NJ educator in trans rant beer-toss case sues for defamation

Jul 12, 2021, 10:30 AM | Updated: 6:43 pm

GALLOWAY, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey middle school vice principal who was filmed tossing a cup of beer at people who had been recording his wife’s rant against an apparent transgender woman’s use of a public restroom is suing them for defamation, asserting he never said a word about transgender issues.

Michael Smurro, a vice principal at Neptune Middle School who has been on leave without pay since shortly after the April incident at an outdoor restaurant in Galloway Township, has filed a civil suit against four people who are suing him and his wife over the incident.

In his countersuit, Smurro accuses Carolyn DiPietro, Christopher Benino, and Robert and Debra Harris of defamation, and false light invasion of privacy, claiming in the latter charge that the defendants made public statements accusing him of something he did not do.

“Defendant Michael Smurro himself never uttered a word to the plaintiffs or anyone that disparaged transgendered individuals, or in fact any individuals,” his attorney Alexander Schachtel wrote in court papers filed earlier this month. “Plaintiffs repeatedly alleged, stated, or implied that (Michael Smurro) had made a transphobic speech or rant, or had leveled bigoted comments towards themselves, when (he) had never actually stated or uttered any such thing.”

The attorney also wrote in court papers that the identity of the person who used the restroom has never been determined “and it also remains unknown if that person was in fact transgendered or was instead a man who had decided, for whatever reason, to use the ladies’ room.”

Schachtel told The Associated Press on Monday that the civil suit against Smurro is groundless because the people who filed it did not suffer any harm.

“Michael is being sued because his wife made comments that offended the sensibilities of the plaintiffs,” Schachtel said. “Michael and Lisa Smurro have the right to their opinions and the right to voice them in public, even if some may find them disagreeable. No one should have their livelihood threatened for expressing an opinion. When this story went viral, Michael and Lisa Smurro were viciously attacked and defamed on social media. There was much outrage and little search for the truth. We hope to set the story straight.”

David Shanies, the lawyer for those suing Smurro, replied, “Some people, when they find themselves in a hole, climb out of it. Other people continue to dig deeper and deeper. Anybody who watches the videos and hears (Lisa Smurro) scream ‘She’s a man! She’s a man!’ can make their own judgment about whether she’s talking about seeing someone she thought was a man as opposed to a transgender woman.”

The Smurros and people who say they were hit with beer from his cup when he threw it in their direction have filed criminal complaints in municipal court alleging harassment. That case is pending.

The footage from the outdoor restaurant shows Lisa Smurro complaining at length about a person she apparently believed was a transgender woman using the women’s bathroom. New Jersey law prohibits discrimination based on gender identify and permits people to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

The footage shows that when the couple became aware someone was filming, they got up and walked over. Lisa Smurro continued to complain and a woman at the table replied: “Please take your hate elsewhere.”

Michael Smurro then tossed the contents of a cup of beer at occupants of the table.

“Here you go, pal,” he says on the video. “There you go.”

Smurro’s countersuit claims his career and reputation have been damaged, “perhaps irreparably,” noting that Neptune school administrators received 80 voicemail messages demanding disciplinary action against Smurro in just three days after the case was publicized.

___

Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This image released by Bleecker Street shows Freida Pinto, left, and Zawe Ashton in a scene from "M...
Associated Press

‘Minions’ set box office on fire with $108.5 million debut

Families went bananas for Minions this weekend at the movie theater. ” Minions: The Rise of Gru ” brought in an estimated $108.5 million in ticket sales from 4,391 screens in North America, Universal Pictures said Sunday. By the end of the Monday’s July Fourth holiday, it will likely have earned over $127.9 million. The […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Firefighters battle fresh wildfire in Northern California

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters in Northern California were battling a fresh wildfire that broke out Monday east of Sacramento. The fire burning in Amador County quickly spread to 959 acres (388 hectares) as of just after 7 p.m. Monday, according to Cal Fire. The fire agency had said earlier on Twitter that the fire […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, left, and lawyer Rusty Webb enter the Robert C. Byrd United...
Associated Press

US judge finds for 3 drug distributors in WVa opioid lawsuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday ruled in favor of three major U.S. drug distributors in a landmark lawsuit that accused them of causing a health crisis by distributing 81 million pills over eight years in one West Virginia county ravaged by opioid addiction. The verdict came nearly a year after closing […]
21 hours ago
Mynor Cardona and Ufemia Tomas, parents of Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás, smile as they talk with h...
Associated Press

A migrant survivor of the trailer: ‘They couldn’t breathe’

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The advice of a friend to stay near the door of a semi-trailer may have saved Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás from the deadly end that 53 other migrants met when the truck was abandoned last week on the outskirts of San Antonio. Cardona Tomás, a 20-year-old from Guatemala’s capital, said in […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

San Francisco property owners banned from parking car on it

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco couple that parked their car for decades on a paved part of their property in front of their home has been banned from doing so unless they want to risk steep fines. KGO-TV reported Monday that city officials sent a letter to Judy and Ed Craine telling them […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

San Francisco property owners banned from parking car on it

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco couple that parked their car for decades on a paved part of their property in front of their home has been banned from doing so unless they want to risk steep fines. KGO-TV reported Monday that city officials sent a letter to Judy and Ed Craine telling them […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
NJ educator in trans rant beer-toss case sues for defamation