An original version of this story identified Melissa Harcus as one of the defendants Terrell alleged violated a previous restraining order by making posts about him after the order was issued. Harcus was not one of the defendants. The story has been updated to reflect as such.
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A settlement was reached between United Cajun Navy (UCN) President Todd Terrell and seven of eight defendants he accused of using a Facebook group called Cajun Navy Wiki Leaks to make disparaging posts about him and the organization.
The hearings began Thursday, Dec. 5 before Judge Tim Kelly. Terrell was the only person to testify during the entire duration of that day in all eight back-to-back cases.
The defense had the opportunity to testify for the first time Thursday, Dec. 12, however, only one defendant, Melissa Harcus, was able to testify before her codefendant, Thomas Bever, interrupted her in an attempt to present evidence directly to the judge.
Judge Kelly paused proceedings to allow Bever and the attorney representing all eight defendants, Jarvis Antwine, to get on the same page. However, when court reconvened, the judge announced a settlement was reached between Terrell and seven of the eight defendants: Deborah Asuncion, Bever, Denise Brunson, Kip Coltrin, Jeremy Ellis, Harcus, and Alice Johnson. The eighth defendant, Gloria Godwin, was not present in court.
The conditions of the settlement include:
- Permanent protective orders for Terrell against Brunson, Godwin, Coltrin, Ellis, and Bever. These types of orders are available to law enforcement in Louisiana and around the country. A violation of these orders would equate to a criminal action.
- Civil injunctions for Terrell against Harcus, Johnson, and Asuncion. All defendants will have civil injunctions against Terrell. If violated, these types of orders are punishable as a violation of court orders and typically carry a punishment of up to six months in jail or up to a $500 fine.
- The defendants will remove all posts and comments from the Cajun Navy Wiki Leaks Facebook group that mention Terrell and other social media platforms.
- Terrell will withdraw motions in which he claimed Bever, Coltrin, Godwin, and Ellis violated a previous restraining order by making posts about him after the order was issued.
- Neither party will be prohibited from possessing firearms, which can sometimes be a stipulation built into permanent restraining orders.
“I really think this is a good resolution to this,” said Judge Kelly, noting he made the restraining orders as “light” as he could.
Judge Kelly went on to caution the defendants that the types of allegations frequently made against politicians on social media platforms would be considered disparaging when made against individuals and could lead to further court action.
“Just be careful how you use social media,” said Judge Kelly. “Try to remember [politicians] have to live under a different standard than individuals do.”
Because of the settlement, neither the defendants or Terrell were able to comment about the outcome. However, attorneys from both groups did express satisfaction with the settlement.
“We got protective orders. We protected our client’s interest from what he’s been going through and I think we did a good job today,” said attorney, Josh Melder.
“We thought Judge Kelly did an excellent job of explaining everything to everyone. It was a good resolution for everybody. We’re happy,” said an attorney representing the defendants.
United Cajun Navy (UCN) spokesman, Brian Trascher, previously suggested Terrell’s case would be the first of many planned cases to address individuals who allegedly made comments about the organization on social media.