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Case 2:11-cv-02425-PBT

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Filed 04/07/11

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OLAS COONEY, PRO SE S. Hicks St.

delphia, PA 19146

904-6004

nickcooney@gmaiLcom

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EAS TERN DISTRICT OF PENNS YLVANIA

)

Case No.

NICHOLAS COONEY, an individuaL

vs.

Plaintiff,

) Case No. NICHOLAS COONEY, an individuaL vs. Plaintiff, ~ ) ) COMPLAINT FOR D!MAGES )

~

)

) COMPLAINT FOR D!MAGES

)

) 1. Defamation

) 2.

~

False Light

)

Wilson, an individual; Wetlands Activism Collective, a business; and JOHN DOES 1-50, )

)

Adam Weissman, an individual; Stephanie

3. Intentional Infliction Of

Emotional Distress

Inclusive.

[Unlimited Case Over 15,000.00]
l

Defendants.

)

)

)

)

~

1--------------)

Plaintiff Nicholas Cooney brings this suit for damages

for the improper and unlawful

defamation,campaign launched against him by Defendants. In support thereof Plaintiff states the

following:

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendants Stephanie Wilson, Adam Weissman, and Wetlands Activism Collective have

engaged in a concerted defamation campaign which seeks to ruin the reputation of Nicholas

COMPUUNTFORDAMAGES

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Cooney, an author and well-respected leader within the animal protection field.

Defendants have

disseminated defamatory accusations about Mr. Cooney through word of mouth, phone, email,

websites, internet postings, and printed flyers. Although the information spewing from these

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sources is false, Mr. Cooney has suffered substantial and likely irreparable damage to his

reputation.

Defendants must take responsibility for their abuse of the right to free speech.

It is when free speech morphs into defamation that we tum to the courts for help.

Mr.

Cooney wants his life back; he wants to save his reputation in the court of public opinion.

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II

II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

12 1. Jurisdiction of this court arises pursuant to Article III Section 2 of the United States

13 Constitution, as well as 28 U.S.C. Section 1332 (a) (1) which states that "The district

14 courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy

15 exceeds the sum or value of$75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between

16 citizens of different States."

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2. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1391 (a) (3) which states that "A civil

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action wherein jurisdiction is founded only on diversity of citizenship may, except as

19 otherwise provided by law, be brought only in

a judicial district in which a

20 substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. "

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3. This Court has personal jurisdiction over the out of state defendants based on the

22 Pennsylvania long-arm statute, 42 P.S. § 5322, under which a court's sole inquiry is

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whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutional.

Specific

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jurisdiction is established where the non-resident defendants have purposefully directed

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their activities at a resident of Pennsylvania and the injury arises from those activities.

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4. Defendants' defamatory claims included directly contacting professional colleagues of Mr. Cooney that live in Pennsylvania.

defamatory claims included directly contacting professional colleagues of Mr. Cooney that live in Pennsylvania.

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5. Defendants' defamatory claims included contacting professional and personal colleagues

of Mr. Cooney that live in Pennsylvania via an emaillistserv.

6. Defandats' defamatory claims were made with an explicit goal of harming Mr. Cooney's

ability to sell his book, an economic activity carried out by Me Cooney in Pennsylvania

where he sells and ships books from.

7. The damage to Mr. Cooney's reputation occurs primarily in Pennsylvania, where he lives

and works as the director of an animal protection organization and as a published author.

See Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984) and Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 46-48 (D.D.C. 1998).

8. The amount in controversy exceeds 75,000 dollars.

III. PARTIES

9. PlaintiffNlCHOLAS COONEY (hereinafter referred to as "COONEY" or "Plaintiff') is

now and at all times herein mentioned, a natural person residing in Philadelphia, P A.

10. Defendant Stephanie Wilson is a natural person who, upon information and

belief, resides at 144 Lincoln Ln., Chapel Hill, NC 27516. Defendant Adam Weissman is a

natural person residing in New York City, NY. Defendant Wetlands Activism Collective is a

non-profit business controlled by Defendant Adam Weissman that is located at 15 Thames St.,

Brooklyn, NY 11206.

11. Plaintiff is unaware of the true names and capacities, whether individual,

corporate, associate, or otherwise, of Defendants sued herein as JOHN DOES 1-50, inclusive,

and therefore sues those Defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiffwill amend this

complaint to allege their true names and capacities when ascertained. Plaintiff is informed and

believes and thereon alleges that each of the fictitiously named Defendants is legally

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COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

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responsible or negligent in some manner for the occurrences, acts, and omissions herein alleged,

and that Plaintiff s injuries and damages as herein alleged were directly and legally caused by

that negligence, willful, or intentional conduct Plaintiff is informed and believes and on that

basis alleges that all DOE Defendants are either residents of the State of Pennsylvania or are

subject to jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. Each reference in this complaint to Defendant,

Defendants, or a specifically named Defendant, refers also to all Defendants sued under

fictitious names.

IV. STATEMENT OF FACTS RELEVANT TO ALL CAUSES OF ACTION

12. This case is about the defamation campaign launched against Plaintiff in an

attempt to damage his reputation so that he can no longer serve as a leader in the animal

protection community, a field in which he has worked for the past eight years and a field which

he has dedicated his life to serving.

13. The defamation campaign launched against Plaintiff is also an attempt to harm

sales of Plaintiffs recently published book and to prevent Plaintiff from engaging in public

lectures and book sales.

14. In February 2011, defendants contacted Blue Stockings Bookstore in New York

City, NY demanding they cancel a planned talk and book sale by Plaintiff Defendants asserted

to Blue Stockings representatives that Plaintiff abuses animals, physically abuses women, and

sexually assaults women. Blue Stockings Bookstore canceled the planned talk just hours before

the event because they did not have the ability to deal with the protest and in-store disruption of

the event that Defendants threatened would occur.

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COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

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15. Defendants passed out flyers at Blue Stockings Bookstore the evening of the

planned talk asserting tharPlaintiffhad a history of sexual and physical violence against women

and violence against animals.

16. Defendants' flyer reads in part: "NICK COONEY: Abuser of Animals and

Women. Nick Cooney has an ugly history of violence against women, including instances of

physical, sexual and emotional violence against partners in relationships and other activists

When threats have not been enough, he has followed through on those threats causing physical

harm to companion animals in an attempt to intimidate and control both partners and other

women." Defendants' flyer encouraged the public to boycott Plaintiffs book.

17. Defendant Stephanie Wilson wrote and provided to other Defendants and to Blue

Stockings Bookstore a statement in which she alleges that, while she was dating Plaintiff in

2005-2006, Plaintiff raped her, threatened her on an almost daily basis, physically abused her,

encouraged housemates to threaten her as much as possible, and threatened to hurt or kill her

companion animals. Defendant Wilson requests in her statement that Plaintiff and the public not

be made aware that she is the one making these claims. Upon information and belief, this

. statement was written by Defendant Wilson in or around February, 2011.

18. In February of2011, Defendant Adam Weissman, operating on behalfof himself,

the Wetlands Activism Collective, and Defendant Wilson, emailed the text of the flyer and a

copy of Defendant Wilson's statement to mUltiple personal and professional contacts of

Plaintiff Recipients included Jason Del Gandio, a Temple University professor who resides in

Pennsylvania and who was asked by Defendants to rescind a praise quote he had issued for

Plaintiffs book. Defendants also contacted Plaintiffs publisher, Lantern Books, and upon

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COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

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information and belief asked Plaintiffs publisher to stop selling Plaintiffs book. Defendants'

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also contacted other colleagues of Plaintiff by phone and email and made similar demands that

they stop associating with Plaintiff.

19. In February of 20 11, Defendants posted the text of their flyer and similar

allegations tliat Plaintiff had sexually and physically assaulted women and physically abused

animals on the emaillistservofBlue Stockings Bookstore.

20. In March of2011, Defendants posted the text of their flyer and similar allegations

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that Plaintiff had sexually and physically assaulted women and physically abused animals on

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the website http://www.defendanimalsnyc.org.This site is registered to Defendant Adam

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Weissman and Defendant the Wetlands Activism Collective.

21. Defendants posted a link to the above-mentioned web article on their personal

Facebook pages.

22. In March of2011, Defendants posted the text of their flyer and similar allegations

17 that Plaintiff had sexually and physically assaulted women and physically abused animals on

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23. In March of2011, Defendants posted the text of their flyer and similar allegations

that Plaintiff had sexually and physically assaulted women and physically abused animals on

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22 the animal advocacy listserv "AR-News." The AR-News listserv is a popular emaillistserv that

23 reaches over 600 animal advocates from across the United States. Emails posted to the listserve

24 are also perpetually and publicly viewable through the AR-News online listserv archive.

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24. Upon information and belief, Defendants have made numerous other false and

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damaging statements about Plaintiff to many other individuals in the animal advocacy

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25. Defendant Adam Weissman and Defendant Wetlands Activism Collective have

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made, among others, the following false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff:

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a.

He has committed acts of physical violence against partners in

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relationships and others

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b.

He has committed acts of sexual violence against partners in relationships

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and others

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c.

He has committed acts of emotional violence against partners in

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relationships and others

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He threatened to hurt and has physically hurt companion animals in order

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to coerce partners in relationships and others

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e.

He is an abuser of animals and women

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26. Defendant Stephanie Wilson has made, among others, the following false and

defamatory statements about Plaintiff:

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He raped her

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He threatened her on a regular basis

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c. He threw plates at her

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d. He threatened to hurt or kill her animals

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e. He intentionally let her animals out of the house so he could chase her

around screaming at her

f He encouraged his housemates to threaten her as often as possible

g. He followed his ex-girlfriend around in a car

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COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

   

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h.

He'is a danger to women and anyone that gets in his way

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V. FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

 

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DEFAMATION - LIBEL and SLANDER PER SE

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(Against All Defendants)

 

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·27,

The allegations of paragraphs 1-26 are incorporated by reference as though

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fully set forth herein.

 

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The Defendants' phone calls and emails to Blue Stockings Bookstore, Jason Del

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Gandio, Lantern Press and other parties purport to be factual.

 

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29.

Defendants' printed flyer distributed outside of Blue Stockings Bookstore purport

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to be factual.

 

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30.

Defendant Wilson's statement, which has been disseminated via email to

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professional and personal contacts of the Plaintiff, purports to be factual.

 

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Defendants' postings on the AR-News listserv, Blue Stockings listserv, and on the

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http://www.Facebook.com. purport to be factual.

 

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32.

Defendants' statements from all of these sources were intentionally

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communicated to third parties in person, over the phone, over email, by printed flyer, via

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listservs, blogs, websites, and web postings.

 

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Individuals who read, saw, or heard these statements, including personal and

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professional contacts of Plaintiff as well as potential customers of his book and potential

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professional contacts, reasonably understood them to be about Plaintiff.

 

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COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

 

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34. The above-described statements convey a defamatory meaning to their audience.

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They harm the reputation of Plaintiff so as to lower it in the estimation of the community and

deter third persons from associating or dealing with Plaintiff and entice further baseless claims

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against Plaintiff.

35. All of the above~described statements of and concerning Plaintiff are false.

36. It was Defendants' expectation and intent that this defamatory matter would be

republished and further disseminated to the public at large as evidenced by their use of forums

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with broad readership/viewership such as blogs, popular listservs, website~, and Facebook.
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37. Defendants' publications of these false and defamatory statements of and

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concerning Plaintiff were not privileged.

38. Defendants were notified that their publications were defamatory via cease and

desist letters issued by Plaintiff's attorney to Defendants on March 12, 2011. Defendants failed to

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comply with or respond to the directives of the cease and desist letters.

39. Defendant Stephanie Wilson published the above-described defamatory

statements with actual malice - i.e. knowledge of their falsity.

40. Defendants Adam Weissman, Wetlands Activism Collective, and JOHN DOES

published the above-described defamatory statements with actual malice through a reckless

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41. As a result of Defendants' publication of these facts and defamatory statements

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with actual malice, Plaintiff has suffered damages in the form ofloss to reputation, lost profits,

and increased costs.

42. Defendants acted with malice [see Dun and Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss

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Builders, Inc., 472 U.S. 749, 105 S. Ct. 2939, 86 L.Ed.2d 593 (1985)] and engaged in highly

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reprehensible and despicable conduct warranting punitive damages.

43. Defendants accused Plaintiff of the serious, morally reprehensible crime of rape.

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Defendants also accused Plaintiff of behavior incompatible with his profession of animal

advocacy.

44. Accordingly, Defendants' actions constitute defamation per se and Plaintiff need

not demonstrate special damages for purpose of slander.

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VI. SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

FALSE LIGHT

(Against All Defendants)

45. The allegations of paragraphs 1-44 are re-alleged and incorporated herein, by

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reference.

46. . Based on the aforementioned facts, Defendants published numerous claims about

Plaintiff that were false and would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, including that he

is a rapist, physically abuses and physically threatens women, threatens animals, and abuses

animals.

47. These claims purport to be factual.

48. These claims would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

VII. THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

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(Against All Defendants)

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49. The allegations of paragraphs 1-48 are re-alleged and incorporated by

reference herein.

50. Based on the aforementioned facts, the conduct of Defendants was outrageous and

beyond the bounds of decency such that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.

Plaintiff was and has been forced to endure great pain, anguish, shock, feelings of helplessness

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and desperation with Defendants' attempts to stain Plaintiff's reputation and encourage others to

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boycott his book.

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51. Defendants, and each of them, acted intentionally in conscious effort to cause

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52. Defendants'

conduct has had a severe, traumatic

and lasting effect on Plaintiffs

emotional tranquility.

As a proximate result of the outrageous acts of the Defendants, Plaintiff

has suffered severe emotional distress and a loss of and reduction of enjoyment in life.

53. The distress created was in time and manner sufficiently substantial such that a

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reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities would suffer under the circumstances.

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Since the time of Defendants' initial statements, Plaintiff has incurred financial

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losses in addressing these defamatory claims including costs associated with preparation for

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litigation of this case.

55. As a direct and proximate result of the intentional, malicious, harmful, unlawful

24 and offensive acts of Defendants, as aforesaid, Plaintiff has sustained severe and serious injury

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to his person, including but not limited to severe emotional distress, mental anguish and

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suffering, and impairment of reputation and standing in the community.

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Wherefore:

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AS TO THE FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION, Plaintiff prays judgment against Defendants, for

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damages in excess of $75,000, in amounts according to proof:

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F or

compensatory damages;

2. For punitive damages;

3. Upon a verdict or judicial finding in favor of Cooney on his defamation claim, for

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a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from issuing defamatory statements about Plaintiff

to others through the phone, internet, in person, or thorough any other means;

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4. For costs of suit incurred herein;

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5. For any attorneys' fees incurred herein and;

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6. For such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

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AS TO THE SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION, Plaintiff prays judgment against Defendant, for

damages in excess of $75,000, in amounts according to proof, for:

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For compensatory damages;

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For punitive damages;

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Upon a verdict or judicial finding in favor of Cooney on his defamation claim, for

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22 a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from issuing defamatory statements

23 about Plaintiff to others through the phone, internet; in person, or thorough any other

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4. For costs of suit incurred herein;

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5. For any attorneys' fees incurred herein and;

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6. For such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

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AS TO THE THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION, Plaintiff prays judgment against Defendant for:

1. Special damages according to proof;

2. Loss of enjoyment oflife, in an amount according to proof;

3. Compensatory damages, including mental anguish and suffering, personal humiliation,

and impairment of reputation and standing in the community, in an amount according to proof;

4. Punitive damages in an amount judged appropriate by this Court;

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5. For any attorneys' fees incurred herein;

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6. For costs of suit incurred herein;

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7. For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

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Dated: April 7, 2011
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Respectfully Submitted By,

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7, 2011 16 Respectfully Submitted By, 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 NICHOLAS COONEY, PRO

NICHOLAS COONEY, PRO SE

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