Friday, December 5, 2008

Prove It

If you go on TV and say that someone is a spy for a foreign government that doesn’t like us, you had better be able to prove it or have a really good lawyer on your speed-dial. That seems to be the lesson for Lt. Col. Chris Simmons.

On Oct. 8, Simmons appeared on América TeVe Channel 41 show A Mano Limpia and identified anti-embargo activist Silvia Wilhelm as a Cuban government collaborator.

Wilhelm, executive director of Puentes Cubanos and the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, filed a defamation suit against Simmons seeking more than $75,000.

Simmons had said former FIU professor Carlos Alvarez, convicted of spying for Cuba, identified Wilhelm in his confession to the FBI. She since ”retired” from her duties after the FBI approached her, Simmons said.

”My suit speaks for itself,” Wilhelm said Thursday. She referred questions to her attorney, Bruce Rogow, who could not be reached for comment.

Simmons, who lives in Virginia, also could not be reached.

Simmons caused a buzz in Spanish-languauge media when he first appeared on the show hosted by Oscar Haza naming several academics as spies for the government. He offered no proof. He has been on the show twice and identified seven people.

”I’m glad Silvia is doing this,” said FIU Professor Lisandro Pérez, who said he is considering also filing suit against Simmons for calling him a spy. ”Suing for defamation is an onerous process and would take a great deal of money and time. You have to prove you are not a spy.

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know much about libel and slander laws, but it seems to me that if someone makes a claim about you, the burden of proof is on them to make the case that you are what they say you are. Proving you’re not a spy seems to be an exercise in proving a negative.

Lt. Col. Simmons has been making the rounds on the Spanish-language radio talk shows in Miami for a while. He says he’s willing to “parade his evidence in front of the world.” Well, I love a parade, but proof is another matter.

(HT to Rick at SFDB.)