Belfast lawsuit involving brothel allegations awaits judge's ruling to proceed

Sep. 17—The eight Waldo County residents accused of spreading brothel-related rumors about two Belfast women are waiting for a judge to rule on whether or not to dismiss the lawsuit before it proceeds to trial.

If the judge dismisses the matter, the group's attorney said he intends to file a lawsuit against the women bringing the allegations. The group is being sued by Belfast mother and daughter, Rose Woodford and April Walker, for allegedly spreading rumors about the women on Facebook.

The eight people accused ― including two Belfast city councilors ― have denied making the comments and instead allege the Facebook comments included in the lawsuit as evidence are fabricated.

"This lawsuit is based on fabricated Facebook posts. My clients never wrote or posted any such statements. Filing a lawsuit based on fabricated evidence is a grave matter. My clients have been defamed through the misuse of the judicial process and have suffered significant financial damages. As soon as the lawsuit has been dismissed, I will be bringing a lawsuit against the plaintiffs and others to fully compensate my clients," Chris MacLean, the attorney representing the eight defendants said.

However, Woodford said she personally saw the comments while on Facebook and printed out screenshots, which were included in the lawsuit, according to an affidavit filed last month.

The alleged comments accused the women of running a brothel at their Church Street home and hosting sex parties there. One Facebook comment included in the lawsuit insinuated that Jeffrey Epstein had visited the house.

The lawsuit was filed in May by Walker and Woodford against Belfast City Councilors Mike Hurley and Neal Harkness, as well as Cheryl Fuller, Mandy Marriner-Everett, Anne Saggese, Joshua Ard, Erik Klausmeyer and Allison Ames Goscinski.

MacLean has filed both a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment in the case. Maclean claims that the lawsuit is based on fictitious evidence and constitutes a type of lawsuit that attempts to discourage his clients from participating in public conversations regarding local issues, and should therefore be dismissed.

As of Friday, a judge has yet to issue a ruling on either motion and there is no timetable for a decision.

The attorney representing Woodford and Walker has filed oppositions to both of MacLean's motions. The attorney, David Walker, argues that Maine's anti-SLAPP statute that MacLean is seeking dismissal under ― which allows courts to dismiss meritless or frivolous lawsuits that seek to silence or harass those who speak out on issues of public interest ― does not apply to the comments allegedly made on Facebook by the eight defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants allegedly began spreading rumors on a Belfast-related Facebook page about the women after they expressed their opposition to a proposal for a former school to be converted into rental properties more than two years ago. The accused claim they never made the alleged comments about Woodford and Walker, but say they did participate in public discussion surrounding the Pierce School proposal, according to court documents.

David Walker has previously said his clients vehemently deny fabricating any evidence and that Woodford herself obtained the comments from Facebook.

Editor's note: Despite having the same last name, David Walker is not related to his client April Walker.