Ex-Girlfriend Threatens APN Libel Suit over Nkromo Sex Tape Reference (UPDATE 1)

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(APN) ATLANTA — The ex-girlfriend of Kwabena Nkromo, who is now a candidate for Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education District 2, has threatened Atlanta Progressive News with a libel suit following an August 03, 2011, article in APN concerning Nkromo.  (SEE EDITORIAL NOTE BELOW REGARDING UPDATE.)

In the August 03, 2011, article, APN reported that Nkromo is ineligible to run for the seat because, according to his own blog post, he lived with the ex-girlfriend in her home in the Poncey-Highlands neighborhood from November 2010 to May 2011.

In the same blog post by Nkromo, dated June 26, 2011, Nkromo wrote that, “Both [his ex-girlfriend] and Kwabena engaged in extreme over reactions to perceived and real emotional or financial injuries that followed their break up, resulting in behaviors and actions such as… Kwabena’s release of intimate images and digital videos of their private sex life in response.”  APN reprinted this quote in the August 03 article.

According to two sources at City Hall, Nkromo–apparently in retribution to his ex-girlfriend–sent copies of privately recorded sex tapes involving Nkromo and his ex-girlfriend to numerous Atlanta civic leaders, including Members of the City Council of Atlanta.

Today, Arianna Sykes in Cleta Winslow’s office told APN that Winslow was one of the Council Members to received the tape and photos from Nkromo.  “They were so raunchy that she had us delete all of it,” Sykes said, adding that it was also sent to other Council offices.

Now, Nkromo wrote in his June 26 blog post that the post itself was a joint statement from his ex-girlfriend and Nkromo.

The ex-girlfriend contacted APN later that day, on August 03, and then again on August 04, to request a correction in that she did not co-author the statement with Nkromo.

APN immediately issued a correction to note that the statement was purported to be by the ex-girlfriend and Nkromo, but that she denied having co-authored the statement.

The ex-girlfriend seemed to have been happy with the resolution.

However, on August 08, 2011, Bernard Brody, an attorney with Pate & Brody, LLP, wrote a threatening letter to APN.

“Please be advised that our firm has been retained to represent [Nkromo’s ex-girlfriend] with respect to false and defamatory information that was published on August 3, 2011 by your news organization,” Brody wrote, on behalf of the ex-girlfriend.

“As you have been made aware, your article entitled ‘EXCLUSIVE: Nkromo Ineligible for School Board Seat’ contained false and embarassing information regarding [Nkromo’s ex-girlfriend] that included, in part, the reporting of a purported ‘joint statement’ made by her and Mr. Nkromo,” Brody wrote.

“This information was taken from Mr. Nkromo’s personal blog which can hardly be described as a trustworthy news source,” Brody wrote.

“You have kindly agreed to publish a partial retraction of this material, and, as a result, no legal action will be taken at this time,” Brody wrote.

“Any further publication of information about [Nkromo’s ex-girlfriend] taken from Mr. Nkromo, or other questionable sources, may result in legal action,” Brody wrote.

Now, the underlying information about Nkromo’s distribution of the tapes is not false.  The only information that was allegedly false was Nkromo’s attribution of his statement to both himself and ex-girlfriend.

However, the ex-girlfriend implicitly acknowledged in phone conversations with APN later that Nkromo did distribute the tape; and this is consistent with the statements by Nkromo, Sykes, and a source at City Hall.

APN published the information regarding Nkromo’s admitting to distributing a sex tape made privately with the ex-girlfriend because it is important for voters to know that Nkromo–now a candidate for School Board–engaged in behavior that was so vindictive, base, and appalling, that voters should be concerned.  The issue was not the recording of the tape itself, but his decision to distribute it.

Incidentally, Nkromo did qualify for the race on August 05, 2011, but the qualification has not yet been certified.

APN’s News Editor–the present writer–filed a residency challenge with Atlanta Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson on August 05, but Johnson later said the challenge was invalid because it had to come from a resident of District 2.

Meanwhile, APN made a request under the Georgia Open Records Act to Councilwoman Winslow on July 30, 2011, for “any and all copies of any email communications received from Kwabena Nkromo, dating back to January 01, 2011.”

APN followed up with Winslow’s office on August 01, 2011.  Winslow’s staff person, Arianna Sykes, confirmed the request was received and said it was forwarded to the Law Department.

APN checked with the Law Department who said Kristen Denius, a city attorney, handles all public record requests.

However, when APN saw Denius in court on Monday and asked Denius about it, Denius denied having received it and said it should not have been forwarded to her in the first place.

It is now almost two weeks later and Winslow’s office is in violation of the Open Records Act for not responding in a timely manner.

APN also made the same request to Councilman Ivory Young (District 3) and received no response.  APN spoke with Leslie Williams in Young’s office today, who said she would be looking into the matter and that somebody would call APN back.

SEVERE OPEN RECORDS CONFUSION AT THE CITY OF ATLANTA

The City of Atlanta seems to experiencing severe confusion about how to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act, and APN’s News Editor is considering filing a legal action against the City if they do not get their act together.

Previously, Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson and Committee on Council Chairwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) both told APN that all public record requests are to be sent to the person who is in custody of the document being requested.

However, Sykes in Winslow’s office first said that they were instructed to forward all requests to the Law Department, which another Council aide confirmed.  But, as mentioned above, Denius in the Law Department said that was not the correct procedure.

Today, Barbara Washington in Winslow’s office said all Open Records Requests need to be sent to Dexter Chambers, the Council’s director of communications.

Then, Williams in Young’s office said all Open Records Requests need to be sent to Clerk Johnson’s office.  As already stated, Clerk Johnson has already said that is not correct.

Young, Winslow, Clerk Johnson, Mr. Chambers, and the Law Department need to figure out who is going to respond to APN’s record request and do so promptly.

(END / 2011)

EDITOR’S NOTE: On January 04, 2012, this article was updated to remove the name of Nkromo’s ex-girlfriend.  As already noted, her identity was not relevant to the story, except insasmuch that APN had received a joint press release purportedly from the ex-girlfriend and Nkromo.  As already noted, APN had already issued a correction to note that the ex-girlfriend stated she did not author the press release; however, despite her statements to APN that she was satisfied with this correction, she proceeded to have her attorney send a letter threatening a libel lawsuit to APN.  Originally, this article, concerning the libel lawsuit, as well as the previous article concerning Nkromo, contained the name of the ex-girlfriend.

In APN’s history of nearly one thousand original full-length news articles, APN has never removed the name of a person from an article, despite requests to do so from the affected individuals.  This has included persons arrested who did not want their names in print, or persons who ran for office and later regreted it and wanted it scrubbed from the Internet.  APN’s Board of Directors discussed the present matter and decided that the name could be removed, but only because of the unique circumstances of this case.  Specifically, if Nkromo had not issued the apparently false press release, the name would not have been reported in the first place.  Because the ex-girlfriend stated that the two articles were causing negative impacts on her professional career, as APN’s Editor, I decided to use my discretion to err on the side of protecting a person who had been victimized by Mr. Nkromo; and not because there was any legal merit to her attorney’s claims of libel.

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