SELAH — Two people involved with Black Lives Matter protests in Selah are being sued for defamation by the city attorney.
Stressing that he filed the suit as a private individual, and that his comments in this article and his lawsuit are his personal opinions and not official city statements, D.R. “Rob” Case alleged that Facebook posts by Jose Rocha and Gabriel Fabian accusing him of stalking women and teenage girls who attended a Black Lives Matter protest were false and cast him in a false light.
“You can tell I am perturbed,” Case said.
Case’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, as well as a demand that the two take down the posts in question, issue public apologies and agree never to defame him again on social media.
An attorney who has represented Fabian’s family in prior disputes with the city over chalk art supporting BLM called Case’s suit a “curious move.”
“If he’s going around to protesters’ homes, that seems tied to his work as the city attorney,” said Joseph Cutler. “If a city (police officer) were the target of someone’s defamation, the cop doesn’t sue.”
And Rocha, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former city employee, accused Case of bullying him and other people protesting in Selah.
“He did it to shut me up, and the rest of the protesters in Selah,” Rocha said, adding that he would be meeting with an attorney to discuss the lawsuit.
Fabian and others have drawn chalk art on the street outside his Lacey Avenue home in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has been repeatedly erased by city crews. Case has written letters on the city’s behalf defending the actions by citing Selah’s anti-graffiti ordinance.
Rocha has participated in protests at Selah City Hall and Mayor Sherry Raymond’s King’s Row restaurant, and has drawn pro-BLM chalk art.
While Case filed the suit as a private individual, Raymond and City Administrator Don Wayman have both come to his defense, saying the stalking allegations were false.
Rocha and Fabian put up posts on July 27 alleging that Case was following women and teenage girls who participated in protests around town to their homes.
In one post, Fabian said the police “confirmed” that it was Case who was following women and children to their homes, while Rocha called Case a “coffee creeper” and included a photo of Case with cartoon eyes pasted on his face, as well as a picture of his car.
A Selah police report said two residents running in the area of Palmer Drive and Viewcrest Court around 8:30 a.m. July 27 saw a vehicle parked in the area, and the driver appeared to be watching them.
One of the runners, a 17-year-old girl, said she recognized the car as one that she saw parked in front of Selah City Hall during a July 6 protest.
In the redacted report, officers said they identified the car’s owner as Case based on its license plate, and Case said he had been driving around the area while drinking coffee waiting for an appointment he had with police Chief Richard Hayes, and that he was not watching or following anybody.
Contrary to the posts, Case said the police did not “confirm” that he was stalking people, as Fabian alleged in his post.
A post on the Selah Police Department’s Facebook page states that officers determined that there was nothing illegal or suspicious going on, and that claims the department “confirmed” Case was stalking were “totally not true.”
Cutler said he found it both curious and troubling that Case’s first move was to file a lawsuit. Case’s suit against Fabian was received by the Yakima County Clerk’s on the afternoon of July 27, and the one against Rocha was filed the next day.
Case said he and 20 others have contacted Facebook “dozens of times” about having Rocha and Fabian’s posts taken down, but the social media company has not acted. He has not asked either man to retract the posts on their own.
“I did not see any potential utility in trying to get somebody who defamed me about stalking women and children to come back to sanity and take down their malicious posts,” Case said.
Raymond called out both Rocha and Fabian by name during remarks at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“These messages posted under your Facebook accounts are downright evil,” Raymond said.
Wayman, at the same meeting, called the posts accusing Case of misconduct a “false narrative.” He said the police investigated and found nothing improper.