Tell me if this is more common than I know. This is supposedly about comments made about Fleck and an affair he had with Zeigler. Weird stuff, but hadn't seen this posted before...
By Rex Hall Jr. | email@example.com
on February 05, 2015 at 2:50 PM, updated June 17, 2015 at 1:53 PM
KALAMAZOO, MI -- A major supporter of Western Michigan University is suing three online commenters, including a Hall of Fame high school football coach, claiming they damaged her reputation.
Bonnie A. Zeigler alleges in a lawsuit filed in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court that the commenters defamed her on the internet during conversations about WMU football coach P.J. Fleck.
Zeigler in recent years has been listed as a member of the Mike Gary Society, donors who contribute $10,000 or more to support WMU athletics. She is married to Aaron Zeigler, the president of Kalamazoo-based Zeigler Auto Group.
Zeigler's claim was made in an amended complaint filed Jan. 12 in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.
The three men named in the lawsuit are Dan Burgardt of Schoolcraft, Randolph T. Foster, a WMU alumnus who lives in Colorado, and Bruce L. Bendix, a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Bendix is a Kalamazoo native who played football at Western Michigan University in the 1970s before going on to coach at Kalamazoo College and Comstock and Otsego high schools, among other places. In 1999, he moved to the east side of the state where he continued coaching at various high schools and he recently resigned as Hemlock High School's head coach, MLive reported on Jan. 1.
Zeigler is seeking damages in excess of $25,000 against each defendant, as well as attorneys' fees and costs, for alleged defamation and false light, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that Bendix, Burgardt and Foster each posted "false and defamatory statements" about Zeigler on the sports website CSNbbs.com while using the online pseudonyms "MajorHoople," "Chipdip2" and "DesertBronco," respectively.
"Defendants' publication of these false and defamatory statements was negligent and/or with reckless disregard of whether or not they were false," the lawsuit says.
The identifications of Bendix, Burgardt and Foster came after "diligent inquiry" that included seeking the defendants' addresses, email addresses, IP addresses and other information from the website, according to the lawsuit.
Zeigler's lawyer, Douglas Callander, declined to comment for this report. Fleck also declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit, the false rumor was first posted Sept. 13 by a commenter using the pseudonym "BusterNemo91" on CSNbbs.com on a thread called "Fire Fleck."
That original post was removed but then reposted just 26 minutes later by a user named "WheresWaldo42" and "numerous other individuals," sparking a discussion centered around the topic, the lawsuit says. The discussion continued for a month "and was referenced and republished in approximately 500 more posts."
"Defendants even stated that these allegations are not rumors, but true facts," according to the lawsuit. "As of December 23, 2014, the 'Fire Fleck' thread had been viewed 202,263 times. The 'Fire Fleck' thread on CSNbbs.com and its contents have also been shared and/or referenced on numerous other internet posting boards, including boards for Northern Illinois University and Michigan State University sports."
Burgardt, who formerly covered WMU football for the sports website Rivals.com, told the Kalamazoo Gazette that the comments he posted were meant to be satire mocking two other commenters who said they believed the online rumors.
"From my perspective, you had 11 people who were initially on that complaint and they basically had heard a rumor which apparently had been talked about in the community and they were talking about whether they believed it or not," Burgardt said. "Some of them believed it, some of them didn't. My position on it is I didn't believe it and I gave some snarky examples of why I believed it wasn't true."
The Kalamazoo Gazette is choosing not to repeat the alleged rumor in this story.
Foster told the Gazette he had no "malicious intent" behind what he posted on the message board.
"It's message board nonsense," Foster said.
Bendix could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit, which is before Circuit Judge Pamela L. Lightvoet, was first filed Nov. 5 with Bonnie A. Zeigler, Aaron Zeigler and the Zeigler Auto Group listed as plaintiffs. The defendants listed were 11 John Does known only by their online pseudonyms. The amended complaint filed in January only names Bonnie A. Zeigler as plaintiff and Bendix, Burgardt and Foster as defendants.