From court documents (link)
- The California Litigation
Shortly after LVDF recorded a notice of default on Piazza’s Nevada property, Dziubla and Stanwood began receiving disturbing visits at their California residence from two men, Danielo Quidang and Patrick Schneemann, who claimed to be private investigators. According to plaintiffs, the men spied on their home, snuck onto their property to take pictures and videos, and yelled threats when plaintiffs confronted them. Dziubla and Stanwood obtained restraining orders against the men.
The next month, Piazza published a manifesto characterizing Dziubla as an enemy to Front Sight. This Emergency Action Alert (Alert) was posted on Front Sight’s website and e-mailed to its 200,000 members. In the Alert, Piazza described Dziubla as a Lying, Two-Faced, Gun-Grabbing Hillary Clinton Supporting, Con Man who was attempting to STEAL Front Sight through the Nevada suit. The Alert used forceful — even violent — rhetoric and appealed for monetary contributions to Piazza’s litigation war chest. Of particular significance in this case, Piazza also doxed Dziubla and Stanwood in the Alert by publishing their home address, pictures of their house, and photos of Dziubla including a close-up image of his face. These pictures were taken by Quidang and Schneemann, who were allegedly hired by Piazza.
After learning about the Alert, plaintiffs filed this California lawsuit against Piazza, Quidang and Schneemann alleging a dozen causes of action that fall roughly into two categories: (1) trespass and privacy claims concerning Quidang and Schneemann’s activities on their property; and (2) defamation and harassment claims concerning Piazza’s publication of the Alert.
Piazza challenged the defamation and harassment allegations under California’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, arguing that the Alert was protected speech. (Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16.)
All subsequent statutory references are to the Code of Civil Procedure unless otherwise specified.
The trial court agreed, shifting the burden to plaintiffs to show minimal merit so that they could proceed on these claims. As to this second step of the anti-SLAPP analysis, the court largely agreed with plaintiffs but for their inability to overcome Piazza’s primary defense: that the Alert was protected by the litigation privilege. As a result, the court granted most of Piazza’s special motion to strike, effectively barring all of plaintiffs’ claims that were based on the Alert (including the doxing allegations).