June 1, 2009

A real estate agent in Houston who blogged about Anna Nicole Smith was jailed for contempt last week in a defamation case brought by the late Playboy model’s mother.

[efoods]Legal experts said bloggers are increasingly the targets of such litigation, which are testing the bounds of free speech.

Lyndal Harrington, who is accused of helping to spread falsehoods that Virgie Arthur married her stepbrother and abused Smith as a child, spent four nights in jail after she failed to comply with a court order to turn over her computer.

The 53-year-old grandmother claimed her computer was stolen during a burglary less than a week after it was subpoenaed.

A police officer testified that he believed the theft was staged and judge Tony Lindsay ordered Harrington to produce the computer by July 2 or she will again face incarceration.

Harrington says she is shocked that she is being sued for comments posted on someone else’s blog to pass the time.

“I just voiced my opinion,” said Lyndal Harrington of her posts about Smith and Arthur on the website “Rose Speaks.”

Like many bloggers, Harrington doesn’t consider herself a publisher and did not realize she could be held liable for her posts.

“I got into this because my business had fallen apart in this economy and it was something to do,” she told AFP. “I developed a lot of friendships with women who are retired or ill at home.”

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