Defense fund created in Pflueger fight

Hawaii Reporter Editor Malia Zimmerman has launched a defense fund to go up against car dealership owner and Ka Loko Reservoir Dam breach defendant James Pflueger.

The move comes in the wake of a civil suit filed by Pflueger against Zimmerman, in an attempt to seize notes for her investigative work into the cause of the March 14, 2006, breach of Kaua‘i’s Ka Loko Reservoir Dam.

Pflueger’s attorney, William McCorriston, subpoenaed Zimmerman in April to be deposed for Pflueger’s civil case in which he is suing the state, Tom Hitch and C Brewer. The notes and reports appeared in Zimmerman’s articles since the breach and also were included on ABC’s 20/20 program on the Ka Loko incident in March, she said.

Jeffrey S. Portnoy, a First Amendment attorney, is representing Zimmerman, but to fund this effort, the Hawaii Reporter has launched a legal defense fund, Zimmerman said.

Though Hawai‘i presently has no shield law, some lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate are planning to introduce such legislation for reporters in 2008. Shield laws protect journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources of information. Zimmerman’s newspaper is online, and Pflueger may claim that she does not have the same protections as journalists.

 Pflueger is involved in a litany of lawsuits in which he is the defendant named by 40 plaintiffs, including entertainer and Honolulu-native Bette Midler, who is suing for property damage, and Bruce Fehring, who not only lost property, but his daughter, grandson and son-in-law in the tragedy.

Pflueger has retaliated with litigious action of his own that stems from these lawsuits, which, beyond Zimmerman, extends to Mimsey Bou-ret, a Prince-ville resident who spoke out publicly against him during a Kaua‘i County Council meeting.

According to court documents, Bouret said Pflueger had recently committed the “biggest mass murder in Hawaiian history” during the televised session.

The complaint continues that Bouret heard Pflueger say he would physically retaliate against any person who made any statement that he did not like while dozens of residents were present at the public meeting, a concept that was “willful, oppressive, reckless in bad faith and malicious.”

Zimmerman and Portnoy are scheduled to appear on PBS Monday to discuss the First Amendment.

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