OPINION by JAMES DUENOW
In what I believe was a travesty of justice, reporters Karen Velie and Daniel Blackburn lost a libel lawsuit for $1.1 million in a trial during which most of their evidence and witnesses were barred from the jury. Also, the plaintiff appears to have repeatedly perjured himself before and during the trial, according to information discovered by private investigator Carl Knudson.
After losing the lawsuit, supporters of Velie and Blackburn’s reporting hired Knudson, a former special investigator for the IRS. His assignment: Research plaintiff Charles Tenborg’s past, his finances, and his testimony during trial and discovery. Knudson has since discovered multiple instances where Tenborg’s testimony appears to conflict with the facts.
For example, during discovery and the trial, Tenborg provided vastly different accounts of his yearly income. In his interrogatories, Tenborg wrote, “Plaintiffs total compensation at the time of the incident (2012) was approximately $240,000 per year,” an amount close to what Tenborg reported to the court in his 2012 divorce case.
During his deposition on Sept. 21, 2016, Tenborg testified he was making $850,000 a year in 2012 from Eco Solutions.
In March 2016, while explaining his alleged losses to the jury, Tenborg testified his companies were bringing in more than $3 million a year in 2012.
The jury appears to have believed Tenborg, a wealthy man, and awarded him the $1.1 million judgment.
Tenborg has since battled to financially destroy the reporters and their ability to continue the only investigative journalism in SLO County.
After losing the lawsuit, Blackburn filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in which he would have paid Tenborg close to $100,000 over a five-year period in order to keep his house. Tenborg contested the plan, forcing Blackburn to switch his filing to a Chapter 7. He faces losing his Paso Robles home.
Now, Tenborg has filed a new lawsuit challenging the Chapter 7 relief.
In bankruptcy court, Blackburn and Velie will have a chance to provide evidence of Tenborg’s alleged perjuries as well as issues regarding his company’s waste management operations — issues that were kept from the jury. Knudson’s report and new witnesses will be available for further proceedings.
However, the CCN defense fund has been depleted and money is needed to fund Knudson’s continued work, and for mounting legal costs.
If you share my passion for the First Amendment and a free, unfettered press, we — the many friends of CalCoastNews — need your help. For the past nine years, residents of our San Luis Obispo County community have benefited enormously from this local news agency’s fearless work on behalf of the public’s interest.
Help investigative reporting survive, sign up to attend a fundraiser on Nov. 26. Join friends, neighbors, singer Louie Ortega and the ghosts of Jesse James and his gang at the landmark Old West bar and music venue the Pine Street Saloon historically located at 1234 Pine Street, in Paso Robles.
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