A story last Friday on a lawsuit filed by Campaigner Publications Inc., a group associated with Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., against a Leesburg man reported that the suit asked for $1 million for slander. The suit also asked for $1 million for libel.
A group associated with controversial political figure Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. has filed a $1 million slander suit against a Leesburg businessman, alleging that the man, on a television newscast, falsely accused the group of attacking farm animals and pets as a tactic to intimidate county residents.
Campaigner Publications Inc., which publishes pro-LaRouche political material and is closely linked to the perennial presidential candidate, is suing Steve Dabkowski of the western Loudoun town of Bluemont for remarks he made in February on WRC-TV, an NBC affiliate.
The suit, filed this week in Loudoun County Circuit Court, is the newest development in a growing conflict between LaRouche associates and some county residents that started when LaRouche moved his political operations to Loudoun about two years ago. The residents, including some Loudoun public officials, have charged publicly that LaRouche, known for his unorthodox and extremist political ideology, is engaged in a campaign of intimidation in the county.
According to a transcript of the newscast that Campaigner submitted with the lawsuit, WRC reporter Susan Kidd stated in an interview with Dabkowski that "LaRouche opponents have reportedly been harassed and incidents attributed to LaRouche followers but unproven have almost become legend in the county."
"A horse was poisoned on someone's property. Another dog came home with his tail cut off and his back, hind legs skinned," Dabkowski responded, according to the Campaigner transcript.
"The statement that he made is not only false, but in this type of county, a rural county, animals are an important thing. This statement implied an incitement to violence," said Linda De Hoyos, president of Campaigner Publications.
"I did not say that he [LaRouche] did it. I did not say that his group did it. I said that people who have opposed him -- things have happened to them," Dabkowski said yesterday.
Dabkowski, 29, who runs a video store and who has been an outspoken critic of LaRouche, was taken aback when he learned of the suit. "I was shocked, absolutely shocked, because I didn't think I had said anything, and I didn't think there was anything to be sued about," he said. " . . . It scares me, but I've got to fight it, so I've got to get my dander up to fight it."
Dabkowski said he believed the suit was a tactic designed to frighten him and other critics into silence. "It's clearly an intimidation technique. You take one fly and squash it and hopefully the other flies will go away. That's what they want."
Dabkowski said he cannot afford the legal fees to fight the suit, and is pursuing the possibility of starting a defense fund with other LaRouche opponents in Loudoun, many of whom have been attacked in Campaigner materials as being "part of the international drug lobby" and "part of a pro-Moscow nest in the county." The group would then countersue LaRouche, he said.
LaRouche and his associates have a history of confronting their critics through the courts. In 1984, LaRouche sued NBC for libel in a highly publicized case. NBC countersued, and was awarded a $200,000 judgment.
"This is a frivolous lawsuit. It will probably get thrown out of court right away," said Alexandria lawyer Philip J. Hirschkop, who is donating legal advice to Dabkowski and who defended two clients who were sued by LaRouche in the NBC case.