Plainfield village trustee Garrett Peck wants to identify anonymous online commenters, saying they posted false information that hurt his bid to become an Illinois state senator.
Peck, who was defeated in November 2012 by Democrat Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant for the 49th District seat, said he wants to uncover the commenters' identities, including a Plainfield Patch user, so he can potentially sue for damages.
In a petition for discovery filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, Peck is asking Plainfield Patch and Topix, a local online discussion board, to provide information about several commenters. He claims they are responsible for derailing his campaign. The petition asks Patch to turn over the users' account information and IP addresses, along with providing comments since removed from the site.
"I'm not against people making comments on the Patch or other media websites," Peck said. "The issue is anonymous cyberbullies attacking with damaging comments with no accountability, and this has to change."
The filing alleges that a Patch user who goes by the user name “Tim” commented on articles to post “patently false” accusations about Peck, who is now seeking re-election to the Plainfield village board. In the document, Peck also requests account information for two other Patch user accounts, for user names “Ron”/“Rod Jidzny” and “Eyes on Plainfield.”
In the documents, Peck states that user name "Tim" commented on an article published in September, calling Peck a "sociopath" and a "conman," and accusing him of bribing the police.
The petition states that "Tim" posted a comment "claiming 1) that the Plainfield police came to [Peck's] home to investigate a report that the petitioner had assaulted his wife and 2) that the petitioner subsequently paid the police cash to avoid an arrest."
Other comments accused Peck of illegally obtaining information about competing bids to help his company, Magik Technology Solutions Inc., win a 2011 contract to provide equipment to the Plainfield School District, the court document states.
According to the petition, the statements made by the commenters are "factually and verifiably false" and "caused the petitioner anguish and suffering, and have resulted in harm to both his and his company's reputation."
Peck said he believes the user names "Tim" and "Ron" belong to the same Patch commenter.
Peck also wants Topix, which provides a forum for online discussions, to provide account information for an anonymous user by the name of "Fiscal Republicans," who allegedly accused Peck of having an extramarital affair. Topix LLC, a privately held company, is funded by the Tribune Company, Gannett, and the McClatchy Company.
The petition names Patch, Topix and "John Doe" as defendants.
In the court filing, Peck attributes his loss in the November election to the online comments, stating, "as a direct and proximate result of the aforementioned defamatory content, [Peck] was not elected to the 49th District Illinois State Senate."
The petition goes on to say Peck loaned his own campaign about $80,000, and that the annual salary of a state senator is $70,000 plus benefits.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6 at the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago.
"The overall goal is to get their identities," Peck told Patch on Thursday, "and then we'll decide what our legal options are."
Peck is represented by Chicago law firm Saper Law, which specializes in cases involving social media, copyright infringement and online libel and slander.