Comic book creator and publisher Cody Pickrodt of Ray Ray Books is filing a defamation lawsuit, according to Alec Berry's comprehensive and detailed report in The Comics Journal (TCJ). The lawsuit is targeted against 11 people over accusations that Pickrodt committed rape and sexual harassment, made anti-Semitic remarks, and withheld royalties.
The claims focus on a shared Google Doc published last year, including allegations made by cartoonist Whit Taylor against Pickrodt, and on those who supported that accusation and added to it.
TCJ reports that these include cartoonists Whit Taylor, Laura Knetzger, Emma Louthan, Emi Gennis, Ben Passmore, Hazel Newlevant, Jordan Shiveley, Morgan Pielli, Tom Kaczynski and his publisher Uncivilized Books, publisher Josh O'Neill, and critic Rob Clough.
TCJ quotes Pickrodt's attorney, Joe Carbonaro of Carbonaro Law, as stating that the claims are false, that Pickrodt has lost work and opportunities as a result of the allegations, with the $2.5 million claim including his emotional and mental distress.
The Google Doc in question was a comic book industry equivalent of the Shitty Media Men document that named Pickrodt. It was then followed up by social media commentary criticising him.
Carbonaro Law is a New York law firm whose stated areas of practice include employment law, criminal defense law, cyberbullying, and NYC commercial litigation. Among the successfully litigated highlights noted by the firm on its website are a number of cases involving school districts, as well as JP Morgan Chase Bank v. Schnitzler, et al. In that case, JP Morgan Chase Bank alleged that Carbonaro's client was among defendants who "provided various gifts, such as small electronic items and furniture, to its employee, a named defendant who has defaulted in the action, to induce her to order an inordinate amount of office supplies from a now bankrupt company that was owned by one defendant and employed the other as a commission salesperson." The court dismissed this case.
Carbonaro's assertions that the allegations against his client are false, as well as his comments on various aspects of the case for TCJ, are unusually candid for a lawyer who has just launched a lawsuit. Conventional wisdom of times past usually dictated that public statements be kept brief and general at best, and that "no comment" was never a bad idea.
But news media is now well populated with lawyers who have realized that social media impacts every aspect of every case, and that generally speaking, taking a public position for your client might result in new information coming to light or potential new clients reaching out. To be clear, we have no idea if any of that is Carbonaro's intent, but such things are among the emerging methods of lawyers representing clients in the social media era.
The story has been followed up by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of the Daily Dot, who also reported reactions to the original story, noting that the filing had created a 'Streisand Effect' where people are only aware of Pickrodt because of the case. However, other names in the document are far better known than his.
This is the first prominent defamation case that has been brought against anyone in the comics industry in the social media age, and as such it is certain to be closely watched for any indications of how it might impact future such matters.
There is expected to be a group crowdfunding effort to help defendants mount a defense.
This story is developing.