by Jack Minor –
While oftentimes it is easy to think individuals sue to obtain large cash payouts, Tom Mink said he never expected to get a large settlement from his lawsuit.
Mink had sued Greeley and the county for confiscating his computer after he published an article critical of University of Northern Colorado professor, Junius Peake. It was announced Monday that the case had been settled for $425,000 and Mink personally received $25,000.
While it may be easy to look at the total amount awarded in the eight year legal ordeal and think it was about money, Mink said from the beginning he never expected a large settlement.
“From the beginning of the lawsuit, the ACLU was pretty much a downer on the idea of a big cash settlement. It’s understandable since my real out of pocket expenses were pretty minimal – computer gone for a few weeks, gas, some long distance. I didn’t go into therapy or incur medical expenses.”
Mink went on to say he was excited with the amount he did receive. “I’m actually pretty excited about the $25k, and the additional lawyer’s fees were something I insisted on during the negotiations since the money I could argue for myself wasn’t likely to make any kind of point at all. I suspect that Traveller’s Insurance, who foots the bill for Colorado county legal troubles, may be able to exert some pressure on cowboy DAs if they’re looking at a recurring theme of expensive civil rights lawsuits.”
During the eight years, Mink said the ups and downs of the case were frustrating.
“I am so glad this lawsuit is over. If I hadn’t had lawyers with skills, this would’ve been a nightmare. After the initial dustup, things were at a low simmer for years with only the occasional week of excitement when a judgment came down or there was a need to make decisions on what to do next,” Mink said. “From my end, the main difficulty was dealing with annoying drunks that recognized me as “that pig guy!” and hiring departments that thought to look me up on google before laughing uproariously at the idea of giving me a job.”
The ACLU had argued the courts should overturn Colorado’s libel law as unconstitutional. Marcy Glenn, of Holland and Hart, who litigated the case as an ACLU cooperating attorney, said, “Unfortunately, the Tenth Circuit ruled in 2007 that Tom Mink was no longer threatened with prosecution and, therefore, it would not declare the statute unconstitutional. The court’s subsequent ruling in 2010, however, clearly held that the criminal libel statute could not serve as a basis for punishing any of the constitutionally-protected expression in the first three issues of The Howling Pig, which were attached to the application for search warrant.”
Mink was asked about the Montana blogger who was told by a judge she was not a journalist because she was not credentialed or part of a recognized news entity.
Mink said that regardless of the libel issue it was troublesome that the judge specifically stated the blogger was not a journalist. “It’s worrisome that the judge decided to specifically state that bloggers weren’t journalists, since the case probably didn’t hinge on a shield law anyway. Luckily, she was in a state where she couldn’t have been prosecuted under a criminal libel statute as well, since she’d now be doing jail time and be facing a huge civil judgment to boot.”
At this time Mink is not sure where he wants to go with the Howling Pig. “The original model was essentially the Nero Wolfe version of journalism and commentary. People would vent ideas or drop information over drinks and I would follow up with a bit of research to see how plausible they were. Anything that got published had essentially dropped in my lap in one form or another and it was pretty much entirely editorial.” He continued, “I’m sure I’ll eventually come up with something, even if it is a continuous rant. Thankfully, all I need is an internet connection to do that.”
Mink said now that the AP has picked up the story he is beginning to get interview requests from other outlets about the story.