BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A case the 9News Investigators first reported on last week landed front and center in court Monday. In fact, two WAFB reports were aired in the courtroom as Judge Michael Caldwell looked into whether a fired East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy defamed McDonald's.
Tracy Baker posted on Facebook in September that McDonald's does not support law enforcement after he claimed an employee there cursed at him.
Monday's court hearing lasted nearly five hours over whether a temporary restraining order that prevents Baker from posting comments about McDonald's, should be made permanent. In the end, Judge Caldwell did order a permanent restraining order.
Kiran: So he can never post anything about McDonald's again?
Trent Oubre (McDonald's lawyer): No, that's not what we said. Again, not to go into detail and retry the case here, but the judge's ruling is clear. It's in the court record. There's a record of it, and we'll say it speaks for itself.
Kiran: Basically it says he cannot post anything that is defamatory or false statements?
Oubre: In essence, that's correct, but the details are in the court records.
Many aspects played into Monday's hearing. First, Baker said he could not afford legal representation so he defended himself. Then, all parties argued over the emailed temporary restraining order, with McDonald's lawyers saying he did receive notice and told the TRO was in effect.
"That's not normal service. It could have been made up at your office. I had not been properly served, and I'm sure it meant nothing to this court," said Baker.
Baker was personally served Friday, Nov. 20th.
The owner of the McDonald's in Central, Chris Valluzzo testified the whole incident has damaged McDonald's 50 plus year reputation beyond repair.
"Our image is tarnished. What we stand for, it basically negates our zero tolerance on this," said Baker. "It paints a picture that will take a long time to correct. It tarnishes our reputation of 50 years that we built up our reputation. It's not even measurable, the damage it's caused. It's a damage I won't be able to get past."
The video of the incident was played in court. It had no audio and showed Baker driving up to the drive-thru window, talking to a manager with the woman taking orders standing behind her. Baker was at the window for less than a minute. McDonald's managers and lawyers argued body language of the involved parties did not change and therefore, did not show any evidence of anything happening.
Baker stood close enough to be able to see the screen and whispered under his breath, "Right there" saying that point in the video is when the woman allegedly said the words under her breath. Judge Caldwell did not rule on the factual basis of the incident based on the video.
Judge Caldwell said the deputy's opinions are protected by the First Amendment, but said that his comments about McDonald's were not true and therefore were defamatory.
"The judge has ruled I cannot make any statements regarding the incident. Other than that, no comment," said Baker.
For over 50 years, we've been a part of this community. We have supported law enforcement and backed the blue and this defamation showed us in a light we're not in. We do support law enforcement. We have always supported law enforcement and will always support law enforcement," said Valluzzo.
Kiran: If you can say anything to Tracy Baker, what do you say?
Valluzzo: No comment. This is not me ever attacking Mr. Baker. This is me defending our reputation in this community and our reputation with the law enforcement community.
Kiran: He claims that you got him fired.
Valluzzo: No ma'am.
If Baker violates the restraining order, he could be held in contempt of court.