Two Freeport (TX) business owners and Web site operators will not
change or remove a Web site criticizing development plans in the city despite a libel lawsuit filed against them, the men said.
Dallas developer Walker Royall filed the suit against Wright Gore Jr. and
Davis Henderson, both pitched in an eminent domain battle with the city. The lawsuit accuses the men of libeling Royall through two Web sites and with advertising for the Web sites.
Both men stand by their Web site and said they will not remove it.
"The Web site is going to stay up," Gore said. "We look forward to having
our day in court to defend our first amendment rights."
Attorneys representing Royall did not return phone calls seeking comment. No
court date has been set in the case, which was filed in August, and Royall did not specify what damages he intended to claim in the lawsuit.
Royall is the developer behind Freeport Waterfront Properties, a partnership
with the city working to build a marina that city officials believe will be the key to downtown development and revitalization.
The city needs roughly 600 feet of waterfront property owned by TriCo Shrimp
Co. and Western Seafood for slip space in the marina project, City Manager Ron Bottoms said.
Freeport condemned 100 feet of Western Seafood's property through eminent domain, the power of a government to take private land for public use. Gore challenged that in federal court earlier this year, and now both parties await a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a similar case to determine whether the condemnation will stand.
The city is hopeful it will reach an agreement with TriCo representatives
soon, but efforts at informal talks and mediation for the remaining 300 feet, which belongs to Western Seafood, have been unsuccessful, Bottoms said.
"It doesn't look very favorable at this point, which is disappointing,"
Bottoms said. "It's really hurting our businesses in the heart of the city."
The lawsuit states that the Web site falsely claims Royall instigated the
eminent domain proceedings and that homes would be included in the eminent domain proceedings. The lawsuit also takes issue with statements that Royall is richer than anyone in Freeport and began collecting Porsche sports cars as a teenager, according to court documents.
Royall does not own a Porsche and did not instigate talks about waterfront
development, according to court documents filed by his attorneys. No residences are slotted for eminent domain seizure under the planned development, the documents state.
Though the suit was filed in district court in August, according to court
documents, Web site and Western Seafood owner Wright Gore III said he did not know about the case until after a September meeting with Walker Royall.
"As soon as I finished meeting with him, he had some guys sitting outside
waiting to give that to me," Gore said.
Dennis Henderson, owner of TriCo and codefendant in the lawsuit, said he had
not been served with papers from the suit but stood by the statements on the Web site.
"We never, ever, ever said anything that wasn't true," Henderson said.
"Everything on that Web site is true, so I'll see Mr. Royall in court."
The Facts: www.thefacts.com