John Hoff fined $60k for blogging

A jury has concluded that there was nothing untrue in "Johnny Northside" blogger John Hoff's writing about the alleged shady business dealings of Jerry Moore.

Then the same jury decided that Hoff's writing caused Moore to lose his job at the University of Minnesota, so it awarded Moore $60,000 in damages.

Moore, the former director of the Jordan Area Community Council, cast himself as Hoff's victim, claiming defamation. But the real victim here was the First Amendment.

1564 Hillside Avenue, where the trouble began.
1564 Hillside Avenue, where the trouble began.

Moore failed to prove that Hoff knowingly published a falsity about him, and that Hoff did so with malice, when Hoff penned this post on his blog in 2009:

"Repeated and specific evidence in Hennepin County District Court shows Jerry Moore was involved with a high-profile fraudulent mortgage at 1564 Hillside Ave N."

Hoff's lawyer, Paul Godfread, said his client was referring to government documents showing that Moore got a $5,000 check for consulting services at the closing of a fraudulent mortgage run by Larry Maxwell on the Hillsdale Avenue property.

We wrote at length about Maxwell, his victim Melony Michaels, and Jerry Moore and in an August 2010 cover story. Read the story here, and the paper trail here.

Maxwell is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence. Moore was never charged in the fraud. But the day after Hoff wrote that post, Moore lost his job at the U of M's Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center to study mortgage foreclosures, and the long trek to last week's court date was set in motion.

With no falsity and no malice on Hoff's part, that meant defamation couldn't be proved, either. All that Moore's lawyer, Jill Clark, had after that was a play for "emotional distress" and a "loss of benefits."

The jury agreed. So even though John Hoff exercised his First Amendment rights, and didn't defame Jerry Moore in the process, Moore walked away with a $60,000 settlement.

By Sunday, Hoff had uncorked a post on the trial, and Jerry Moore:

A bloggy rain of fire is coming, and I will make sure disgraced former JACC director Jerry Moore wears that sentence like The Mark of Cain. Everything I can get in regard to the fraud at 1564 Hillside Ave. N. and the recent civil suit will be published, including links to PDF documents like the narrative statement of fraud victim Melony Michaels. I hope the lawyers in that civil suit are doing a good job for Melony Michaels, because the name of their law firm is going to come up over and over, not unlike the name of slumlord Keith Reitman; who was the seller of the property in the fraudulent deal.

The headline over that gem: "Damn Right We're Appealing."


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