Claremore Daily Progress

State/Nation

October 18, 2013

Citizens who circulated petition uneasy

DA expected to add 25 more to libel lawsuit

CLAREMORE —

Rogers County citizens who helped circulate the court-rejected  grand jury petition to investigate the district attorney’s office  were on edge Thursday, potential  targets of a defamation lawsuit against sponsors of the petition campaign.
District Attorney Janice Steidley and two of her top assistants listed 25 unnamed defendants under the placeholder name “John Doe” in the prosecutors’ libel suit filed Wednesday, one day after a judge tossed out the petition and its 6,994 registered voter signatures on the technical ground the signature pages included unauthorized wording.
The suit said the identity of the anonymous defendants would  be revealed during the discovery phase of the legal action as residents of the county “who created, drafted, circulated, or otherwise republished” petition allegations of criminal and civil misconduct by DA Steidley and her assistants.
“It is my understanding that anyone who had a petition and gathered signatures could be a target,” said businessman Myron Grubowski, a sponsor of the grand jury petition.  “Our friends, neighbors and co-workers have all become a target of this lawsuit.  It is unfortunate to see the legal system used against the people it was designed to protect.”
Grubowski was named as a defendant in the suit, which seeks financial damages that could exceed $500,000, along with the five other petition sponsors: Sheriff Scott Walton, Claremore police officers John Singer and Steve Cox, businessman Russell Guilfoyle, and Billy D. Jones, father of two rape victims. 
The suit, which seeks a jury trial, contends the leaders of the petition drive maliciously and wrongly accused the district attorney and her assistants of corruption and criminal and civil misconduct.
Sheriff Walton said he was informed of the defamation lawsuit by a Tulsa television station, News on 6, before he was served with a formal notice of the complaint against him. The station apparently received a copy of the suit before it was made available to the defendants or the public.

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