Libel Case Defendant Admits He Was Wrong Online Comments Upset Ex-Dispatcher

Article excerpt

Byline: Gordon Jackson, Times-Union staff writer

WOODBINE -- Jack Kearney admits he was mistaken when he falsely accused a former Camden County police dispatcher of not reporting two 911 calls involving her son the weekend before he was charged in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend on Valentine's Day 1995.

In his message to an Internet bulletin board, Kearney said 17-year-old Amanda McCaig's shooting death could have been avoided if Beverly Clark hadn't protected her son, Jason Fetty.

"There is no way that woman should be working for the 911 center," Kearney wrote in his November 1998 message. "Now, call me crazy, but I don't want that woman in position of public trust. I can't believe she didn't get fired immediately."

Two days later, however, the St. Marys man learned there were no 911 calls regarding Fetty and that Clark was off duty and out of town the weekend in question. He said he printed a retraction, saying he got inaccurate information from "a trusted friend."

The retraction on the bulletin board wasn't acceptable to Clark. She hired St. Marys attorney Jim Stein, who sent Kearney a letter demanding $25,000 in damages or he would be sued.

Kearney would not pay and was notified he was being sued for libel and slander. The trial began yesterday in Camden County Superior Court and is expected to end today, court officials and Stein said. The 12-member jury would specify damages if Kearney is found guilty.

Kearney is representing himself. The free-lance comedian and actor said he has no legal background, but cannot afford an attorney.

He said he won't "debate the fact I did this." His argument is Clark was a public figure while she worked as a 911 dispatcher from November 1992 until January 2002, and his intent wasn't to harm her with his comments.

"You can't show malice when I was just trying to protect my community," Kearney said.

McCaig was slain after Fetty kicked open the back door of her mother's house just outside the St. Marys city limits.

She was shot twice in the head by Fetty, who led police on a chase through four counties before his capture in Florida. Fetty told friends he planned to kill McCaig because he still loved her and couldn't stand the thought of dating anyone else. …