Eight of the Eleven Defendants Dismissed from Pickrodt Lawsuit

Nassau County Judge Thomas Feinman is pictured in a 2003 photo. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Almost sixty days after his review began, Judge Thomas Feinman of the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, chose to dismiss eight of the eleven defendants named in small-press publisher Cody Pickodt’s $2.5 million defamation lawsuit.

Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore (cartoonists); Josh O’Neill (publisher); Rob Clough (critic); Jordan Shiveley and Tom Kaczynski/Uncivilized Books (publishers and cartoonists) are all, seemingly, free and clear.

Their lawyer, Aurore DeCarlo of C.A. Goldberg, said she doesn't know if Pickrodt, via his lawyer Joe Carbonaro of Carbonaro Law, will appeal the decision. She hasn’t received such notice. But she believes the statutes of limitations have passed for any additional civil lawsuits Pickrodt could file in states other than New York, and she knows for sure he cannot pursue new legal action there.

Carbonaro, in a brief statement offered to The Comics Journal, seemed to let the matter lie by providing some analysis of the judge’s decision. He then opted to look ahead, knowing three defendants still remain. They are Whit Taylor, Hazel Newlevant, and Morgan Pielli.

“The Judge's decision is entirely procedural and has no bearing on the underlying merits of the case (i.e., whether Taylor defamed Pickrodt),” Carbonaro wrote. “The judge found there was insufficient connection between the out of state defendants and New York to allow us to go forward (with discovery to establish jurisdiction).

“But the case against Ms. Taylor is viable and will continue until final resolution.”

Carbonaro made no mention of an appeal, and he did not offer additional comment when presented follow-up questions.

The judge’s dismissal is due to a motion filed by DeCarlo on Jan. 4, 2019, in which the eight defendants questioned the court’s jurisdiction. They cited their residencies in other states, their lack of business within New York and their having been outside state lines when the allegedly defamatory statements were made.

As well, they argued that Pickrodt duplicated his claims against the defendants.

His complaint alleged that all 11 people named in the lawsuit interfered with his business relationships and inflicted emotional distress, as well as harmed his reputation by making allegedly defamatory statements.

Siding with the defendants, the court found that Pickrodt failed to show how his claims of business interference and emotional distress were legitimate, as well as how any damage he may have suffered under those claims was different or independent of his claim of defamation.

Pickrodt’s complaint was originally filed in August 2018. The lawsuit was in response to a Google document that was publicly shared by Taylor, Knetzger, Louthan, and Gennis in October 2017, wherein the cartoonists accused Pickrodt of rape, sexual harassment, making anti-Semitic remarks, and withholding royalty payments. The remaining defendants voiced support for the document’s authors via social media while also denouncing Pickrodt.

Taylor, Newlevant, and Pielli did not participate in the motion to dismiss, as they all reside in New York. Instead, they submitted full answers to Pickrodt’s complaint.

Taylor also submitted a counterclaim to make the allegation in civil court that Pickrodt raped her in New York City in December 2013. The counterclaim refers to Pickrodt’s alleged conduct toward her as a felony and a “crime of violence motivated by gender.”

Taylor seeks punitive and compensatory damages at unspecified amounts, as well as attorneys’ fees and the lawsuit’s dismissal. Pickrodt formally denied the counterclaim in a Jan. 7, 2019 filing.

DeCarlo and Carbonaro will both appear, on behalf of their clients, at the Nassau County Supreme Court on June 18, 2019 for a preliminary conference, where they’ll set a schedule for litigating the case. It’s here a discovery process could receive a start date, in which Taylor may be able to prove her counterclaim.

DeCarlo has previously said Taylor is prepared to undergo the discovery process. Her client originally stated in her Google Document testimony that a friend took her to a hospital after the alleged rape occurred. DeCarlo has not said what evidence will be provided to the court, but she has acknowledged that hospital records from Taylor’s reported visit could play a role.

There’s also the possibility of a settlement, sweeping the entire lawsuit aside.

DeCarlo simply acknowledged it as a possibly, saying the subject is a point of discussion between her and Carbonaro. She offered no indication as to whether a settlement is imminent.

“We’re always talking about it, yeah,” DeCarlo said. “But, obviously, I won’t go into the details of those discussions.

“That’s been an ongoing conversation since the beginning of the lawsuit,” she added. “It’s always on the table.”

In interest of full disclosure, Alec Berry is a former employee of Uncivilized Books. The defendants Taylor, Kaczynski, and Clough have contributed writing to this website.

 The Comics Journal’s coverage of this lawsuit, so far:

Rape, Sexual Harassment Allegations Prompt Defamation Suit from Small-Press Comics Publisher Cody Pickrodt

“How Do We Cope with Something Like That?”: SPX and the CBLDF Confront Defamation Lawsuit Aimed at The 11

New Developments In Pickrodt Lawsuit May Point to a “Time-Consuming” Future

Judge Reviewing Motion to Dismiss in Pickrodt Lawsuit