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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Settlement details emerge in blogger defamation suit

Word spread late Tuesday that four people associated with Conservatives for Guilford County that filed a defamation lawsuit against a local blogger had offered settlement terms to avoid a trial.

Most of the chatter stemmed from online posts by defendant Jeff Martin, who blogs under the name Fecund Stench. Martin posted on a new blog that he’s set up that the plaintiffs had agreed to a settlement and “paperwork is to follow.”

Martin followed that up Wednesday with a cryptic post stating “we’re close and working through it.”

Word of the suit spread Monday after Yes! Weekly broke the story. Martin deleted his blog on Friday after being served with the suit by a sheriff’s deputy. The plaintiffs objected to Martin’s acerbic satirical style, in which he lampooned their conservative politics by placing members of C4GC, and their spouses, in absurd fictional settings. The narratives often took place in strip clubs.

Douglas Adkins, the lead plaintiff, owns strip clubs in Greensboro, in addition to a vast network of ATM machines that net him profit per transaction. Adkins was an early financial supporter of C4GC. His wife, Isabella Adkins, was a prominent spokesperson for the group, appearing at numerous political rallies and local government meetings to speak on behalf of conservative policy.

According to information obtained by Yes! Weekly, Douglas Adkins objected vehemently to Martin’s writings and is demanding that Martin strictly adhere to any terms of a potential settlement.

As part of the settlement terms, Martin would have to agree not to speak publicly about Douglas or Isabella Adkins, or C4GC co-founder, Jodi Riddleberger. The terms state that Martin would limit his speech or writings about Brett Riddleberger to factual statements. Brett Riddleberger was convicted in 1995 of indecent liberties with a minor.

Martin often made salacious references to Brett Riddleberger on his blog.

The settlement also takes into account social media and internet storage concerns. Both Jodi Riddleberger and Isabella Adkins have public Facebook profiles and post frequent photos of themselves, often dressed up in costumes or in formal attire. Martin once posted a photo that appeared to be taken from Riddleberger’s Facebook wall and showed Riddleberger and Isabella Adkins, along with other women. Martin made reference to strip clubs when posting the picture on his blog.

The settlement terms require that Martin not publish photographs that might be considered private. It also would require Martin to delete posts that include the plaintiff’s names, or references to them that could lead to identification of the plaintiffs. A stipulation is included that Martin ensure the material is deleted from cache or cloud storage and that no hard copies exist.

C4GC members file defamation suit against local blogger

A defamation lawsuit filed recently pits four members of Conservatives for Guilford County against a no-holds barred blogger in Greensboro.

Douglas Adkins, whose wife, Isabella Adkins was once one of the most prominent members of the local political action committee, is listed as the lead plaintiff in a defamation suit against blogger Jeff Martin of Greensboro. (Updated: View a copy of the suit here.)

Martin, who blogs under the pseudonym, Fecund Stench, lampooned Isabella Adkins and the group Conservatives for Guilford County often using a fictional character to relay experiences from the seedy Greensboro strip-club scene.

The character, Tami Tightenloud, was described as a “dwarf, transvestite Hooters waitress” who would often find herself at strip clubs in Greensboro after hours. It was during these fictional encounters that Martin often wrote about members of C4GC.

The lawsuit names Douglas Adkins, Isabella Adkins, Brett Riddleberger, Jodi Riddleberger and C4GC as plaintiffs and seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000, the threshold required to file a case in superior court. In the filing, the plaintiffs demand a jury trial.

The lawsuit was filed in February, but had an incorrect address for Martin to be served a summons. Court records show that Guilford County sheriff’s deputies attempted to serve the suit at the incorrect address twice in February.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Krispen Culbertson, filed an additional summons on May 1, listing two more addresses for Martin. Deputies served the suit on Martin on Friday morning.

The suit contains three lengthy paragraphs that quote from Martin’s blog. Of note is that the filing cites an incorrect internet address as the location where Martin published his content.

The first complaint references a post made in May of 2013 where Martin envisioned C4GC members’ celebrating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights March on  Washington and Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin wrote about C4GC members celebrating the occasion at a strip club. Douglas Adkins is the owner of gentlemen’s clubs in Greensboro where women perform seminude in return for cash.

“Bubba ended the performance with his rendition of Give it 2 U accompanied by the Puerto Rican girls and Isabella Adkins …” the law suit states in reference to Martin’s writing. Bubba is a reference to conservative activist Bob Grenier of Greensboro, one of the more vocal supporters of C4GC and conservative politics in the local online community.

The suit also objects to Martin writing about Brett Riddleberger’s conviction for indecent liberties with a minor. Riddleberger was convicted in 1995 on the charge following an incident in which he filmed himself having sex with a 15-year old girl. Brett Riddleberger was 25 years old at the time.

“In past blogs posted on Defendant’s blog site, with such blog posts remaining on Defendant’s blog site, it is falsely stated that Brett suffers from a medical condition known as Erectile Narcolepsy, by which loss of blood to the brain when aroused causes him to lose consciousness,” the suit alleges. “On February 8, 2013 a blog was posted on Defendant’s blog site falsely stating, ‘Barrett … just fainted’ and ‘It happens frequently,’ thus alluding to the earlier blogs regarding Brett’s alleged medical condition.”

Reached by phone Monday, Martin said he planned a vigorous defense and had been in contact with multiple attorneys. He planned to commence a legal defense fund soon.

C4GC cofounder, Jodi Riddleberger, referred questions for comment to her attorney. When asked over the weekend via social media messaging to confirm the suit, Riddleberger said that C4GC had not sued anyone. On Monday, when told that she and her husband, in addition to C4GC were listed as plaintiffs, Riddleberger said that she “was not aware that C4GC had been named in the court papers.”

Read more on this story in Wednesday’s edition of Yes! Weekly.