously, knowing full well that the plaintiff is innocent and that Patsy Ramsey has killed JonBenet Ramsey.
22. On pages19-20 of their book The Death of Innocence, which was published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., in Colorado and Georgia on March 17, 2000, and reprinted in paperback by Onyx Books, New American Library and Penguin Putnam, Inc. in January 2001 (also in Colorado and Georgia,) the defendants write and publish the following statements:
"The police ask Patsy these same questions about who might have been angry or acting strangely, and she begins to think about our cleaning lady. Linda Hoffmann-Pugh had called Patsy a couple of days before Christmas, very distraught and in tears. Linda said her sister, who was also her landlord, was going to evict her if she didn't come up with the past-due rent. She asked Patsy if she could borrow twenty-five hundred dollars to cover it. Patsy had consoled Linda and agreed to lend her the money. In fact, Patsy had intended to leave the check for Linda on the kitchen counter before leaving for Michigan; Linda would let herself in the house and pick it up while we were gone for the holidays.
"Patsy remembers that her mother, Nedra Paugh, had said that Linda had remarked to her at one time, 'JonBenet is so pretty; aren't you afraid that someone might kidnap her?' Now those comments seem strangely menacing.
"Finding the phone number in her digital Rolodex, Patsy tells a police officer where Linda lives in Ft. Lupton, Colorado. Patsy later tells me she was thinking, If it's Linda, it's okay, because she is a good, sweet person. She is just upset. She may need the money, but she won't hurt JonBenet.
"The police tell us they will arrange for the Ft. Lupon police to drive by Linda's house to see if they notice anything unusual, but they don't want to alert anyone there that they are being watched." (Exhibit 2)
23. These statements are false and the defendants Patsy and John Ramsey know them to be false, publishing them willfully, intentionally, maliciously, with a reckless disregard for their truth, and with the deliberate intention of publicly casting suspicion upon her as a murderer who sexually assaulted their six-year-old daughter. The plaintiff 's sister was not "going to evict her if she didn't come up with the past-due rent;" nor did the plaintiff ever tell Nedra Paugh, or anyone else, that "JonBenet is so pretty; aren't you afraid that someone might kidnap her?" The plaintiff did not murder JonBenet and therefore the statement "If it's Linda, its' okay, because she is a good, sweet person. She is just upset. She may need the money, but she won't hurt JonBenet" is a deliberate falsehood made in the hope of convincing a reader that Linda Hoffmann-Pugh kidnapped JonBenet and committed the crime of murder because she was in desperate need of money. By these statements, defendants John and Patsy Ramsey meant, and were understood to mean, that Linda Hoffmann-Pugh had kidnapped and murdered JonBenet Ramsey. The plaintiff denies that she kidnapped or murdered JonBenet Ramsey.
24. The sole purpose of publishing these statements was so that the defendants could divert attention away from Patsy Ramsey by directing the reading public's attention, through imputation and innuendo, to Linda Hoffman-Pugh as a legitimate murder suspect in the death of their daughter, knowing full well that Patsy Ramsey had murdered JonBenet Ramsey.
25. Defendants knew that Linda Hoffmann-Pugh had been cleared of suspicion by the police, along with the hundreds of other bogus murder "suspects," many of whose names had been provided and continue to be provided to authorities by the defendants in their desperate attempt to cover up Patsy Ramsey's crime.
26. These statements by John and Patsy Ramsey, made in the book published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., and in the media, along with the investigative reports prepared by their private detectives, are meant to suggest and to create, both in the minds of the general public and in the minds of the Boulder authorities, a deliberate, cumulative, and false impression that the plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh is the murderer of JonBenet Ramsey. As a result of these statements, made with actual malice and with an awareness of their falsity, the plaintiff has been the subject of heightened, unwelcome, and unflattering media scrutiny and has been caused her to be shunned and hated, exposing her to hatred, contempt and ridicule in her small community of Plattville, Colorado.
27. "But for" the elaborate attempt by Patsy Ramsey and her husband to avoid the consequences of Mrs. Ramsey killing her daughter, there would have been no "unsolved" murder, and, therefore, by definition, no need for news stories or need for media attention. John and Patsy are directly and proximately the cause of the harm created to the plaintiff, and solely responsible for the need for an investigation into the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. It was entirely foreseeable that their conduct in covering up Patsy's killing of her daughter would result in an intrusive police investigation and massive media attention. The defendants have stated repeatedly on television, in newspaper interviews and in their book published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and reprinted in paperback by Onyx Books, New American Library and Penguin Putnam, Inc., that their sole motivation for writing their book and for publicly speaking out is to find the killer of their daughter and to see that the police investigation does not cease into the whereabouts of the murderer.
AS AND FOR A CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST PATSY RAMSEY FOR LIBEL AND SLANDER
28. Incorporating all of the allegations in paragraphs 1 -27, the plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh alleges that the defendant Patsy Ramsey, in an attempt to cover up the brutal murder and sexual assault of her daughter, willfully, intentionally, maliciously, and with a reckless disregard for the truth, published defamatory statements about the plaintiff in her book and in her statements on television and in the printed media, intending to create a deliberate, cumulative, and false impression of Linda Hoffmann-Pugh as a murder suspect, thereby proximately causing permanent injury to her reputation by causing her to be exposed to public hatred, contempt and ridicule. By virtue of the nature of the defamatory subject matter in Patsy Ramsey's book and public statements, their publication constitutes libel and slander per se and the plaintiff is entitled to recover actual damages for her injuries. Patsy Ramsey's conduct, moreover, demonstrates actual malice, willful misconduct, and that entire want of care which raises a presumption of conscious indifference to consequences entitling the plaintiff to an award of significant punitive damages to punish, penalize and deter Patsy Ramsey from repeating her unlawful conduct.
AS AND FOR A CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST JOHN RAMSEY FOR LIBEL AND SLANDER
29. Incorporating all of the allegations in paragraphs 1-27,the plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh alleges that the defendant John Ramsey, in an attempt to help his wife Patsy Ramsey cover up the brutal murder and sexual assault of his daughter, willfully, intentionally, maliciously, and with a reckless disregard for the truth, published defamatory statements about the plaintiff in his book and in his statements on television and in the printed media, intending to create a deliberate, cumulative, and false impression of Linda Hoffmann-Pugh as a murder suspect, thereby proximately causing permanent injury to her reputation by causing her to be exposed to public hatred, contempt and ridicule. By virtue of the nature of the defamatory subject matter in John Ramsey's book and public statements, their publication constitutes libel and slander per se and the plaintiff is entitled to recover actual damages for her injuries. John Ramsey's conduct, moreover, demonstrates actual malice, willful misconduct, and that entire want of care which raises a presumption of conscious indifference to consequences entitling the plaintiff to an award of significant punitive damages to punish, penalize and deter John Ramsey from repeating his unlawful conduct. continuing to repeat her unlawful conduct. WHEREFORE, plaintiff Linda Hoffmann-Pugh prays for the following relief:
(a) That judgment be entered against defendant Patsy Ramsey for general damages in the amount of five million dollars ($5,000,000.00).
(b) That judgment be entered against defendant John Ramsey for general damages in the amount of five million dollars ($5,000,000.00).
(c) That judgment be entered against defendant Patricia Ramsey for punitive damages in the amount of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000.00)
(d) That judgment be entered against defendant John Ramsey for punitive damages in the amount of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000.00).
(e) That all costs of this action be assessed against the defendants.
DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Plaintiff demands a trial by jury on all the issues so triable.
Dated: February 27, 2001
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