Judge rules in favor of Caldier in lawsuit

A former District 26 Democratic state representative lost a libel lawsuit filed last year against his Republican opponent.

A former District 26 Democratic state representative lost a libel lawsuit filed last year against his Republican opponent.

On Feb. 19, Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay Roof ruled that Larry Seaquist “had not proven by clear and convincing evidence as probability of prevailing” of his defamation and false light claims lawsuit against State. Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard.

“I feel validated by the courts ruling and am excited to get back to work and represent the people of our great district, ” Caldier stated in an email.

Caldier, 38, defeated Seaquist in the District 26 state representative Position 2 race in November.

“This past November, voters rejected Mr. Seaquist’s meritless lawsuit as a sleazy campaign tactic,” said Chris Tibbs, Caldier’s fiancé and Kitsap County Republican chairman. “Now, the courts have rejected it too. She has won this lawsuit decisively and has been completely vindicated. Larry Seaquist must now be held accountable for reasonable legal fees to ensure she is compensated for the financial harm caused by Mr. Seaquist’s unwarranted and abusive lawsuit.”

Seaquist claimed libel statements on Facebook, a police report, YouTube.com and television campaign videos, radio broadcast, campaign fliers, along with website and Internet postings.

Caldier’s attorney, Ambika Kumar Doran of Davis Wright Tremaine, sent a letter Oct. 27 to Seaquist’s attorney, Anthony Otto, of Port Orchard. In the letter, Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) was notified that his actions were in violation of the Washington Act Limiting Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The judge stated that Seaquist failed to make meritorious argument that the Ant-SLAPP statute is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the judge had several comments for Caldier.

“This Court finds that what the defendant published through multiple mediums was offensive and potentially distorted,” Roof wrote. “One would hope its elected officials and representatives would display a higher standard of conduct.

“Regrettably, that has not been demonstrated in this case. However, whether the publication is offensive is not the standard for determining whether such publication are legally actionable. This court is cognizant of the fact that those statements were made during the course of a hotly contested political campaign. In this country’s day and age and with the advent of the Internet, technology and social media, our society is well-acclimated to exaggeration, biased inaccuracy and distorted campaign literature.”

Seaquist, 76, and his wife, Carla, filed the lawsuit Oct. 20 in Kitsap County Superior Court. He stated a television ad and Internet website supported by Caldier, made him look “lecherous” taking photos of Caldier.

Caldier said it was harassment.

It all stems from an Aug. 29 incident after the two candidates left a media interview in downtown Bremerton. Four days later, Caldier posted on her Facebook page that Seaquist was taking pictures of her as she got into her car.

Seaquist claims after the two candidates went to their cars parked on Fifth Street, he sat down in his vehicle and was looking at emails on his phone, then he noticed that Caldier got into a white convertible. Seaquist said he was taking photos of Caldier’s late model car because it was a hard-top convertible that folds into the trunk. Caldier filed a report with the Bremerton Police Department on Sept. 5.