Someone lied about me in an affidavit. Now what?
April 19, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

A good friend and former employee is going through a tough divorce. I filled an affidavit testifying to her child care and parenting skills (we both worked at a private school). Her husband's responding affidavit accused me (falsely!) of drunken altercations with the local police. Should I be worried? Should I respond?

My friend's divorce may ruin my career. Her (now ex-)husband is an EMT and cop wannabe who has used his connections to the local police to intimidate her.

As part of these games, he has countered my affidavit with one containing a completely fabricated story about me shouting at and threatening a cop who I've never met (I've never had any contact with the police outside of my job as the head of the school).

So, there is now an affidavit on file that is false, based in hearsay, and potentially damaging to my future work in my field (school administration).

Should I be concerned that some future employer will see this affidavit? Should I notify the judge in the divorce case? Should I sue for slander/libel? Should I just not worry about it? Help me, hive mind!

Just to be clear--out of 56 affidavits filled by my friend, her ex responded with 56 separate lies, including accusation of witchcraft, lesbianism, pedophilia, etc. I got off easier than most of her friends. And I suspect the judge didn't read ANY of the filed affidavits.
posted by OlderThanTOS to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get a consultation from a lawyer with defamation experience. Perhaps you can make this guy and his pig corroborator pay.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:58 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Clarification: Not interested in damages or really any public attention here! Just want to know how much exposure I have and if there's any way to minimize it.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 1:02 PM on April 19, 2008

You really want to talk to an attorney. Dude may not care how nasty his divorce case gets, but if he starts getting lots of nastygrams from attorneys of people he's defamed/libeled in the course of the case he may need to rethink his strategy a bit...
posted by ubernostrum at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2008

Divorce proceedings don't generally end up posted to the net, so I think your exposure is pretty limited from an actual damages perspective. (Will anyone except the judge ever see it?) It will get filed away somewhere, probably forever. I don't see this affecting your career prospects.

It sounds like the ex-husband filed the affidavit not the cop right? If it was the ex-husband, ignore it. It will be taken as typical ugly divorce stuff, even if it ever is seen again.

If it was a cop who made up out of whole cloth, I think you should do something about it. It is in everyone's interest to do something about cops who are that crooked. But here we get a little out of my depth. Get a lawyer and have the lawyer contact the police department?
posted by pseudonick at 1:25 PM on April 19, 2008

If you've had a drunken altercation with police, there WILL be a record of it. If he can't produce it, then you hold the cards. This is a court affadavit he filed - how does he feel about a perjury charge? Seriously, I may be off base with the above, but if you're that worried about your reputation, it may be a very good idea to consult an attorney.
posted by azpenguin at 1:25 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I would probably at least consult with an attorney, and file a responsive affidavit giving a calm, brief recitation. Anything you can say that makes you sound like a perfect citizen girl scout by mainstream standards: E.g., I have worked at company X for 15 years. I have been married for 10 years. I have no criminal record. I own my own home. There are no blemishes on my credit history. I have not had so much as a speeding ticket for 20 years. Etc. And then at the end, I have never met cop Y and have never shouted at or threatened any cop in my life. The allegation is completely fabricated. Then you would sign under penalty of perjury, etc. Have the attorney take a look at your draft before you send it in. Maybe he or she can think of something more for you to say.

Generally, all of this family law stuff is completely confidential, and does not become public. And it sounds like this guy has no credibility. But if it anything ever did come out (very unlikely), you want to have your response in the file. Or, I would anyway.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:43 PM on April 19, 2008

Does this ex-husband have a police connection that is corroborating his affidavit? If you have a clear conscience about the accusation, then you should contact the police and involve their ombudsman or internal investigator if necessary.

And yes, get a lawyer.
posted by randomstriker at 1:45 PM on April 19, 2008

I too would seek the counsel of an attorney specializing in defamation/libel/slander. Not because you are seeking damages (because you don't have any yet), but to clear the record. You never know when someone in the future might stumble across their divorce records and see this stuff on file about you. You should at least be on record as denying the claim, and at most getting it expunged from the proceedings, perjury charges and bar investigations as to whether his lawyer was complicit in the lie.

"Her (now ex-)husband is an EMT and cop wannabe who has used his connections to the local police to intimidate her. "

People with these sorts of desires and connections are sometimes dangerous. Normal people who want to be police officers just fill out applications and get hired somewhere. Washouts and wannabes have something wrong with them that NO police force wanted them around. Be careful.
posted by gjc at 1:53 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get a lawyer. And also make sure your friend's lawyer is aware of the situation.

If someone asserts something to be true in court, the other side has the right to cross-examine that person (that's why hearsay is not allowed). That should take care of any groundless accusations.

I would definitely pursue an official complaint with the police department. (But seriously, don't act on any other advice before you've talked to your own lawyer)
posted by winston at 1:54 PM on April 19, 2008

If someone asserts something to be true in court, the other side has the right to cross-examine that person (that's why hearsay is not allowed). That should take care of any groundless accusations.

If it's a sworn affidavit on the husband's part, then he was under oath at the time that he submitted the affidavit, which is not just libel but also perjury. The husband could end up in jail for this -- judges do NOT take kindly to that kind of thing. If you choose to pursue this with a lawyer of your own, or even just by writing a letter to the judge, then you could seriously help your friend out without becoming too embroiled in it.

Obviously, accusations of witchcraft are a little hard to prove. But there would definitely be records of threatening a police officer.

Does the affidavit contain the name of a police officer? Then you should contact the police department and let them know that this officer's name was listed in the affidavit.
posted by SpecialK at 2:33 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

A whackko wannabe cop is falsely accusing you of this and that.

An affidavit has to be signed under oath. Lie and get charged with perjury — the courts take these matters seriously.

I'd take it very seriously and respond in kind with a lawyer experienced in these cases. Interview the lawyer, find out the charges and what was the outcome of his cases. This whack job wannabe's cop connection [if you don't know who it is, the supervisor of the precinct the affidavit was signed in] needs to get a letter from your attorney.

Nevermind what it looks like on your resume or police file, this is a personal attack and perjury. Those on the force are paid by your taxes - you don't want someone on the force who is whack job's connection committing crimes on his behalf. The authorities need to be advised of these two's criminal behaviour.

Judges know who the bad apples are and generally don't take kind to this kind of criminal activity from those who are hired to uphold the law.
I'm not a lawyer — get one, cover your ass and then some, do your civic duty and out these 2 fucking criminals, one whom you described as being on the force, under the tutelage of the wannabe other.

In Canada, I'd cc the attorney's letter to my Member of Parliament also.
Go high, way over their heads.

All the best and stay cool.
posted by alicesshoe at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2008

Start by consulting with your friend's attorney. You and she have a mutual interest in proving you are an upstanding, reliable character witness and that this guy is a liar. And you wouldn't have been subject to this false accusation if not for helping her out. So it's appropriate that the resolution be at her expense not yours.

Of course, if her lawyer either can't prove the lie or considers it too trivial a point to deal with part as part of your friend's case, then yeah next step would be calling a defamation lawyer. But consider the Streisand Effect. Making a case of it is raises the likelihood of someone hearing what you don't want them to hear.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:30 PM on April 19, 2008

Seems pretty serious to me- you're in the education business, which tends to be run directly by the state or involves licensing and approvals by state agencies. This is in the public record.

Call a lawyer.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:42 PM on April 19, 2008

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