Editor's Note: Brad Toft's campaign released an amended statement following publication of this article. The updated version can be found here.
Sammamish resident Kelly Spratt was asked to agree not to contact 5th District Senate candidate Brad Toft or his wife Jill by email, phone, or in person at his home, but King County District Court Judge Peter Nault on Friday denied Toft's request for an anti-harrassment order.
Both Toft and Spratt, speaking through her attorney, Janet Irons, praised the ruling Friday afternoon, Sept. 28.
"He asked her to explicitly state thate she would not personally contact me by any means, show up at my house, email, or telephone me or my wife," Toft said.
"I think it’s a win for first amendment freedom of speech," Irons said. "The judge said when someone steps in to the limelight," they have to expect people to disagree with them.
Toft reported the judge's comments similarly.
"He also said that 'since you’re a public figure you don’t want to abridge her first amendment rights,'" which Toft says was never his goal. "It was just the vulgar personal emails."
"He was concerned that if he entered a full harassment judgement that she would be stigmatized for life, and she would be and that was not our goal, so he said that he would deny the full order but if she violates her oath 'we would be right back here quickly,'" Toft said.
One of the main points of discussion during the 45-minute proceeding was whether direct messages sent to Toft by Spratt via Twitter can righlty be considered personal communication.
Irons contends that since Toft's Twitter account is linked to his campaign web site, that it is not a private account.
"There was no allegation even that she emailed or called him or visited his house, though she did email him a number of months ago," Irons said.
Spratt was at a certain point posting up to 15 twitter messages a day about Toft, he says, and direct messaging him as well, causing him some concern. Irons contends that Spratt was forwarding messages to Toft's campaign that she had also sent to media outlets. Spratt since has made her Twitter profile private, so only approved followers of her on the social media site can view her "tweets."
Whatever the result, Toft said, he believes Spratt got the message. "She was very humble in court, there was a definite change in demeanor. She has been very emboldened I think because we were being cautious and not firing back,"
"My client is very opposed to his candidacy but she is interested in the electoral process. At meetings, she spoke during the question and answer period and people spoke after her, she was not disruptive," Irons said, saying other attendees of those meetings had been prepared to testify to that effect. She added that attending meetings where most of the attendees are loyal supporters and speaking against a candidate is not easy.
"This is what the American system is about. If you feel strongly go out and participate. An anti-harrassment claim against someone participating in the process has a chilling effect," Irons said. A counter-suit filed by Spratt, which sought to recover attorney fees she's incurred defending herself against the action also was dismissed.
Toft sent the following statement out to his supporters shortly after the ruling:
Today the King County District Court rebuked Ms. Kelly Spratt from the bench and demanded that she stop contacting me and my family. With a stern reprimand, The Hon. Peter Nault secured a personal agreement from Ms. Spratt that she would cease her personal contact.
I feel vindicated in my attempts to protect my family from additional harassment from Ms. Spratt.
Aside from Ms. Spratt's vigorous complaints to the contrary, her First Amendment rights are protected. I believe, however, her smears are politically motivated. Now, it has the backing of a court agreement.