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Online Attacks Prompt Calls For Ethics Investigations

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A KD Investigation into state Rep. Jesse White has prompted calls from both political parties for ethic investigations.

White is under fire for denying and then admitting to attacking constituents on the Internet under aliases.

Janice Gibbs, a local grandmother and a Marcellus Shale drilling supporter, is just one of the people who was attacked for her pro-gas views.

But in her case, White is accused of going even further and attacking her under her own name.

“I don’t condemn him for being against drilling. I don’t think it’s right, but that’s his opinion,” said Gibbs. “But don’t hide behind someone else, especially my name to condemn me for what I like.”

Like White, Sen. Tim Solobay is a Democrat representing the same constituents.

Sen. Solobay is pro-drilling and has been attacked online under assumed names like Texas Timmy and NotTimSolobay. He can’t say that White is behind those posts, but today he chastised White for attacking the people he represents.

“Because someone has a difference of opinion, to turn around and regardless of who you are and who you may be, to make fun of or degrade, that’s complete unacceptable,” said Sen. Solobay. “It truly is.”

Sen. Solobay says that he expects the Ethics Committee and the legislature will take some action against White.

“I would imagine there’s going to be some retribution at this point. Whether he censured or sanctioned,” Sen. Solobay said.

Whether White has broken any laws is a gray area. The Democratic caucus says there is no evidence at this point that White used state computers or resources to attack constituents.

But two years ago, a Washington County jury found that White had defamed a Robinson Township man with an Internet post White made under his own name.

And attorney Charles Kurowski says these anonymous posts will offer him no protection against lawsuits.

“He’s trying to create a steel curtain to limit his liability, but that steel curtain is not a steel curtain, it’s more like a glass wall or a glass ceiling that can be torn down,” said Kurowski.

Where all of this will take White remains to be seen; what is clear is that the furor over these posts is only getting louder.

RELATED LINKS:
Shale Drilling Supporters Attacked Online Say Apology Not Accepted (5/30/13)
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More Reports from Andy Sheehan

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