Defamation settlement “a fait accompli,” source says

A settlement in the defamation lawsuit filed by four people associated with Conservatives for Guilford County against a prolific Greensboro blogger is “a fait accompli,” according to a source close to the process.

Two couples sued local blogger Jeff Martin, who uses the pen name “Fecund Stench,” over a series of satirical blog posts that the plaintiffs say were untrue and cast them in a false light.

Martin was served with the lawsuit May 2 and indicated early in the process that he would settle the dispute for a variety of personal reasons. Since that time details of a potential settlement emerged, but even the most casual observers noted errors of fact and potential problems with the scope of the settlement.

According to information obtained by YES! Weekly, the settlement issue is moving forward after the incorrect URL cited in the lawsuit was amended to reflect Martin’s most recent WordPress-hosted blog. The initial lawsuit and first settlement referenced a web address Martin ceased using in 2010, which was outside the scope of the court document filed in February.

Additionally,  the settlement now contains a provision that would allow Martin to keep copies of his blog material, which he deleted on May 2, as long as he does not republish or distribute the content objected to by the plaintiffs.

Martin published widely read accounts of his work as a temporary laborer and was noted for his discussion of global financial and international affairs, in addition to his acerbic posts about local politics. Folks commenting on the lawsuit, mostly at Ed Cone’s well-read blog, urged Martin to preserve those writings. The settlement maintains strident provisions that Martin delete the material regarding the plaintiffs and not cause it to be republished.

The first settlement required Martin to delete all copies of the posts, even from cached and third-party storage, something some doubted was possible. The current settlement inserts the language “over which he has control.”

According to a source close to the negotiations, one set of parties has already signed the agreement, which is moving toward closure in the coming days.

Martin is now blogging at a different WordPress URL, but his blog in dispute appeared to have been restored earlier this week, though password protected.

Reached via email, Martin said he planned to keep a low profile until the settlement became official.

The settlement retains stipulations that Martin not post photos of the plaintiffs that might be considered private, and that he not speak publicly or publish material about three of the plaintiffs. Posts about the fourth plaintiff, Brett Riddleberger, are required to adhere to factually true statements, according to the document.

When asked if he knew prior to filing the defamation lawsuit about Brett Riddleberger’s conviction for indecent liberties with a minor, the plaintiff’s attorney declined to comment, citing attorney client privilege.

Martin often constructed salacious scenes that involved Riddleberger at strip clubs owned by Doug Adkins, another of the plaintiffs and an early financial backer of Conservatives for Guilford County. Much debate surfaced during discussions of the lawsuit regarding what clubs Adkins owns.

According to records on file with the city of Greensboro, the NC Secretary of State and the ABC licensing office Adkins currently owns Centerfolds on Veasley Street and Copa Rocka Cantina on Sands Drive. A third club, Mirage on Burnt Poplar Road, was converted to Jeff Melendy in 2013, according to city records. The controlling corporation, National Golf Distributors LLC, was owned by Doug Adkins until May 2012.

City privilege license records list a third plaintiff, Isabella Adkins, as the contact person for Copa Rocka Cantina and Centerfolds.

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