BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Former House District 46 Rep. Carl Trujillo has responded to two motions for dismissal filed in a defamation and civil conspiracy suit he filed in February in the Second Judicial District Court against Laura Bonar, Elisabeth Jennings, Jessica Johnson and Julianna Koob as well as Animal Protection Voters and Animal Protection of New Mexico.
The suit alleges the publication and dissemination of disparaging and defamatory statements about him prior to the 2018 June primary election. Trujillo is seeking damages for harm caused to his reputation and family by those statements.
The motions to dismiss were filed by APVNM and Bonar.
The APVNM motion called Trujillo’s complaint “A classic example of a retaliatory lawsuit designed to silence political opponents” and says he failed to plead facts showing actual malice.
“Allegations made by (Trujillo) do not meet the requisite high degree of specificity for defamation claims of public officials,” the suit says. It states that APVNM and its employees credited Bonar’s allegations of misconduct by Trujillo and supported her request for his resignation calling it “a classic example of the robust and unfiltered political speech protected by the First Amendment”.
Bonar in her motion calls Trujillo’s suit “an act of petty vengeance” and “an effort by an aggrieved politician to silence his critics and chill future petitioning activity”.
Her motion states that she told the truth about Trujillo and that she “did so publicly and vocally”. It says though Trujillo may be aggrieved regarding what she said it doesn’t mean he has grounds to sue her for defamation.
Bonar shared online an open letter to Trujillo in May 2018 accusing him of sexual harassment, asking him to resign from office and to end his election campaign. Trujillo has adamantly denied the accusations since they were first made public. Trujillo lost the Democratic primary election to now Rep. Andrea Romero who defeated write-in candidate Heather Nordquist in the general election.
Since the motions to dismiss were filed last week, Trujillo has noted that an investigation by the Legislative Ethics Committee into Bonar’s allegations lasted five months and that he fully cooperated with the legislative ethics process, was deposed, gave discovery and passed a polygraph test.
“On the other hand, Ms. Bonar refused to cooperate with the Legislative Ethics process, never filed a statement under oath as required by the policy, refused to be deposed, and refused to give any discovery,” he said. “In the end, the Legislative Ethic Committee dismissed all allegations. The cost to my family was $115,000.00 in legal fees to defend myself from Ms. Bonar’s lies. The state paid more than $210,000.00 dollars in legal fees to pursue Ms. Bonar’s false allegations.”
Trujillo said his main goal with the defamation lawsuit was to receive public apologies from the those named for interfering in an public election and for what their lies did to him and my family.
“When I initiated the lawsuit process, I immediately received implicit and explicit threats in response instead of normal legal responses and procedures. When the threats continued, I realized that I was exposing myself and my family to further financial and emotional damage, all for an apology and justice that I will likely never receive. It is for these reasons that I have been contemplating not pursing the lawsuit, and asking my lawyer to withdraw it,” he said.
Trujillo said Bonar has not even been served with the lawsuit, so it is unclear to him why Bonar’s lawyer entered an appearance and filed the motion to dismiss.
“Regardless, while Ms. Bonar’s motion states that my lawsuit is an ‘act of petty vengeance’, I think the very fact that Laura Bonar included this type of accusation in a legal document highlights the reason why I felt compelled to file the lawsuit in the first place,” Trujillo said. “It also highlights why I have been considering withdrawing the lawsuit and moving forward with my life – I do not want to be legally entangled with these types of people for years to come.”
Trujillo noted that he is very happy with his life, that his family welcomed his first grandchild and that he now has more time to coach and be involved in several sports his youngest son is involved in.
“While I thought that I could hold those involved with interfering in a public election and lying about me accountable in the civil legal system, sadly, given my experiences to date, and given the threats that I have received so far, I have come to realize that the legal process is likely not the right way. No matter what I decide to do, I am hopeful that at some point those involved will be held accountable for their actions,” he said.