Noel Rosenberg Sues Crystal Huff

Noel Rosenberg, former President of Arisia, Inc. (2000, 2018) and Arisia convention chair (2002), filed suit against Crystal Huff in Middlesex (MA) Superior Court on September 17 alleging defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Huff published a 6,000+ word statement on October 25, 2018 ending her connections with the convention: “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again”. Rosenberg says in his complaint:

…Her blog posting also alleged that in addition to raping her, Noel had “stalked,” “harassed” and “intimidated” her. Crystal’s accusations of violent and heinous criminal wrongdoing by Noel are utterly devoid of any basis in reality.

Rosenberg requests a jury trial, with damages in an amount to be determined by the jury (plus interest), plus costs and attorney’s fees.

A complete copy of the complaint can be downloaded here from a website created for the plaintiff: Noel Rosenberg v. Crystal Huff.

At the time it was published, Huff’s statement evoked a strong and immediate response. Two of Arisia 2019’s guests of honor, Daniel Jose Older and Malka Older, dropped out of the convention. Within three days, the Arisia, Inc. Executive Board announced that Noel Rosenberg had been removed as President and permanently banned from the convention. (This was just the beginning of the convention’s problems. Although not involving Rosenberg, Arisia soon received several more statements criticizing their handling of code of conduct violations, and apologies from two former Arisia officers. There followed four resignations from the Arisia eboard.)

Rosenberg’s complaint gives his version of the relationship he had with Crystal Huff from 2007 to 2010, characterizing all of the encounters where it applies as “consensual sexual intercourse.”

He gives his interpretation of what was done about Huff’s charges at the time under Arisia’s Incident Reporting process, or later when it existed the Arisia Incident Response Team (IRT).

He follows a list of salient examples of the allegations in Huff’s blog post with the summary response:

These and other statements set forth in the blog were false, defamatory and literally fabricated. Her accusations of criminal misconduct are defamatory per se.

The blog post is reproduced in full as one of the attached exhibits.

The court’s website indicates Huff has until January 15, 2021 to file her answer to the suit – coincidentally, the same date the next Arisia is scheduled to begin.

37 thoughts on “Noel Rosenberg Sues Crystal Huff

  1. One wonders if you bothered to read the complaint before making your snarky remark. It is expensive, time consuming, and emotionally taxing to sue someone for defamation in the U.S. Unless you are wealthy, which Rosenberg is not, it is not something undertaken lightly.

  2. Buzz Harris says One wonders if you bothered to read the complaint before making your snarky remark. It is expensive, time consuming, and emotionally taxing to sue someone for defamation in the U.S. Unless you are wealthy, which Rosenberg is not, it is not something undertaken lightly.

    She wasn’t at all being snarky. The plaintiff is indeed as much on trial on the defendant in defamation cases. And since Arisia did remove him, that’s likely to be brought up by her lawyers. I suspect he’s hoping for an out of court settlement in which she admits her claims were false therefore avoiding a costly trial.

  3. I wonder if Rosenberg’s lawyer explained to him that, when you sue someone for defamation, you can wind up being the person on trial.

    He’s represented by David H. Rich of Todd & Weld LLP, a Boston firm that has 43 lawyers as of a 2018 press release. Rich is a partner whose specialties include First Amendment law.

    I haven’t read the complaint yet but the credentials of the firm and attorney suggest that Rosenberg would have been informed about the risks inherent in filing a defamation suit.

  4. @rcade–That’s good. At least he’s making an informed choice.

    @Buzz Harris–

    One wonders if you bothered to read the complaint before making your snarky remark. It is expensive, time consuming, and emotionally taxing to sue someone for defamation in the U.S. Unless you are wealthy, which Rosenberg is not, it is not something undertaken lightly.

    Yes, that’s why it’s important to be aware of the very real risk that the trial is going to wind up being mostly about your behavior, not the defendant’s. I was not being snarky; suing for defamation is damnably unpleasant and expensive even if you have a slam-dunk case, and I think it’s fair to say that people who followed these events as they played out are likely to doubt that his does.

  5. So he’s guilty as can be. Thanks for clearing that up, Noel.

    And he really doesn’t want it going to trial — just hoping to harass (there’s that word again) her into an out of court settlement.

    I suspect his lawyer warned him about him being the one on trial but if he insists on persisting with this (does anyone see a pattern of behavior here?) a lawyer is bound to do what his client asks as long as the client’s paying.

  6. In order to win a defamation case, the plaintiff has to be able to prove that the statements made by the defendant are false. Having re-read the defendant’s statements, I don’t see any possible way that the plaintiff can prove they are false — indeed, there appear to be eyewitnesses and a paper trail to much of it — so I’m guessing that the plaintiff has ponied up significant amount of cash in advance in order to get the attorneys to take what will very likely be a losing case.

  7. In order to win a defamation case, the plaintiff has to be able to prove that the statements made by the defendant are false.

    This is not the case. As lawyers have explained it to me, truth is an affirmative defense. This means the defendant would have to prove the statements are true, rather than the litigant being required to prove them false

  8. Having re-read the defendant’s statements, I don’t see any possible way that the plaintiff can prove they are false — indeed, there appear to be eyewitnesses and a paper trail to much of it — so I’m guessing that the plaintiff has ponied up significant amount of cash in advance in order to get the attorneys to take what will very likely be a losing case.

    I just read the complaint.

    We don’t know what evidence either side has in this case, so I wouldn’t reach any conclusions about the likely outcome. The complaint claims that Rosenberg and Huff were in a polyamorous relationship with each other for four years with the knowledge and consent of each of their own spouses. There’s also allegedly a written agreement between Rosenberg and his spouse that was reviewed by Huff which dictated how Rosenberg and Huff could resume the relationship and Huff asked for and received changes before it was executed. The complaint also alleges that five people attended counseling at different times with some of the others about the relationship: Rosenberg, his spouse, Huff, her spouse, and her boyfriend.

    A complaint is no proof of anything, but the multi-year relationship it describes would have a lot of texts, emails and/or voicemails between the parties and there are multiple outside people who could testify to what they were told by either Rosenberg or Huff. Huff’s blog post also alleges a lot of communication that would be discoverable.

    File 770 makes a brief appearance in the complaint on page 16 when this excerpt from an Oct. 28, 2018, blog post is quoted:

    The Arisia, Inc. Executive Board announced today that Noel Rosenberg, removed as President yesterday, has been permanently banned from the convention. The action came on the heels of revelations in Crystal Huff’s post “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” charging the convention with failing to enforce its code of conduct in situations where she had been the victim. And the Arisia committee has continued to be rocked by statements from people inspired by Huff’s post to go public with their own criticism of Arisia’s handling of incidents they reported …

  9. @JJ: “In order to win a defamation case the plaintiff has to be able to prove that the statements made by the defendant are false”

    This is not necessarily the case. If Rosenberg is a (limited purpose) public figure (which I think you could make an argument for) he would need to show ‘actual malice’.

    Greg Doucette had a good thread on this last year during the Vic Mignogna thing : https://twitter.com/greg_doucette/status/1085764475297292288

  10. MODERATOR’S NOTE: This is too sensitive a discussion to accept comments under handles that are literally “Anonymous” or the equivalent. (And I rarely accept those on any post.)

  11. Jake on September 20, 2020 at 7:50 am said:

    @JJ: “In order to win a defamation case the plaintiff has to be able to prove that the statements made by the defendant are false”

    Is that really the case? Not being a lawyer I would normally assume that the burden is on the defendant to prove the statements are true.

    Personal note: As a active participant in Arisia from the beginning, and a former Arisia ConChair I find the whole situation sucks. I’ve been friends with both parties for years and this just distresses me. And the reaction from everyone else in Arisia has just made it worse.

  12. @Mike: “The Vic Mignogna suit was not a Massachusetts case”

    100% agreed, but the ‘limited purpose public figure’ thing comes from a supreme court case. And for them, ‘actual malice’ (not the same as ‘malice’, actually) comes into play. Here’s one breakdown: https://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/examples-public-and-private-figures

    Going by the case law Mike posted, Lachance v. Herald has a LPPF decision : http://masscases.com/cases/app/78/78massappct910.html

    Reading Rosenberg’s complaint and cross-referencing against Huff’s blog, and I notice he doesn’t address any of the Wiscon points, the closest he comes is in paragraph (52) “Over the next several years,…”

  13. Jake: You unilaterally inserted into the discussion “If Rosenberg is a (limited purpose) public figure (which I think you could make an argument for).” Just to remind readers — it’s not part of the complaint, and until Huff’s answer is filed, we don’t know if it’s part of her defense.

  14. The complaint says “. . . .while at the same time providing a platform for Defendant Crystal Huff (“Crystal”) to promote herself.”

    Double checking online she is, as I’d recalled, Executive Director of Include Better. This is a consulting service, she being the consultant. (Someone giving them self a title of a one-person business is not uncommon.) The website for Include Better is https://crystalhuff.com/ Again, using her own name is not indicative of anything – she may have set up the website before forming the company.

    I would like to know more about the company. Where can I find it?

  15. Include Better, LLC has a Facebook page that describes the company:

    Include Better is a small company working to make geek spaces more inclusive by dismantling tools of the kyriarchy. We do this primarily with facilitated conversations, workshops, talks, and the occasional editorial, essay, or blog post.

    It owns a trademark in the term Include Better and the USPTO database has this description of the mark’s use:

    Business training consultancy services; Consulting services in the field of human resources training, namely, focusing on issues surrounding hiring policies and diversity training; Educational services, namely, conducting lectures, workshops, seminars, and classes in the fields of human resources, namely, focusing on issues surrounding hiring policies, diversity, and inclusion and distribution of training materials in connection therewith; Providing a website featuring blogs and non-downloadable publications in the nature of articles and educational materials in the field of human resources; Training services in the field of human resources, namely, focusing on issues surrounding hiring policies and diversity

    Its LinkedIn profile states that it is privately held.

  16. @Skip Morris: Yes, it is a sad situation. Fandom is meant to be about friendship and common interests and volunteering to do good things. When it falls apart it really hurts.

  17. I was involved in a defamation case a few years ago that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the plaintiff tried to get a ruling on “Whether, for a defamation plaintiff to be deemed a limited-purpose public figure, the defamatory statement must be directly related (or “germane”) to the plaintiff’s voluntary involvement in the particular public controversy.” The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, but the arguments were interesting (my side won).

  18. Elspeth: Try Google.

    @Mike: Your suggestion comes as a surprise, upon consideration is pretty insulting which is even more of a surprise. Of course I started with Google, who wouldn’t?

    Look, I’m doing standard research, a habit of mine. This doesn’t mean that I’m trying to find something in favor or against either party. I’d hoped to make that clear by indicating that nothing negative should be read into her having a title or the company website registered in her own name. Okay?

  19. rcade on September 20, 2020 at 1:49 pm said:

    It owns a trademark in the term Include Better and the USPTO database has this description of the mark’s use:

    Thanks! I had/have no idea where to start and didn’t even think of the Patent Office. I was thinking more of where the company would be registered. As I’ve tried to make clear, I just want to learn more about it.

  20. Elspeth: @Mike: Your suggestion comes as a surprise, upon consideration is pretty insulting which is even more of a surprise. Of course I started with Google, who wouldn’t?

    I’m carefully monitoring the impulse to compile dossiers on either litigant here in comments.

  21. Elspeth: @Mike: Your suggestion comes as a surprise, upon consideration is pretty insulting which is even more of a surprise. Of course I started with Google, who wouldn’t?

    Mike Glyer on September 20, 2020 at 4:22 pm said
    I’m carefully monitoring the impulse to compile dossiers on either litigant here in comments.

    Final statement on this as it isn’t appropriate in public, nor are any further comments.

    For the love of Pete, I am not trying to compile dossiers on either litigant, I asked a simple question about how to find information about a company. In this case a company owned by one of the litigants: what I know is only hearsay. Again, hearsay can be positive or negative, which is irrelevant.

    We both know you write well. I ask a question, you suggest Google, you know perfectly well you’re being insulting. Your response to my saying so doesn’t have anything to do with it.

    Not wanting people to compile dossiers here isn’t only reasonable, it’s an excellent thing. I don’t know what’s going on that you didn’t just say so. It’s not as if we haven’t known each other for years.

    This hurts, hurts a lot, which I think wraps things up. You have my email address to use or not use as you prefer.

    As to the relevant, I will refrain from further comments on this subject.

  22. Truth is an affirmative defense against defamation. That is, you cannot defame someone (under the law) with true statements about them, regardless of how damaging those true statements are. (Sometimes truth is easy to determine – I call you a thief, and you have a conviction for burglary. Sometimes it’s not.) Aside from truth, there are other defenses against charges of defamation, but having called someone “my rapist” will likely close off certain avenues.

  23. I think File 770’s disinclination to allow people to create dossiers here is great! I see that some of that kind of thing that was posted about me a few years ago has been removed (or at least I can’t find it here now?). I’d talked to our attorneys about filing a defamation suit when that was happening to me and it was decided that since the people who were doing it didn’t really have any assets, it would be pointless. I’d have wound up paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and they’d have no consequences anyhow. Interestingly, there has been some overlap in the names that keep popping up in several of these kinds of reports.

  24. Karen Junker: I think File 770’s disinclination to allow people to create dossiers here is great! I see that some of that kind of thing that was posted about me a few years ago

    I recall those discussions quite clearly, and there were no “dossiers” being created; reading back through the comments, they were peoples’ personal experiences with, and observations of, a convention that was ill-conceived, badly-planned, poorly-managed, and went down in flames, leaving some people out-of-pocket.

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