We learn today that Steve Hinder is seeking up to $200,000 in damages from Anthony Pullano in a counter claim for defamation.
Hinder’s lawyer Deborah Berlach tells the jury that her client wants $25,000 - $50,000 for loss of reputation. She says Hinder was so affected by Pullano’s relentless tweeting that he “limited some of his interactions in the community”. Hinder also wants a further $25,000 - $50,000 for aggravated damages and $100,000 in punitive damages for the way in which Pullano used a public forum to attack Hinder “unremittingly”. She tells the jury Pullano published his world view that Mr Hinder was a bully, thug and racist on Twitter.
This is the defamation Hinder complains of. And these are eye watering amounts he claims in damages.
Hinder and WOPs
In her closing speech to the jury this morning, Hinder’s lawyer says Pullano’s assertion that Hinder mouthed the word WOP is
“completely unsupported by the evidence”
Deborah Berlach is now taking the jury through some of Pullano’s most acidic tweets:
“Magna International thug who hates WOPs”
She says this means to her that Hinder is racist. She pulls up another tweet about WOPs
“There can be no doubt these were intended to lower Mr Hinder’s respect in the community.”
Now she refers to the infamous remark attributed to Hinder:
“If these WOPs get elected we will have to roll up our tents and leave town.”
She tells the jury:
“There is no evidence before you that statement was ever made.”
The evidence from Aurora businessman, Fred Rankel, that he heard Hinder say this was never put to the jury. With the jury absent from the Courtroom, the Judge ruled it would be highly prejudicial to the defence.
The remark was made by Hinder to former Aurora Mayor Tim Jones in Rankel’s hearing on 10 June 2014. But the Judge ruled that Rankel could only be examined on the affidavit he swore in 2015 which focussed on the events of 20 March 2014 – the night of Jane Twinney’s nomination.
Rankel also told the Court he heard Hinder refer to the former Mayor of Aurora, Phyllis Morris, as Syphilis Morris but he was immediately stopped in his tracks by the Judge who asked the jury to leave while he (the Judge) discussed the line of questioning being pursued by Pullano’s lawyer William Reid.
Reid told the Judge getting these statements on the record was vital given Hinder’s counter-claim for defamation which was lodged in 2018.
Deborah Berlach tells the jury that these racial slurs (about WOPs) were designed to diminish Hinder’s reputation in the community.
“If Mr Hinder was a racist you would expect there to be evidence. There is none.”
Just a handshake
Hinder’s lawyer tells the jury that, on the evening of 20 March 2014 at Jane Twinney’s acclamation, Mr Hinder did nothing more than shake Mr Pullano’s hand.
“There was no physical contact of any kind other than the handshake.”
Mr Abel and Mr Desai were close beside and
“Each said clearly and unequivocally there was no more than a handshake.”
Now she hands over to Pullano’s lawyer, William Reid, who reviews the evidence, taking us up hill and down dale. He starts by quoting Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of a bully. He says:
“If (the jury decides) Hinder is a bully the defamation action fails.”
He tells the jury Pullano’s witnesses are not rehearsed. There are some inconsistencies but this points to greater veracity. Wanda Cena, for example, can’t recall which hand Hinder used to punch Pullano.
Reid says Hinder’s witnesses are all rehearsed. They remembered the exact words uttered by Hinder when the words (back then) were of no consequence.
Reid tells the jury Magna’s Mark Neeb sat on Pullano’s complaint of 26 March 2014 and did nothing about it until September 2014.
Now Reid is focussing on Hinder’s memory.
On 22 May 2015 when Hinder gave a full statement on the events of 20 March 2014 he did not mention the second interaction with Pullano.
Hinder says he first became aware of Pullano’s allegations of assault on 22 May 2015. Magna’s Mark Neeb said he told Hinder in September 2014.
Reid says that Hinder was specifically asked if Neeb told him about the assault. Hinder says no.
Hinder does not recall the encounter when Pullano says to him:
“Listen you fuck I am calling Magna. Tomorrow I am calling…”
Reid closes by summarising the medical evidence. He says the jury must decide on the balance of probabilities if an infection was caused by a punch. He says Pullano had to go through two operations, one to take out the old infected ICD and another to implant a new one. He says Pullano’s heart function has deteriorated. He summarises Pullano’s claim: $100,000 - $125,000 for general damages and a further $50,000 for aggravated damages and $100,000 for punitive damages, deterring others from doing anything similar.
As Reid sits down, Deborah Berlach immediately flags up six concerns about his closing speech. The Judge agrees with Berlach and gives Reid a public dressing down.
The Judge tells the jury to disregard various points because they are irrelevant, inappropriate or are not supported by the evidence. Personally, I think it is all a bit harsh but then what do I know? I am not a lawyer but I do have a very highly developed sense of justice and what is right and wrong.
Reid referred to Hinder as “muscle” who leaned (unsuccessfully) on Chris Ballard’s office to get them to advertise in Aurora Snap’d. We are told that is inappropriate.
Reid is told he can’t tell the jury that an early apology from Hinder would have sufficed.
He can’t refer to Fred Rankel’s friend Roy Cohen who was with him at the Jane Twinney acclamation as, perhaps, “another set of eyes” when Cohen was not called as a witness.
Reid can’t suggest collusion between Hinder and his witnesses although the jury can draw that inference if they are so minded.
He can’t say Hinder and Neeb got their wires crossed on when Hinder first knew Pullano was claiming there was an assault.
I don’t know how much weight the jury will give to this stuff.
Who is lying?
My advice to the jury (not that they should or will be reading this) is to keep it simple.
Did Hinder punch Pullano? Or was it a handshake?
In other words
Who is lying?
Tomorrow, Thursday 6 December 2018, Mr Justice McCarthy sums up the evidence and gives his directions to the jury.