Arizona Jury Awards $3.4 Million against Owner of Sex Offender Websites
by Matt Clarke
In May 2014, a Maricopa County, Arizona jury awarded $3.4 million to people who were falsely profiled on private sex offender websites owned by businessman Charles “Chuck” Rodrick, 52, including SexOffenderrecord.com, Offendex.com and SORArchives.com. Rodrick was accused of falsely labeling people he didn’t like as being sex offenders, and extorting sex offenders to have their profiles removed from his sites.
Rodrick used public records from government agencies to compile much of the information on his sex offender websites, and the offenders’ profiles would appear in Google searches. A fee was charged to remove a profile after it was posted, though sometimes the profile would not be taken down even if payment was made. Sex offenders who did not pay were harassed online.
Adam Galvez, 39, who pleaded guilty to child molestation in 1996 and refused to pay to have his profile removed, decided to fight back. He founded the website Offendextortion.com, using it to expose Rodrick’s extortion of sex offenders; his site also profiles other websites that post mugshots then demand payment to remove the embarrassing photos. [See: PLN, Aug. 2014, p.48; Oct. 2012, p.36]. Rodrick responded by suing Galvez and his mother, Susan Galvez, for defamation.
But Rodrick didn’t just harass and extort sex offenders; he also used his websites to get back at people he disliked, such as his ex-wife Lois Flynn and her boyfriend, David Ellis, a decorated U.S Marine Corps veteran with no criminal history. Ellis is co-owner of American Aerospace Technical Designs, a company that produces airplane parts. Rodrick’s online postings suggested that Ellis was a child molester, accused him of sexual harassment and claimed his company made shoddy parts.
“It’s kind of a shame. I fought for people’s civil rights,” said Ellis. “Then this guy, he used the First Amendment to attack me.”
Flynn began dating Ellis when she and Rodrick were in the midst of a nasty divorce. Rodrick’s websites accused her of adultery, alcoholism and working with sex offenders who were challenging his online activities. Flynn said the postings damaged her relationships and caused her difficulties at church, where she previously worked with children.
“In church Sunday, if anyone looks at me sideways, I can hold up the judgment and say I have been judged the right way,” she stated after the jury ruled against Rodrick.
The judgment in the case followed a series of court rulings in Rodrick’s lawsuit. First, the judge found that Rodrick, who had gone to great lengths to disguise the ownership of his websites, was in fact in control of the sites, making him liable for their content. Next, the court held that the defendants, which included the Galvezes, Flynn and Ellis, had filed meritorious counterclaims while Rodrick’s claims had no merit. This effectively turned Rodrick into the defendant in his own lawsuit and the former defendants into plaintiffs. The case then went to trial and the jury awarded Ellis nearly $2.2.million, Flynn $780,000 and Susan Galvez $467,000, finding that Rodrick had defamed them and invaded their privacy. Adam Galvez was not awarded damages.
“I am super glad justice has been served,” Ellis said. “I did ask [the jury] to make their verdict significant enough to keep him from ever climbing out of his hole and they did.”
Rodrick continued to deny ownership of the websites and promised to appeal, but his ownership had been established by his former partner, Brent Oesterblad, who, like Rodrick, had previously been convicted of fraud. Oesterblad testified about the tricks he helped Rodrick use to conceal who owned the sex offender websites.
The judge who initially presided over Rodrick’s lawsuit was Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper. Her live-in boyfriend, Michael Kent Krause, a convicted sex offender, was arrested at her house on a fugitive warrant in January 2015. [See: PLN, Sept. 2015, p.63]. According to a statement posted on one of Rodrick’s websites, “The significance of this is her 2 year live in boyfriend has a sex offender record listed on this website [when] she was acting judge for 15 months.”
Judge Cooper, who denied knowing her boyfriend was a sex offender, had previously sanctioned Rodrick, finding that he controlled the sex offender websites, owned the domain names for the sites and had violated court orders to remove information from the sites related to the defendants in the case. Judge Cooper also sanctioned Rodrick’s girlfriend, Traci Heisig, a court reporter and owner of Desert Hills Reporting in Phoenix, though Heisig was dismissed from the case prior to trial.
On July 29, 2015, the superior court denied Rodrick’s motion to set aside the judgment entered against him. With respect to Rodrick’s claims of improper conduct by Judge Cooper, the court wrote, “Although there is no dispute about Rodrick operating sex-offender web sites, it appears that nothing in the record, and especially nothing in the record that was introduced while Judge Cooper had responsibility for the case, supports the contention that Krause’s name appeared on any of those sites (and the motion fails to demonstrate otherwise).”
The court further stated that Rodrick’s motion “offers unsupported assertion after unsupported assertion, unconstrained by the record and compounded by the absence of any supporting law.” See: Rodrick v. Ellis, Maricopa County Superior Court (AZ), Case No. CV 2013-003800.
Rodrick represented himself in the lawsuit. His sex offender websites currently remain up and running, and in September 2015 he filed a formal judicial complaint against Judge Cooper.
Additional sources: www.legislation.blogspot.com, www.offendextortion.com, The Arizona Republic
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Related legal case
Rodrick v. Ellis
|Cite||Maricopa County Superior Court (AZ), Case No. CV 2013-003800|