October 4, 2020
NEW YORK CITY – Journalist Michael Balter is currently being sued for $18,000,000 for publishing what he claims was the truth about the sexual misconduct of an archaeologist and her former partner at a University of California run program.
Balter claims he has been reporting on Me Too-related cases for 5 years. He claims one of his reports lead to the resignation of the curator for human origins at the American Museum of Natural History.
Balter claims in multiple blog posts that Danielle Kurin – a professor of archeology – and her former partner Enmanuel Gomez engaged in sexual misconduct. This reportedly occured in 2016, during a field placement run by the professor and her partner in Peru.
Kurin is accused of harassment, and her partner is accused of a “serious sexual assault”. To support these claims, Balter refers to a ruling made by the University of California in 2016.
On June 14, 2016, UCSB’s Title IX office found, based on the standard of a preponderance of the evidence, that Gomez had sexually harassed students working with the couple at the field school they ran in the Andahuaylas region. On the same day, Kurin was found guilty, under the same burden of proof, of retaliating against students who had filed Title IX complaints against Gomez.Michael Barten, Blog Article
On his blog, Balter continues to state Kurin was “placed on administrative leave the previous April, and remained on leave for a total of three years, according to sources inside and outside the UCSB anthropology department.”
Aside from these alleged rulings, the other supporting evidence for these crimes appears to be limited to emails, and third person accounts.
When asked for clarification, as well as copies of source material, Balter stated that he has a copy of the full Title IX investigative report. However, he doesn’t want to release it because it could jeopardize the safety of one of the victims. Toronto Today did not have a chance to review the report in question.
Professor denies claims
Danielle Kurin has denied the claims in a news interview via her lawyer. She filed an $18 million lawsuit against Balter in June, the status of which is in discovery – according to Balter. According to Kurin’s lawyer David Sher, “he’s trying to destroy her. He’s trying to prevent her from getting tenure. That’s what he’s doing. That is why we filed this lawsuit,”
In the civil complaint against Balter, Kurin states Balter made numerous perceived inconsistencies and “falsehoods”. The report acknowledges Kurin is “not a perfect person”. However, it states multiple times Kurin was never found guilty of Title IX violations, which Balter has claimed.
It appears many of these claimed “falsehoods” are merely opinions or speculative theories Balter has published, and not outright lies. Nonetheless, the statement of claim attacks both the content of Balter’s blogs, and the character / credibility of Balter himself.
Balter’s blogs try to thread a conspiracy of malicious administrators of UCSB, IFR, and others that just isn’t there, and his repeated republications of his defamatory blogs demonstrate that he has no intent other than to harm Kurin and generate publicity for himself.Civil Complaint, Danielle Kurin
The civil complaints lists Balter’s Tweets and claims them as evidence of defamation.
If the #anthropology department at @Harvard can ask sexual predator Gary Urton to resign, then the anthro dept at @ucsantabarbara can ask Danielle Kurin—now on her second Title IX for enabling her sexual predator partner—to resign as well. @Archaeology #MeToo— M. Balter is being sued for his #MeToo reporting (@mbalter) June 5, 2020
The legal trouble Balter finds himself in could be described as a SLAPP lawsuit. SLAPP lawsuits are defined as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation”.
These lawsuits are not uncommon, and are used when deep-pocketed individuals or corporations want to silence journalists. Many organizations exist to help journalists defend against SLAPP Lawsuits. One organization, Index on Censorship, frequently writes articles that denounce censorship via SLAPP Lawsuits.
We have launched our 2nd report as part of ongoing research into a type of vexatious legal action known as a Slapp. It focuses on the extent to which journalists & media outlets in Europe are being affected by Slapps & what can be done to protect them.https://t.co/GIZNKSnTQd— Index on Censorship (@IndexCensorship) September 25, 2020
According to the Public Participation Project, “SLAPP Lawsuits chill free speech and healthy debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest”. SLAPP lawsuits are frowned upon by both the free speech and journalistic communities.
Danielle Kurin’s lawyer David Sher is employed by Hoyer Law Group. He is seen here contacting witnesses via Twitter in regards to the ongoing defamation case.
Ms. Johnson, our firm represents Danielle Kurin in a defamation suit against Michael Balter. We would be interested in speaking with you if you are willing. you can respond to me or contact me via our website: https://t.co/zfOhdhfY5X https://t.co/dt23GAmgCg— Dave Scher, Hoyer Law Group (@ScherDave) September 1, 2020
A cobweb of drama continues to unfold on Social Media, as both sides have been getting involved.
David Sher was contacted prior to the publication of this article via his employer’s website. He provided a phone number but Toronto Today was not able to reach him for comment.
[Michael Balter] has published many extreme claims about a Professor, and I’m wondering if:E-mail to Kurin’s Lawyer
1 – there are any updates to the case that are in the public interest?
2 – Whether you consider this case a SLAPP lawsuit?
3 – What your clients’ view is for the record?
Danielle Kurin was asked a similar set of questions via e-mail, but she has not provided a response.
Despite the ongoing lawsuit, Michael Balter is sticking to his claims, and has hired a “free speech lawyer”. When asked for a statement, he had this to say:
This is a frivolous lawsuit whose main intent is to try to shut up my reporting while she is up for tenure, and also to intimidate survivors of her documented misconduct from speaking up. She is also trying to bully her department and the university into giving her tenure. We are entering into the discovery phase right now which will provide abundant evidence that my reporting was fully accurate and that she is almost sure to lose the case.Michael Balter
Michael Balter is currently promoting a GoFundMe via Twitter, which at the time of writing is at $11,600. Based on social media posts by Balter, it is clear he is preparing to take this case to trial. Blog posts indicate he is preparing witnesses to record testimony. Some of his supporters are looking to create a “Streisand Effect”.
Despite best efforts, Toronto Today was not able to independently verify Balter’s claims. In defence of his evidence and blog articles, Michael Balter stated he has been a journalist for over 40 years, and gives lectures on the subject.
@ucsantabarbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin has sued me for $10 for defamation for reporting on her misconduct. We have a lot of witnesses. Recording their testimony will cost money. Please help: GoFundMe link at the end of this witness list: https://t.co/44BtS5OfUp— M. Balter is being sued for his #MeToo reporting (@mbalter) October 1, 2020