Madison County – A former Madison County candidate for county commissioner filed a lawsuit against a Madison County blogger in federal court, claiming she was defamed by information that the blogger published. According to the lawsuit filed October 5 in federal court, former candidate Rupa Vickey Russe is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
Russe is suing Cindie Harmon, a Madison County blogger known for her hard-hitting, no-holds-bar blog posts about politicians and public figures.
Russe alleges Harmon’s post “specific false statements” about Russe, which Russe then gives examples in the suit such as:
“Rupa has a rap sheet over 24 pages long, which includes forfeitures, bankruptcy larceny and abuse of her daughter…”
“Took someone else’s trademark, assaulted her child,` tax-delinquent Buncombe larceny buncombe and the beat goes on…”
“Rupa Russe – the idiot with the rap sheet of larceny assault delinquency of taxes…”
“Maybe the skillset you mean are the facts that you like to bully individuals on Facebook and assault your own child..”
Russe goes on to state in the brief that the 2019 charges alleging she hit her daughter were “voluntarily dismissed.” Russe also goes into a defense of the allegations in the 23-page suit and then appears to bring up Harmon’s support of Donald Trump as part of her defamation suit.
On October 7, Russe filed an amendment to the suit, trying to get it sealed from public view and a gag order put in place. Russe in the suit states, “…Plaintiff requests that the court ‘issue a protective order to completely seal this lawsuit, issue a protective Gag Order for all participants and Attorneys in this matter, and for this case to proceed under anonymity… until after a final decision has been rendered by this court.”
However, in his ruling, Judge Carleton Metcalf stated, “Proceeding with this matter entirely under seal could also create administrative burdens and other issues for the Clerk of Court’s office, counsel, and the parties themselves.” He also states that it was “…common law and the First Amendment that materials filed in court will be unsealed.” He added as he denied the motion, “Plaintiff is an adult who chose to enter the political arena and now to file this litigation, asserting claims against Defendant as a result of Defendant’s alleged statements and activities concerning Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s political campaign.”
Harmon says she had not been served
The Tribune spoke with Harmon about the lawsuit. Harmon claims she has not been served with any notice of a suit. The copy of the lawsuit obtained by the Tribune is marked that Harmon had been hand-served the lawsuit, to which Harmon responded, “If she claims I was served with these papers, I was not served.” Harmon said she saw the suit when someone pulled it off of the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system for her.
Harmon says she documents her claims made on her blog with copies of official documents and links to sources. Harmon said several statements in the lawsuit are false. She admits she campaigned against Russe and came up with slogans like “Don’t get duped by Rupa.” Her use of name-calling in her opinion blogs is well-known by her readers, but she maintains that nothing in her blogs with links and documents could be considered false.
The Tribune had several questions about this lawsuit, such as why was it filed in federal court when it was a county race, why she brought Harmon’s support of Trump into the suit and how that related to any defamatory statements Harmon may have made about Russe, and if she was now living in Virginia as stated on the lawsuit. The paper also wanted to ask how Russe knew why Harmon’s website, savemadisoncounty.org, was de-platformed. According to the lawsuit, Russe stated Harmon’s website was removed “…by her hosting company due to her statements on her website that supported the actions leading up to and on January 6, 2021 at the Washington DC capital.” Harmons said she was not even told by the hosting company why her website was de-platformed, so she’s not sure how Russe would know.
Called for a comment about the lawsuit, Russe was asked if she had a minute to discuss the suit. She replied, “No, I don’t, have a good day,” and hung up the phone without any other comment. The Tribune also tried to contact the lawyer listed on the lawsuit by email and phone. Brooke Scott did not respond to the paper’s request for comment.