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Appellate Court Protects Identity of 'Hipcheck16'

The court on Nov. 17 reversed a Circuit Court decision that would have provided Lisa Stone with the identity of an anonymous online commenter.

The identity of “Hipcheck16” will remain private, according to a Cook County Appellate Court decision released today, Nov. 17.

The court ruled that the online comments directed at Lisa Stone’s teenage son are protected by the right to anonymous free speech, and that Stone, who filed the suit on her son’s behalf, failed to prove her defamation claim.

“I’m disappointed, but I look forward to the Illinois Supreme Court reviewing this issue,” said Stone, who pledged to pursue the case.

The ruling overturns a Cook County Circuit Court decision in 2009 to furnish Stone with the identity of the anonymous commenter.

The decision is the latest development in a court battle that began more than two years ago after an exchange on a Daily Herald comment board between Hipcheck16 and a commenter posing as "UncleW" concerning Stone’s 2009 trustee campaign. After UncleW publicly revealed that he was Stone’s son, Hipcheck16 made what Stone described as a defamatory remark toward the then-15-year-old.

The exchange between the two included an invitation from UncleW to “show yourself in person.”

“With all your resources I’m sure you could navigate your way over to the Stone confines. Then I’ll be glad to have this conversation with you, however, I will not comment on these blogs where anyone can be anyone,” UncleW wrote to Hipcheck16.

Hipcheck16 later replied, “Thanks for the invitation to visit you .. but I’ll have to decline. Seems like you’re very willing to invite a man you only know from the internet over to your house — have you done it before, or do they usually invite you to their house?”

Stone initially filed a suit in 2009 against the publisher of the Daily Herald in an effort to learn the identity of Hipcheck16, whose comment, she said, was sexual in nature and inappropriate for a minor. When the newspaper provided the name of the Internet service provider and the IP address, Stone subpoenaed Comcast to learn the name and street address of the person connected to the IP address. The information was provided to the court.

Since then, Stone has fought to receive that information, while attorneys for Hipcheck16 have maintained that his anonymity is protected by citizens’ right to free speech.

The Appellate Court judges wrote in their ruling that “we do not agree that a sexual connotation is inherent in [Hipcheck16’s] statement. … even if a sexual connotation can be read into [the comment], his comment may represent nothing more than an admonishment that [UncleW’s] conduct in inviting [Hipcheck16] to meet in person was unwise, not that [UncleW] actually solicits or has been solicited for sex with anonymous men on the internet.”

Stone said she does not see how “that statement can be construed innocently.” The comment from Hipcheck16 “is not just a question, it’s an implication,” she said.

“No 15-year-old deserves to be spoken like that by an adult, ever,” she said. “There have to be very clear rules on how adults speak to or treat children, or put them in such a light.”

“All one has to do is look around the world, on the Internet or even at the recent tragedy at Penn State,” Stone said. “When we’re trying to decide who to protect, we shouldn’t be protecting the adults but protecting the kids.”

In their Nov. 17 conclusion, the Appellate Court judges stated, in part:

“Our nation has long prized a citizen’s right to speak anonymously. With the proliferation of the seemingly limitless vehicles for such speech on the Internet and the various forms of social media, our citizens now have outlets for anonymous free speech that were quite simply unimaginable only a decade ago. While the law is clear that there is no right to defame another citizen, we cannot condone the inevitable fishing expeditions that would ensue were the trial court’s order to be upheld. Encouraging those easily offended by online commentary to sue to find the name of their ‘tormenters’ would surely lead to unnecessary litigation and would also have a chilling effect on the many citizens who choose to post anonymously on the countless comment boards for newspapers, magazines, websites and other information portals. Putting publishers and website hosts in the position of being a ‘cyber-nanny’ is a noxious concept that offends our country’s long history of protecting anonymous speech.”

RELENTLESSCRITIC November 21, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Ms. Stone- We've debated your version of revisionist history of your so-called accomplishments ad nauseum in the past and I see no point in resurrecting it again. The only legacy you left as a trustee is that you mucked things up so badly that voters chased you from office in a lopsided recall vote. That is an indisputable FACT- the numbers don't lie about it. I am curious about why you've decided to post a long diatribe about Trustee Berman's advice to you. Are you implying something by doing so? If so, why don't you say it clearly and directly rather than posting something that has absolutely NO bearing on your court case, other than the fact that Berman may have been trying to help you with some unsolicited advice? Or is everything everyone says to you part of some larger evil conspiracy against you and everything else that is good in the world? So tell us clearly- what was your intention in posting the Berman discussion? What are you implying or insinuating? If you believe there's something nefarious there, why not come straight out and say so?
Father Time November 21, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Janet: Just because you were around when Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman were active, does not your opinion matter. Please go lose some more files.
Art November 22, 2011 at 12:40 AM
No change of heart, I continue to believe you need to simply be quiet and listen to experts. Three appellate court judges ruled against you. Of course you have the right to appeal this further. However, don't put so much stock in the one circuit court judge who agreed with you, I have read many other legal opinions that disagree. My suggestion was basic - if you have a pending legal issue, you probably shouldn't be using an online community board as a place to rant. I believe most attorneys would tell you to keep your mouth shut.
Art November 22, 2011 at 12:46 AM
RELENTLESS - you have just discovered what Stone has made her public career about - insinuation. She believes that Berman's advice was a threat. He denied it, and the police chief agreed that there was no threat. She has no proof, other than her impression of a conversation, and cannot accept that someone who has ever disagreed with her could possibly just be giving her advice. Maybe because that goes against what SHE herself would ever do. Yes, Lisa, you need to remember the results of the recall election - the majority decided that your antics needed to be stopped, that your methods were detrimental to the community. Go ahead and fight your legal battles...in court, not here. Go ahead and hope that the IEPA finds a problem - just please wait for them to decide, don't decide for them with 1, 2, or 5 year old information.
Lisa Stone November 22, 2011 at 02:05 AM
I wasn't comparing myself to Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman and never have. Nor have I ever compared you to Rosemary Woods.
Lisa Stone November 22, 2011 at 03:45 AM
Art: Balinski never opined on the above issue, as it was part of a bigger picture. You don't know what you're talking about.
Lisa Stone November 22, 2011 at 03:53 AM
The comments between hipcheck16 & UncleW occurred on the DH article, titled below: DOES CAMPAIGN FLIER MISREPRESENT BUFFALO GROVE ENDORSEMENT? "This flier clearly misrepresents our editorial. It suggests we endorsed Johnson. We did not," Halston said. "We take severe exception to the misuse of our editorials." 4/6/2009, printed 4/7/2009 The quote beneath the title of the article is an excerpt of the position of the Daily Herald on what had occurred. The article was printed the day of the election, 4/7/2009. Someone ordered Robo Calls the day of the election that were very derogatory towards Joanne Johnson. The Johnson camp thought my campaign was behind the Robo calls, but we weren't. I later offered funds to help the Johnson's discover who was behind those calls, but I never heard back from Jeff Berman who said he would bring them my offer. While I think the endorsement misuse was wholly improper, and should have been called out as many people vote by newspaper endorsement, the Robo Calls were very harsh, and could have simply conveyed who the Daily Herald actually endorsed without the vicious attack. DH actually endorsed: Braiman, Stone, Terson. ~ Braiman, Stone, Sussman won.
Lisa Stone November 22, 2011 at 03:54 AM
The dialogue that was taking place on the article mentioned above was fully impacted by the Robo Calls that were ringing throughout the community that day. They were calling out Joanne Johnson for the DH endorsement misrepresentation, but in a very harsh way. The Johnson supporters were extremely upset and believed that it was my campaign that was behind the Robo Calls. The comment board reflected this misdirected anger towards me and my campaign. My understanding was that Joanne and either her brother-in-law or her husband, Lake County Associate Judge Charles Johnson went to the police department to file a complaint that day. Apparently, they never discovered who made those calls. When I offered to assist financially to help them find out the origin of the calls, via Trustee Jeff Berman who is their close friend and helped run Joanne's campaign, I never heard back.
Art November 22, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Wrong - the last time you raised this same issue, Chief Balinski said that he had reviewed it and determined there was nothing to be concerned about. Perhaps you should simply stop beating dead horses, and stop your vindictiveness against those who disagree with you, including your former colleagues.
Art November 22, 2011 at 04:13 AM
Oh, Ms. Stone, you forget what you just wrote yesterday, when you used an unattributed quote to imply that Lincoln and Tubman's efforts justify your own. You did, indeed, invite a comparison.
Lisa Stone November 22, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Art: Chief Balinski never stated his view of Berman's explanation regarding why he went out of his way to attend and spend hours at the hipcheck hearing at the Daley Center, and further waited to speak to me to advise me to drop the hipcheck case. It's no secret that Berman and I are not friends, and certainly don't advise one another on anything in life, nor do we value what each other stands for in life. Again, Berman's response to Chief Balinski: "...I absolutley reject Ms. Stone's characterizations of our conversation, or the insinuations contained therein. As part of a relatively cordial conversation, and based on my experience as a litigator, I encouraged Ms. Stone to consider the potential impact on herself and her family that could result from participation in litigation, nothing further than that. The suggestion that I made a threat, or conveyed a message of threat, is completely and utterly preposterous..." Art, it's interesting that you "think" you know better. You see, the reason why Chief Balinski was involved was due to a situation that occurred at village hall, in which someone in village management, a commissioner, a fire fighter, among others all viewed an incident that they felt appeared threatening to me. Trustee Berman was said to have information that may have helped Chief Balinski evaluate what the manager, commissioner and fire fighter all witnessed regarding this person.
RELENTLESSCRITIC November 22, 2011 at 01:44 PM
So, I'll ask the same question AGAIN... what does ANY of this have to do with your court case? Are you implying or insinuating something? If so- why not state it clearly and unequivocally in a sentence or two, rather than obfuscating the issue with unrelated articles about other matters that have no relationship to the court case. All your doing is trying to make some strange roundabout point that no one but you seems to understand. But that's not the first time that's happened, is it?
Erica Williams November 22, 2011 at 03:49 PM
RC - What are you afraid of? Afraid that people on here will be "unmasked"?
Janet Sirabian November 22, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Father Time, Abe Lincoln and Harriet Tubman were good friends of mine, which I why I take exception to the fact that stone puts herself in that same category. And I will be happy to match my 32 years of contributions to BG against yours or stone's any day. And Erica, what difference does it make if commenters are "unmasked"? Big deal. And seriously lisa, you are constantly trying to add your name to the list of Americans who have made tremendous contributions for the betterment of the United States and humanity. And you continually try to take credit for issues that were established long before you showed your face. What an insult to our nationally accredited, award-winning Police Department to insinuate that you brought the heroin problem in the suburbs to their attention. Are you kidding me? To quote another famous American, "You are delusional".
Abigail November 22, 2011 at 04:39 PM
I didn't read all of the comments because: (1) there were just too many of them; and (2) haven't we heard this all before? But I would like to make one comment and that is that I think the IL Supreme Court decides what cases they want to hear just like SCOTUS does. So-o-o-o, it could very well be that the IL Supremes may just decide they will go along with the Appellate Court and not hear this case, which means it's over and done. Please let it be over and done.
LongGrove November 22, 2011 at 05:10 PM
well said Abigail!! My comment before was a little off. What I meant to say is what a HUGE waste of time and money! I read one comment about this court case lasting hours....really hours?? HOURS????? Over a preschool fight on the DH playground? Any judge that gives this lady what she is asking for or even one more second of time should be removed! Even my 3 year old know about sticks and stones.... . Lisa didn't anyone tell you names should never hurt you?????
Craig W. November 23, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Lost in all this is the fact that a 16 year old BOY was acting inappropriately on the Internet. Clearly there is no consequences for bad behavior in the Stone household. How about some accountability? Fine parenting...
Lisa Stone November 23, 2011 at 06:15 AM
Below is another excerpt that Trustee Jeff Berman wrote to me and BGPD Chief Balinski: "...In addition, in response to her question predicated on an assertion that she had heard that (removed) could be Hipcheck16, I informed her I did not know the identity of the blogger, I had speculated as to the possible identity and he was one of a number of people I had thought might be the blogger, I had never spoken to (removed) about it and could not shed any light on it other than I was near to certain it was not a member of the Board at the time of posting. Likewise, I did confirm I had spoken with Judge Johnson on the date of the blog, but any claim or conjecture on her part as to the motive, timing or effect of the conversation is, at best, a misperception or misstatement..." Best regards, Jeff Berman
Art November 23, 2011 at 03:27 PM
You think? You mean what he said (under a pseudonym) wasn't appropriate? And could cause problems? You mean hold him responsible?
Art November 23, 2011 at 03:28 PM
What is the point of this? Oh, never mind.
RELENTLESSCRITIC November 23, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Erica- I'm not afraid of anything at all, but it appears that Ms. Stone might be, since she's failed to respond to my to previous requests. SO I'll make them again and let's see what happens... Ms. Stone- If you have a point, then make one and stop obfuscating the issue by bringing up things that aren't directly related to the outcome of your court case. Stop "hinting" at things (if that's what you're doing) and say exactly what you mean- no one seems to be able to follow your obtuse message. What's so difficult about making a clear, concise (one or two sentences) and pointed statement about what you're implying or insinuating- particularly as it relates to Trustee Berman and any of the other parties you have mentioned in your previous posts? Quit beating around the bush and skirting the issue- or are you afraid to say exactly what you mean?
Lisa Stone November 23, 2011 at 11:19 PM
RELENTLESSCRITIC: For someone that thinks my messages are obtuse, you seem to watch for them as if they're your lifeblood. As far as any parties that are referenced above, you can certainly contact them if you have any questions. Trustee Jeff Berman & Judge Charles Johnson are both public officials and could be easily reached at their government email address or by phone. I'm sure you're familiar with the Buffalo Grove and Lake County web sites, but if not, BG Village Clerk Janet Sirabian (posting above) should have that information.... if it's not been lost or misplaced.
Lisa Stone November 24, 2011 at 06:56 AM
He was 15, identified himself in full name, and was not acting inappropriately. In fact he was by far the most civil on the comment board, which is ironic since he was the kid! He was simply bringing truth to the lies that were being spewed, though he didn't realize that truth did not matter to them, as their sole intention was to alter perception, and sway voters their way, by attempting to destroy his Mom. My sons are very nice people, and I don't think you'll hear much to the contrary on that.
J November 24, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Lets forget about Lisa, son and Hipcheck16 for a moment. Be thankful that Lisa had a chance to try for 'justice'. "It is not what is said but what the receiving end perceives is said" (COMMUNICATIONS 101), and we all need to be aware of this whether in print/verbal, etc. What would you do if you were in her situation? I believe that she did what she had to do. Our legal system does not always give the answer/decision we want even though we believe we are right. However, we do have a fair system. Please...everyone...lets just put this all behind us and move on. Visions of grandeur are just comments as long as noone responds to them,. the fact that people are responding, gives credibility to what is being said and insecurity to those who are saying them. That being said...."Happy Thanksgiving" to all and cherish your family and friends.
RELENTLESSCRITIC November 25, 2011 at 09:49 PM
J- I suggest you read up on the legal concept of "innocent construction", which provides that a person's words that a plaintiff alleges to be libelous must be read in context and that if those words are capable of being reasonably construed in a nondefamatory, "innocent," fashion, or so as to refer to someone other than the plaintiff, the libel action will fail. In other words, people can't decide what the words "imply", they must be taken exactly as written. That was one of the big issues in the hipcheck16 case- Ms. Stone claimed that hipcheck16's comments somehow implied sexual issues, but when read in the context of the preceding conversation, and not "implying" their meaning, there was nothing sexual or inappropriate about the comment. Except in MS. Stone's eyes.
RELENTLESSCRITIC November 25, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Ms. Stone- Just as I suspected- you didn't answer my questions and made a feeble attempt to sidestep them. I have no desire to contact Mssrs. Johnson or Berman - they're not the ones who are on here making hints and not-so-subtle allegations about people- YOU are. Why can't you stop hinting and directly say what you mean? Are you afraid that you may be wrong and will be publicly called out on it, and perhaps even sued? If you're so certain that Mssrs. Berman and Johnson were involved in the hipcheck16 situation- or if you believe one of them IS hipcheck16, then why not specifically say so? For someone who claims to stand up for their convictions, you're certainly being a coward about this. And by the way- I'd go back and check your facts about what your son posted on the DH boards on election night. I dare say that (at best) they were "less than polite", and certainly had nothing to do with defending your honor. In fact, they were quickly yanked by the DH editors shortly after they were posted. Those of us that read them before they were pulled know exactly what he wrote- and they are nothing like what you've portrayed them as in your previous posts.
Lisa Stone November 25, 2011 at 11:17 PM
RELENTLESSCRITIC: You're 100% wrong. When my son posted his comment that revealed who he was (his full name), and stated how he felt to the bloggers that were spewing such lies and hatred about his Mom, he realized that his identity would eventually be known to his parents as well. So, he "reported" himself to DH, so they'd remove the post, and only for that reason. Hours later it was removed, but not before the "haters" who manned the boards 24/7, (as you well know), and as you mention above, then knew exactly who he was. No, he did not say anything vulgar, and you know that. He actually showed great restraint. ~~~~~~ As to Trustee Berman's quote....they're his words, not mine. excerpt that Trustee Jeff Berman wrote to me and BGPD Chief Balinski: "...In addition, in response to her question predicated on an assertion that she had heard that (removed) could be Hipcheck16, I informed her I did not know the identity of the blogger, I had speculated as to the possible identity and he was one of a number of people I had thought might be the blogger, I had never spoken to (removed) about it and could not shed any light on it other than I was near to certain it was not a member of the Board at the time of posting. Likewise, I did confirm I had spoken with Judge Johnson on the date of the blog, but any claim or conjecture on her part as to the motive, timing or effect of the conversation is, at best, a misperception or misstatement..." Best regards, Jeff Berman
Erica Williams November 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM
RC - Sounds like you know the law backwards and forwards. Where did you get your law degree?
Erica Williams November 28, 2011 at 01:46 PM
RC - You didn't answer me. Why not?
Erica Williams November 30, 2011 at 12:15 PM
RC - You've been really quiet. Or is it guilt? I find it funny that you haven't posted in a few days. Have you been told not to post by the higher ups?

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