The Difference In Criminal & Civil Harassment – A Back-story In The Lawsuit
In the lawsuit filed by Elaine Farris she states; “the Defendant, Patricia Columbia, swore out a false Criminal Complaint, alleging harassment against the Plaintiff’s niece, who is an employee of Fayette County Schools, in an attempt to further harass and embarrass the Plaintiff. The criminal conduct was alleged to have occurred on the day Elaine Farris was being evaluated.” Odd thing to find in a defamation suit against me, don’t you think? This is the only specific incident listed in her multi-page suit and I’m not even involved. With about a 100 other individuals I happen to be present when the alleged incident occurred so how come I’m the only one sued?
The suit claims that charges were filed as a means to “further embarrass her”. The problem there is that we never brought the charges to the attention of the public. Elaine did. So, if she suffered embarrassment it was by her own hand. But since she brought it up let’s talk about it.
It’s important to note that the niece, Tiffany Davis, is innocent until proven guilty. Her guilt or innocence rests in the hands of a jury of her peers not her aunt or public opinion. It is also important to note that Elaine Farris, as of the writing of this blog, has not been charged with any crime.
There are two types of harassment; criminal and civil. Davis’s alleged harassment is criminal. Criminal charges require presenting evidence to the county attorney who determines if it points to possible criminal activity. The county attorney is paid by tax payers not individuals and is under no obligation to bring a case to trial that doesn’t have merit. If Davis is found guilty a jury will determine her punishment may range from fines and community service to jail time.
The Columbias and I face civil harassment charges which have no criminal element. Cases like ours are handled by private attorneys who have no burden of proof at all. All that is needed is an accusation and money and you’ve got yourself a case. Sadly, a civil suit can be filed by anyone for any reason without the first shred of evidence. Civil cases are less about crime and more about punishment. And the punishment always comes in the form of a big fat check.
A civil suit is raised for one of two reasons. Someone has something happen to them, such as a fall or car accident and an attorney specializing in that area files a lawsuit on behalf of the injured. The other is what many call a spite, punishing or vindictive lawsuit. These suits are often fueled by someone wanting to exert influence and power over another, especially if the person being sued doesn’t have the financial means for a pay-out to end the torment. This type of suit drags on racking up hefty legal fees for the victim until a judge finally calls a halt to the charade and tosses the case. There may be other reasons for civil cases but as far as I can tell these are the main reasons.
Farris filed her lawsuit within days of her niece being served papers alleging criminal activity. Incidentally, the attorney for Davis’s criminal case and Farris’s civil one is of the same firm. Which opens a slew of ethical questions for me. Especially, considering the fact that Farris has refused to give a deposition detailing her claims in a suit she filed. It makes me wonder if the civil attorney is buying time to see how the criminal case fares in court. That is of course my own person speculation.
Obviously, Davis may be found innocent. But one thing is for absolute certain, it is not up to Farris or her attorney to determine if the accusations against Davis are false. Talk about slander. The County Attorney found sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal case. Meanwhile, Farris uses a spite suit to slander the victim and potential witness. The only only individuals that have the authority to judge the merits of Davis case are those sitting in the jury box. The way I see it, for Farris and her attorney to publicly accuse Columbia of the crime of filing a false criminal complaint and then to try to pass that label on to me, is more than slander. It’s a flat-out lie and borderline criminal in itself.