EASTON, Pa. - Lehigh Valley blogger Bernie O'Hare has won a $67,140 award against defendant Tricia Mezzacappa in Northampton County Court.
The verdict, announced Friday by Judge Michael J. Koury, Jr., following consideration of evidence presented at a non-jury trial on March 11.
Mezzacappa, who resides in West Easton, did not appear at that trial, so no attempt was made to present a defense to O'Hare's claims for damages.
According to the judge's verdict, she did not even accept the notice of the trial that had been sent to her her via certified mail. The notice was returned unclaimed.
O'Hare was awarded $15,000 in general compensatory damages, $7,380 in special compensatory damages and $44,760 in punitive damages -- plus costs.
O'Hare filed a defamation suit against Mezzacappa in April 2012, seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
His suit followed a petition for a temporary restraining order Mezzacappa had filed against him the previous week. It requested protection from stalking and cyber-stalking.
In her petition, Mezzacappa claimed O'Hare had sexually assaulted her in her home, tried to use his Lehigh Valley Ramblings blog to ruin her reputation as a professional nurse and politician, regularly accosted her while she was walking in Hugh Moore Park, tried to poison her pot-bellied pig and might have been involved in a burglary at her home.
Her request for a restraining order was denied. At the time, O'Hare called her accusations "fabricated nonsense."
In his suit, O'Hare used Mezzacappa's accusations as proof that she had "a reckless disregard for the truth" and was acting "from malice."
O'Hare's suit also cited accusations Mezzacappa allegedly made against him in two blogs: Saving Private Gracedale and West Easton Foot Print.
Commenting on the verdict Friday afternoon, O'Hare thanked Atty. Richard Orloski, his lawyer, and said the verdict "tells online trolls that defamation is still defamation."
In his own blog Friday, O'Hare wrote that "what bothered me most were her false accusations of pedophilia." He said people "began to wonder if they should worry about me" --including when he went to watch his grandson participate in sporting events.
Allentown, PA 18102