Monday, December 5, 2016

Kansas City "Super Lawyer" Craig O'Dear, of Bryan Cave firm, has plenty to say about our reporting on the Ashley Madison Web site -- and his appearance there

Craig O'Dear
Every subject in our Ashley Madison series has been given at least one opportunity to make a statement or respond to questions prior to publication. Most have passed on that opportunity, but Kansas City "Super Lawyer" Craig O'Dear, of the Bryan Cave firm, opened up about plenty. So did Stephanie O'Dear, his ex wife. Both indicated they reconciled in 2014 and are living together again as a family, although neither specifically said they were remarried.

Here is the full response that Craig O'Dear sent to me via e-mail:

Mr. Shuler:

The article you have drafted and now threaten to publish conveys a false and misleading impression of people about whom you have little knowledge.

Stephanie was and is the love of my life. We were married in 1995, and legally divorced in November 2012. Many years prior to the effective date of our divorce, we ceased to be a married couple, and my marital obligations to Stephanie came to an end. I was not unfaithful in the marriage, and Stephanie never alleged in our divorce proceeding that I had been. Your draft article conveys an impression to the contrary. That impression is false.

Further, I have never at any time in my life been romantically involved with any woman who was married. You draft article conveys a false impression to the contrary on that issue as well by highlighting the marketing tag line for the dating site you reference and implying anyone who might have used it did so for the purpose of engaging in an extramarital affair. The only possible purpose you could have to do this is to publish something you believe will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally. During this difficult period in my life, whatever social activity I engaged in violated no marital obligations. My focus was being the best father I could be to my children and being the best lawyer I could be practicing law and taking care of my clients. If you took the time to interview anyone who has any personal knowledge of my life, you would know this.

The good news in all of this is that in the Spring of 2014, Stephanie approached me and expressed a desire to re-establish our relationship and reunite our family. Unlike most of the stories of broken marriages, this one has a happy ending. We engaged in a process that achieved our objective, and Stephanie and I are again partners in life, living together with our children, and enjoying the blessing of all that entails. This is yet another point on which your draft article conveys a false and misleading impression, because you know nothing about the people and the family you seek to slander.

I am copying Stephanie on this email. I told her of your communication to me. She has seen your draft "article" and she told me she had some comments to convey to you as well. You should refrain from publishing your false and slanderous "article." If you proceed to publish this false and misleading article, an act which is legally actionable, we insist you publish in full in the same article my response and Stephanie's response, which tells the real story of our lives and corrects the many false impressions your article conveys.

          Craig S. O'Dear

          Sent from my iPhone

Mr. O'Dear makes a number of curious, even alarming, statements. A few such statements require a response from me:

1. I did not "threaten" to publish anything. I said I was going to publish an article on Mr. O'Dear's appearance at Ashley Madison, which he does not deny, and I even sent him a draft to fact-check, comment on, or take questions about. Why does he use the word "threaten"? My best guess is this: Most extortion statutes use some version of the term "threat" or "threaten." Such laws generally govern situations where someone says, "I'm going to publish this unflattering information if you don't do such and such." That is a threat, and nothing like that is present in my communication with Mr. O'Dear. As a "Super Lawyer," he should know that, but he apparently wants to send a not-so-subtle threat himself.

2. O'Dear repeatedly claims my article gives a "false and misleading impression" about him and his family life. He never points out anything that is false, and he apparently is the arbiter of what is, or is not, a "misleading impression." His comment seems to be an attempt to "read into" my article information that is not there.

3. O'Dear claims my article "conveys the impression" that he had been unfaithful in his marriage, even though his wife never alleged that in her divorce proceeding. Well, that's fine, but my article doesn't allege that either. It's curious that O'Dear takes a literal approach to reading his wife's divorce documents, but reads my article based on "impressions" that he pulls out of thin air.

4. O'Dear claims he never has been romantically involved with a married woman, but again, my article never says that he has been. He also says he never engaged in social activity that violated marital obligations. Again, my article doesn't say that he has. O'Dear seems to be focusing on Ashley Madison's motto: "Life is short, have an affair." That is the language the firm has used to differentiate itself from standard dating sites. Ashley Madison developed that language, not I; and the company clearly was targeting those who were at least interested in the possibility of an extramarital affair. That's a marketing decision Ashley Madison made, and Mr. O'Dear fell for, but I was not involved in that process.

5. O'Dear seems to dip into mind-reading when he claims my reporting "will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally." The truth? I've never said anything in my communications with Mr. O'Dear about blog traffic, embarrassing anyone, or damaging anyone (personally, professionally, or otherwise).

6. I'm pleased the O'Dears have reunited, and that information only came to light because I did legwork -- also known as journalism -- to bring it to light. My original reporting references the reunion, and I address it again here. And yet, O'Dear still claims I am seeking to "slander" his family.

7. O'Dear then refers me to Stephanie O'Dears comments -- which we will share in an upcoming post -- but he warns that I should not publish this "false and slanderous" article, which he deems "legally actionable." That's a clear threat of a lawsuit. As I've stated on this blog several times, all of us are subject to being sued each day, from the moment we wake up until the moment we plop back in bed. I suppose we can be sued while we are asleep, perhaps for "negligent dreaming" or "intentional infliction of dreamy distress." That doesn't mean any old lawsuit is legally actionable, and the filing of baseless lawsuits comes with the possibility of countersuits and sanctions.

Now, let's see what Stephanie O'Dear has to say.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

Sounds like Mr. O'Dear did not find your reporting too endearing.

Ira Stottle said...

I just dont get it. You do real work with your efforts against corrupt elected officials. Those people have put themselves in the public domain. Yet you target people because they work in law or have somehow found a way to be successful in life, even if you have never met write to embarrass them. Or worst, profit from them (through page views).

You will likely claim these are powerful people and that "we" have a right to know what they do in the personal life. You will probably respond that they hold roles in society that require them to judge we should judge them.

This is bogus reasoning. These people are simply living their private lives and if they look at a website, watch porn, drink too much or practice dishonesty (in your opinion) in their personal get to be the judge. Roger there is no justification for what you are doing to these people...other than being cruel and using a bully pulpit.

You will say "I am not implying anything" or "I am not trying to embarrass, bully or harass." I am simply reporting that their names appear. My readers can be the judge.

This again is bogus. You purposely tag and use SEO to make sure people other than your core readers will find this information. You go out of your way to publicly use what is private, personal and embarrassing information to shame, humiliate and embarrass. You optimize these posts so that anyone search for a person cant help by to find and see your sensational headlines.

You are worse than the people you rail against on this bloq. You are worse than the people who took your house, because you had a business relationship with them. You are worse than the judges who have decided against you, because thats what the system decides. You are worse than your brother who you believed screwed you, He didn't. He was looking out for you and worried about you. He loves (ed) you.

You are hitting people who are vulnerable, who have done less than nothing to you personaly and you are writing about them to simply cause them pain.

Causing them to bare pain, will not relieve yours.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Super lawyer is super pissed!

Anonymous said...

Will be interesting to see if Mr. O'Dear actually sues you. He doesn't have a case, but if you know the judge (as he probably does), you don't have to have a case.

Anonymous said...

Methinks Mr. O'Dear is threatening you. That's pretty much No. 1 in the lawyer's bag of tricks, right?

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear, O'Dear is not a happy camper!

Anonymous said...

Odear seems like a decent guy, asking for privacy only. Roger - don't be a dick.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:26 -- O'Dear might be a decent guy, and maybe other AM guys I've reported on are decent guys, too. It's not my job to make a determination whether they are decent or not. It's to show that, despite their smarts, success (and, maybe, decency) they still signed on for a Web site that promotes extramarital affairs. If privacy was a big concern for O'Dear, he should have thought of that before signing up with a sleazy outfit like Ashley Madison.

If you think engaging in journalism makes one a "dick," I'm not sure why you are reading this Web site. Surely, there is something else more suited to your tastes.

Anonymous said...

So you normally trash the guys that do not respond to your invitation to respond. And when somebody does respond, you trash him. And you wonder why most won't respond....

legalschnauzer said...

@8:04 --

Why don't you explain what you mean by "trashing" somebody? I think that's what most of us would call "journalism." I reported that Mr. O'Dear's name was on the Ashley Madison customer list, which it is -- and he doesn't deny it. He then asked that I run his response in full, and I did. His response included a number of claims that do not match the facts, including thinly veiled threats to sue me for publishing accurate information. He also read all kinds of claims into my post that aren't there, so I responded to certain points.

Don't know how that amounts to "trashing" anyone. But it makes me think you are short on knowledge about journalism. You just don't like the Ashley Madison story seeing the light of day, and I get that. Your agenda is clear.

Anonymous said...

You are correct that I don't like your "reporting" of the Ashley Madison story. You seem intent on embarrassing people who haven't hurt anyone other than their families. I am not condoning what these men intended (even if one believes their claims that they were framed, just curious, etc - I don't buy that). But your condemnation of them serves only to hurt them. I really dislike your running photos of innocent spouses and children and including names. They did not ask for that treatment and public humiliation. You call it journalism. I call it muckraking.

Generally, I find your blog entertaining, and you do bring some very valid concerns to light. I just don't like to see innocent people who never intended to be public figures (spouses and children) cast in such a negative light.

legalschnauzer said...

@7:46 =- Innocent people/victims have their names in newspapers and on TV news all the time. Many of them might prefer to have their names kept out of the press, but if a reporter/editor feels it should be there, it will be there.

Do you think I like having news accounts of my incarceration spread all over the Web and numerous print/TV news outlets? No, I don't. But the accounts are out there, many of them with false or misleading information, and I was 100 percent a victim. There were no lawful grounds to arrest me, but my mugshot can be found all over the place.

I disagree on a couple of your key points. I don't believe I cast spouses and children in a negative light. And I certainly am not condemning the AM customers. I could write an op-ed piece that condemns them, but I have't done that. Instead, I've kept my reporting about as straightforward and middle-of-the-road as you can get.

I agree it's a touchy subject, one that must be handled carefully. That's why I give everyone a chance to respond, and you see that Craig O'Dear did respond. I could give you several names -- probably a half dozen or so -- who have responded to me privately, explained their situations, and I have not reported on them because I believe they had legit excuses/explanations.

You might be among some who think I'm just slashing and burning my way through this story. If you knew what has gone on behind the scenes, you would know that is not the case.

Anonymous said...


you say "You might be among some who think I'm just slashing and burning my way through this story. If you knew what has gone on behind the scenes, you would know that is not the case." Yet if you are deciding to not run stories because you "believe they had legit excuses/explanations." how does this series of stories meet the stink test of the publics right to know?

The parallel you draw between your case and the case of people who spent money to look at a web site is false. You were brought on charges for a crime. You were afforded due process and you had a remedy afforded to you to address said crime and well established precedents to prove or disprove your complicity. In your narrative of people in this series of stories, you alone serve as the arbiter of "justice". You decided who to report on when you decide what a legit excuse is. How is that the same thing?

Your version of journalism in this case is tabloid at best, cruel and unnecessary for certain. These are not public figures, these are not people accused of a crime and these are not people that who deserve your public judgment, as you are simply not qualified or responsible for their actions or for them to account to you for their thoughts. O'Dear is a fine example. He reasons sound valid, his story is sincere and by all accounts he is a good guy (if you can ignore that he is a lawyer). Your story, now that we know the details and his, simply serves as a post to embarrass him. His wife (ex wife, whatever) doesn't deserved to be named or publicly linked to this, his kids dont either.

Here is a modest proposal...why not scour hacked medical records and report on who has had STD's, has substance abuse problems or mental illness? Those are just as relevant, the source data would be just as ethical to use and you would be able to open up your "reporting" to so many other people. If you need, I can send some of these hacked files over to you too.

The problem with these stories is they undermine all of your other work.