In the Battle Over a Lower Greenville Walmart, Avi Adelman's Bark is As Annoying as Ever
Shortly after being sued last September by a neighbor for registering melissakingston.com and using it to email anti-Walmart screeds, inveterate Lower Greenville shit-stirrer Avi Adelman did something rather unprecedented: he agreed to cut it out. The temporary injunction he signed barred him from sending emails from the domain, redirecting traffic to the web address to barkingdogs.org and stepping within a block of Melissa Kingston's house.
But Adelman has doubled down since the lawsuit was filed, making Kingston-bashing a full-time project rather than merely a part-time hobby. The question is, has he gone too far? Melissa Kingston answered with a resounding yes in a court filing last week, in which she asks the judge to go ahead and rule in her favor.
Adelman has "caused me to suffered (sic) severe anxiety and worry about my personal safety of my family, pets and home," she says in an affidavit. "As a result of this anxiety and fear, I changed my habits and routine."
Kingston says she no longer feels safe walking around the neighborhood to visit friends who live on Adelman's street or to go to restaurants on Lower Greenville. The stress keeps her up at night and has prompted severe migraines. "I still experience a high degree of distress and anger when I see and/or have to deal with Defendant, and I can feel my blood pressure rise at those times."
Now, there's nothing criminal about annoying one's neighbor, but Kingston claims that her name is a common law trademark and that Adelman's use of melissakingston.com has caused financial and emotional damage and is a violation of her rights under state copyright law.
That a woman who says she beat the crap out of an armed car jacker is physically afraid of a portly 57-year-old seems odd. Regardless, Kingston does her best to prove her claims and illustrate why she might feel targeted.
Included in Tuesday's filing is a deposition Adelman gave to Kingston's attorney back in January. It's long, occasionally boring and is guaranteed to tell you way more about Avi Adelman than you ever cared to know. His middle name is Steven. He once waited tables at Dixie House. He spent a couple of years on a kibbutz in Israel.
More germane to Kingston's case are a pair of assault cases against Adelman, both of which were dropped when the accusers failed to show up in court. The first happened in about 2000 when he pepper sprayed a drunk during a confrontation on Euclid Avenue. The second was in 2009, when Adelman got into an argument with a woman mad that he was filming her friend being taken away by ambulance. He maintains that no physical contact occurred, though he did pull out his pepper spray.
Adelman's history of macing people established, Kingston's attorney, Ryan Lurich, sets about trying to show that Adelman's online activities crossed the line between run-of-the-mill Internet trolling and tactics that are defamatory, even extortionary.
Adelman owns quite a few domain names, 100 to 150 by his count, though he's not exactly sure. Some of these are for websites he helps run, like palmerfireworks.com and abotc.com. Others, like areyouoffyourfriggingmeds.com, he bought as a lark.
But Lurich isn't terribly interested in those. He's more curious about mayorrawlings.com, which Adelman, a Kunkel supporter, bought just after Mike Rawlings was elected. The website features a rolodex and a note offering the domain for $5,000 OBO. Adelman, pressed by Lurich, explains that he's not 100 percent sure he'd sell but would consider an offer if he received one.
Then there are the various riffs on the campaign of Kingston's husband, Philip, to replace Angela Hunt: Kingstonforcouncil.com, .org, and .net; electkingston.com; votekingston.com; kingstonfordallas.com. Lurich and Adelman have this exchange on the subject:
Lurich: Okay. Do you support Mr. Kingston's -- Kingston's candidacy for City Council?
L: So why did you purchase those domain names?
A: Because they were available and I wanted to have them handy for pointing to my website.
L: For what purpose?
A: To -- in this case they point to the page on my website where the legal documents are for this case.
L: Okay. But for what purpose do you need to point them to your website. I mean, why were -- why did you want to do that?
A: I believe that people involved -- people making decisions about elections, who go to the Internet and search him, could find those pages and understand what is going on here in this case.
The same thinking led him to buy melissakingston.com, which Adelman says is definitely not for sale. "It was available ... I just tend to search for names of interest, and with everything going on in the neighborhood, that peaked my interest."
And Melissa Kingston is definitely not Adelman's name. To clear up any confusion, Lurich grills him on the subject.
L: You've watched enough --
A: I've watched enough CSI.
L: -- Law & Orders --
A: No, actually I don't like that show that much.
L: Okay. The CSIs
L: Okay, Melissa Kingston is not your legal name and neither --
L: -- and neither the words "Melissa" nor Kingston" appear in your legal name.
A: No they do not.
Adelman insists that this is all protected by the First Amendment. Then he goes one step further, claiming that Kingston's lawsuit is an illegal attempt to stifle his free speech.
If that was the aim, it didn't work. Since the lawsuit began, Adelman has penned bizarre allegories in which talking horses liken the Kingstons to Nazis and crudely photoshopped Philip Kingston's face on Angela Hunt's body and, more disturbingly, onto a Christ child cradled by Hunt.
Lurich points this out in the deposition in some genuinely entertaining exchanges. Like this one:
L: And this is also something you've created?
L: Okay. And where did you get the likenesses that you imposed onto this picture?
A: The photograph of Ms. Hunt is from her blog where she announced the birth of child number two. I don't remember if it's a boy or a girl. The background is from a painting, and the baby's head is Philip's head from that photograph four or five exhibits back.
L: And just for the -- to be clear, the -- Is this a Latin inscription at the top of the picture?
L: And it's what's translated at the bottom, 'I have chosen a successor, I give you my son'?
A. Yes sir
And this one:
L: What is that?
A: It's a - it's an editorial sarcastic cartoon.
L: Okay. And what does "PWNED" mean?
A: What it means is -- the P is supposed to be an O. It's based on a typo in geekdom. Means own, taken over, sold to, whatever you want to call it. Basically under that -- whatever that is related to. Somebody's got that person owned. "Powned is how it's pronounced, I believe."
A: I have teenagers. I can't pronounce this stuff.
L: Is this like a shorthand for texting?
A. It's --there's an urban legend that this was a typo that just got carried out too far, like LOL and LF -- they're lauging my what off and all that. I don't know the complete story.
L: All right. And so you're -- the commentary, the message that you're trying to convey, is that Walmart owns Philip Kingston?
And especially this one:
Q: And -- and you posted the entry, "It's Whack-a-Troll Time"?
A: Yes. I wrote that --
Q: You're the author?
A: Yes, sir.
L: All right. And who is the "Blonde in a Bottle Lawyer Troll"?
A: That's you, sir.
L: All right. And so by that I take it you think I dye my hair?
A: It's sarcasm, sir. I don't know if you do or not.
L: Okay. And do you think some people might find that to be defamatory?
A: Some -- you can find somebody that would say anything. I have no idea.
Since Adelman was prevented from doing none of that, Lurich asks the question: How again has Kingston stifled his free speech? Adelman says there was a voluntary settlement offer, which he rejected, that would have placed strict conditions on what he could write about. "As it was written, I believe it would have been -- it would have been a serious abridgment of my rights, the freedom of the press, freedom of association, et cetera."
All of this will no doubt come up on May 31, when District Judge Carlos Cortez is scheduled to preside over a hearing on Kingston's motion for summary judgment.