An attorney for two Norman residents who are being sued by a local optometrist following the Jan. 6 Washington D.C. attack on the U.S. Capitol calls the Trump supporter’s lawsuit meritless, court records show.
Andrew Casey cited free speech rights for his clients, Kathryn Taylor and Christian Sanchez, and a state law which protects “citizen participation.” The two made posts on their personal Facebook accounts and on Facebook pages for city council wards.
Casey filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in which Dr. Nicole Kish is seeking at least $500,000 in damages.
Kish filed a lawsuit in January against Taylor, Sanchez and Kristy Vandenheuvel. Kish claims that her business suffered financial loss and she was forced to hire off-duty police officers following death threats to her Norman practice, The Transcript previously reported.
“Defendant (Taylor) did not ‘attack’ (Kish) and denies any aspects of violence, use of violence, threats of violence, harassment, and otherwise unlawful activity,” Casey’s response to the court states.
Taylor and Sanchez’s attorney also denied his clients caused any death threats and were not responsible for “the illegal actions of unnamed third parties.”
Casey demanded “strict proof” of these claims and evidence of “exaggerated” claims of lost income.
Taylor admits to making statements on her Facebook page which expressed her concern “about a local businesswoman who appear to have attended a public rally in Oklahoma and another rally in Washington D.C.,” Casey’s response reads. “These concerns were related to (Kish) not wearing a mask at a public rally in Oklahoma and (on) the flight to Washington D.C.”
Taylor believed she was exercising free speech out of “concern for her and her patients,” based on the warnings about the spread of COVID-19 pandemic from public health officials, the response reads.
Attached with the motion to dismiss was a photo from Taylor’s post to the Ward 8 Norman Facebook page.
“Optometrist Nicole Kish is pictured here without a mask. There are pics of her on a plane without a mask. I called her office and she will be seeing patients next week. If you have an appointment with her in the next two weeks, you might consider canceling or rescheduling,” her post reads.
In another comment, Taylor called Kish “irresponsible” and states her husband is looking “for a new eye doctor.” A further comment shows “Jordan Yanch” planned to leave a review on her business listing online.
Additional images show Kish admitted to being in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 but does not state she was involved in the riot.
In a shared post from Victoria Ann on Kish’s page, she stated, “Yes. This is true. I AM currently HERE in DC.” The post included a statement from Ann’s Facebook page which claimed that reports of “us all storming the Capitol and breaking windows and harming police as a mob is NONSENSE. WE’RE OUTSIDE PRAYING, SINGING & ARE ALL PERFECTLY CALM.”
Sanchez also made posts about Kish on his Facebook page in which he includes a shared post Ward 5 Candidate for City Council, Rarchar Tortorello who also flew to D.C.
“Fellow Norman residence [sic], I urge you to spread the word of anyone you know that went to this attack! They must be prosecuted and exposed,” it reads. “They are a threat to you and the community.”
An additional image is included in the court record but it is from an account which reads only, “Businesses.” It is a list of merchants which are called “UN” for Unite Norman businesses with a warning that reads, “Use at your own discretion,” and includes Kish’s practice in addition to other businesses who are accused of attending the D.C. riot or support Unite Norman.
Casey argued to the court that the case should be dismissed because his clients were expressing concern for the public’s welfare. He referred to the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act which defines the exercise of free speech as any communication “made in connection a matter of public concern.”
“The Internet Age has created a more permanent and searchable record of public participation as citizen participation in democracy grows through self-publishing, citizen journalism, and other forms of speech,” Casey’s response reads. “Unfortunately, abuses of the legal system, aimed at silencing these citizens, have also grown. These lawsuits are called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or ‘SLAPP’ suits. Here, without question, a well-resourced Plaintiff (Kish) attempts to silence the expression of free speech through a meritless lawsuit. This Court should reject that abuse of process.”
A hearing has been set in Judge Jeff Virgin’s courtroom at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 15.
Editor's note: this story has been updated to reflect Kish shared a Facebook post from Victoria Ann. Previously the story read Veronica Ann. The Transcript regrets the error.