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The Lawsuit Is Over

By Greg L | 5 February 2011 | Blogs, Manassas City, Prince William County | 18 Comments

This week I received paperwork from the Clerk’s office notifying me that the lawsuit initiated against me by Steve Chapman has been dismissed.  Now that this legal cloud has been lifted I can give readers the full, behind the scenes story of the founding of this website without being concerned about how someone might use that information against me in court, and especially for long-time readers, it should be quite entertaining.

My connection with what was named back then “Black Velvet Bruce Lee” started when I was invited to participate in the blog by someone using the email address blackvelvetbrucelee@yahoo.com.  I never bothered to try to learn who this individual was, as his real identity was in many ways utterly irrelevant to me.  We would email back and forth on occasion about stories but never met in person or spoke on the phone.  To this day I do not know who this person was, and during the lawsuit I made it clear to everyone I knew that I didn’t want to know, since he was named as a co-defendant in the suit and had no interest in putting him in harm’s way.

Back in those days our claim to fame was digging up interesting stories concerning candidates in the Manassas area, and the candidate who was at the time a treasure trove of fascinating tidbits was Steve Chapman.  I’d known of Chapman before and actually had one of his yard signs in my yard when he ran against Harry Parrish because of some of Parrish’s votes concerning gun control that had deeply upset me.  After Harry died, Chapman ran again for the Republican nomination in a special election, but this time there was a nascent blog community starting in Virginia ready to shine the light on candidates much better than the local media would do at the time.

The original and mysterious BVBL was busy lampooning Chapman’s behavior, his questionable residency, and digging up juicy court documents describing his legal entanglements, and I was hooked.  Here were stories the mainstream media wasn’t covering, they were shocking and amazing, and having been so mislead before in thinking this was a credible candidate by a thoroughly lazy Potomac News, here was the opportunity to complete the story that had been hidden from me and my neighbors and set things straight.  I dived in as deeply as I could, and soon started getting a few leads myself about how some of the information on Chapman’s website was, well, a little inaccurate.

So on the eve of the 10th District Convention, the original BVBL posts a story about how Chapman’s claims that his company cleans the gravestones at Arlington Cemetery is a lie at the same time Shaun Kenney writes a post endorsing Chapman.  A furious email exchange ensues between the original BVBL and myself where I express my concerns that he’s pulling the trigger on this story too soon, but since I’m the junior partner with a phantom, I don’t win that one.  So since we’re in for a penny, I add the pounds and pen a scathing broadside against Chapman on this one based on all this evidence we had gotten.

The next day I’m out with Chapman at the 10th District convention handing out lapel stickers for Heidi Stirrup, and Chapman doesn’t know who I am.  I figured that would change soon, and it did.

Threats of litigation ensue in the form of hilarious grammatically challenged letters from people claiming they’re attorneys, and original BVBL and I coin the battle cry “bite me” as a response.  The blog community is highly amused by all of this, and a pretty interesting discussion about freedom of speech and the press starts up that is actually rather productive.

Within days I learn that Chapman has filed a lawsuit against me, and became so engrossed with it that he neglected to actually file as a candidate for the Republican nomination.  As soon as the lawsuit drops, Black Velvet Bruce Lee disappears from blogger and I’m sitting in my family room one night pondering the implications of being the only publicly known participant in a blog that has disappeared because of a defamation lawsuit.  Well, that’s not going to work for me.  At all.  So I re-establish the blog by myself, the original BVBL vanishes into the internet ether to never be seen again, and I keep the “bite me” flag flying high.

I get one set of interrogatories from Chapman’s lawyers, to which half of my responses are “I don’t understand the question” because of the author’s perhaps inadvertent assaults committed against the English language, and then hear nothing.  For years.  The suit languishes, and finally, years later, comes this long-overdue dismissal.

I don’t want anyone to get the impression as a result of this that Chapman is a bad guy.  I really think he was just encouraged to do really dumb things by dumb people.  Instead of some single guy chasing skirts around Manassas when he wasn’t powerwashing decks and playing a little loose with the rules, he’s gotten married to an absolutely tremendous woman, has some wonderful kids, and has been very supportive of a number of important conservative initiatives in a quiet and thoughtful way.  I’m thoroughly impressed with the changes I’ve seen him make in his life, and hope with this seasoning he’ll be interested in taking on a bigger role.  When he does so I expect I’ll be one of his supporters, this time not out of utter frustration with the individuals he might be competing with, but because of his own qualities and accomplishments.

So if you see a Chapman yard sign in front of my house some day once again, don’t automatically assume someone is playing tricks, or be all that surprised.  It’s quite possible he will have earned that placement.

If you run into someone claiming to be the original BVBL, I’ll be interested in finding out who that was.  I think he owes me a beer or three.  I’m sure he had good reasons to run for cover, and I don’t second guess that decision on his part one bit.  Standing up to six figure lawsuits isn’t for everyone.

Ultimately this whole experience teaches me that standing up for principle as you see it isn’t always easy but it lets you sleep well at night.  If no one does this the bullies win, and I’d rather not let them establish the precedent that they get to roll all over everyone.  Sadly, those who are eager to throw defamation lawsuits or threats of lawsuits against bloggers are still out there and hidden under rocks in every corner of the political spectrum.  The most recent absolutely enraging example I’ve seen was when Joe Budzinski of NOVATownHall was threatened with a ridiculously stupid defamation lawsuit by Ron “I Have My Own Northern Virginia Tea Party” Wilcox, who deserves tar and feathers for being the penultimate asshole of the year for this one.

Does anyone but me notice what part of the political spectrum these lawsuits and threats of lawsuits seem to consistently come from?  Perhaps from the same folks who rant about tort reform?  Hmmm.

If only a few more folks were in the position to scream back “Bite Me!” when confronted by this crap, others wouldn’t be subjected to the same kind of challenges I’ve faced.  Instead, it looks like we’re going to have to re-learn this lesson a few dozen more times until we get it right.



The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.

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18 Comments

  1. AndyH said on 5 Feb 2011 at 7:55 am:
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    I remember the furor over the original BV quite well. I was just starting to get involved in politics in a volunteer capacity when it burst onto the scene. In fact, I was also writing a column for the JM at the time. I had a fair number of people accuse me of being BV…:)

    I never did find out who BV was. A group of us got fairly close to triangulating an identity but, as Greg indicates, he vanished quite suddenly. During his reign of terror the guy literally seemed to be everywhere. He clearly knew the machinations of local party politics and all the players involved. It got to the point that when you went to a political event you wondered if you were indeed talking to the guy. Based on his accounts of different events, the list of suspects was rapidly dwindling but we never quite got there.

    I was also never quite happy with most of the names on the “usual suspects” list. If memory serves, the original BV was a pretty fair writer with a distinct voice that I had trouble attributing to many of those usual suspects….

    Kudos to Greg for sticking to his guns and not backing down. Glad to hear the lawsuit has been dismissed!!

  2. Disgusted said on 5 Feb 2011 at 8:03 am:
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    … or they just realized you were not worth the effort!

  3. I'm just saying... said on 5 Feb 2011 at 8:10 am:
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    I notice that the local media avoids real “news” preferring to focus on “happy stories” focusing on not offending anyone. Yet, they wonder why their readership is dwindling. Blogs like BVBL are the future of news (and perhaps you are the future of PWC local News). Folks like me are responsible for selecting our sources in the new “free market of news” because, as you know, there are quality issues out there. BVBL is part of my morning “read” routine.

    I’m a long time fan who appreciates your “local hard news” reporting, agree with some of your opinions, disagrees with others, and scratches my head at a few. I remain a fan because you are one of the few real sources of quality community “hard” news.

    Thanks for doing what you do… And congratulations on the demise of the lawsuit.

  4. Anonymous said on 5 Feb 2011 at 8:34 am:
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    IMO You were a lot better back then than you are now. You’ve lost your civility and I get tired of wading through the unnecessary bile just to get the meat. It’s not just you (as if you care), but politics in general. THAT SAID: I liked the way you didn’t fold up simply because somebody didn’t like your opinion or the fact you would ask questions about things they didn’t want you asking about.

  5. Freddie said on 5 Feb 2011 at 9:07 am:
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    This lawsuit stuff is one reason I don’t use my real name in comments.

  6. Loudoun Insider said on 5 Feb 2011 at 11:25 am:
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    AWESOME post, Greg, and you definitely helped inspire me to do what I do. You still deserve an award for the Rack N Roll coverage. The blogosphere has forever chaged the political landscape, especially here in NOVA. A lot of BS just can’t be hidden from view anymore, and BVBL had a huge part to play in that.

  7. Anonymous said on 5 Feb 2011 at 12:42 pm:
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    Keep up the investigative reporting! You’re our only source in PWC.

  8. Cynic said on 5 Feb 2011 at 1:07 pm:
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    What every non-political correct person requires is a guy like Ed Cantrell for a body guard and a lawyer like Gerry Spence when faced with legal challenges. And then there is always, Paraguay, if you are willing to travel and under the right circumstances.

    http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_24dfeef2-565b-11df-b080-001cc4c002e0.html

    http://fact-o-tron.com/facts/world/dueling-is-legal-in-paraguay/

  9. Doug Brown said on 5 Feb 2011 at 1:25 pm:
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    Greg,

    The original BVBL owes you more than a few beers. Your example to stand up and openly debate community and national issues testifies to a virtue which I wish more of our fellow citizens would embrace , ironically, it also makes you the original anti-BVBL. ;)

  10. citizenofmanassas said on 5 Feb 2011 at 1:28 pm:
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    It’s amazing how slow the legal system can be. This lawsuit should have been over years ago. I missed out on the original BVBL, but came on “board” shortly after that, and have had a blast following this blog and even starting my own. No question blogging has replaced the traditional media in many ways.

  11. Colts Fan said on 5 Feb 2011 at 6:16 pm:
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    Congrats!

  12. The Bulletproof Monk said on 5 Feb 2011 at 10:28 pm:
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    Congrats, Greg.
    You know…I could be inticed to spill that name after a couple bottles of Crown.

    As to Wilcox….Some of those you’re familiar did an unkind thing to him….
    It still didn’t give him license to unload on Joe. Joe’s piece was funny as hell…unless you happened to be Ron.

  13. Austin said on 7 Feb 2011 at 9:00 am:
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    Greg

    Now that the lawsuit thorn in your side is done with, I look forward to your take as we enter 2011 local elections. There could be some exciting action right here in PWC.

  14. Brian L. said on 7 Feb 2011 at 11:58 am:
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    Wow, that’s a really interesting story! Thanks for laying that out for those of us who missed it the first time around, Greg — And congrats for being able to put all of the legal questions behind you!

    Respectfully,
    Brian from Snapped Shot

  15. Riley said on 7 Feb 2011 at 1:45 pm:
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    Austin,

    You couldn’t swing a dead cat at the last PWC GOP meeting without hitting a potential candidate who is waiting on redistricting to be completed before knowing what he / she would be running for and / or what district.

  16. austin said on 7 Feb 2011 at 3:18 pm:
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    Riley

    I should not say too much as I could be one of them. I am not planning on running for re-election to the Soil and Water Conservation District. Although, I must say considering I have served 1 term there and our President served one term as a State Senator, maybe I should look at National politics.

    Austin

  17. Steve Thomas said on 7 Feb 2011 at 10:01 pm:
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    Congratulations Greg. I had little doubt that this suit would eventually die or be dismissed, but am surprised that it took this long. As an avid reader and sometime commenter on the original blog, I think you took it to a new level, and have helped make the new media a legitimate source of news, opinion, and commentary.

  18. Miss Lucy said on 8 Feb 2011 at 3:56 pm:
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    Greg,

    Please consider a post on the civil war sequi event - a lot of money from pwc and manassas city for what exactly????

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