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Judge strikes down lawsuit claims against Palin

Becky Bohrer

JUNEAU -- A federal judge on Thursday struck down claims in a lawsuit alleging that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin acted to silence an activist who complained about traffic around the governor's mansion in 2009.

U.S District Judge Timothy Burgess granted Palin's request for summary judgment, finding that activist Chip Thoma failed to provide the evidence necessary to support his claims. Palin's attorney, John Tiemessen, said the ruling means that, as a matter of law, no valid claims stand, and it should lead to dismissal of the case. Thoma sued for at least $100,000, claiming that Palin, while governor, undertook an effort to punish, embarrass, discredit and silence him after he complained about tour bus traffic around the mansion following her failed 2008 vice presidential bid.

Thoma, in his lawsuit, said he complained about the traffic in 2009 to a state agency and made signs and fliers about the traffic situation that he posted and handed out. He alleged that Palin and unidentified conspirators retaliated -- in some cases "twisting" his words, in others, "concocting complete fabrications" -- to silence him and others whom Palin perceived as speaking out against her.

Thoma's initial lawsuit was partly based on a leaked draft manuscript by Frank Bailey, a Palin aide during that period. Bailey's book claimed Palin aides "went into discrediting Chip overdrive" after Palin expressed frustration with complaints she took as an attack on her family being in Juneau. For part of her tenure, Palin had gotten flak for not being in Juneau enough, or full-time.

Burgess said excerpts from the book could not be considered in the motion for summary judgment for several reasons, including that the passages are inadmissible hearsay. He said Thoma lacks the personal knowledge to authenticate the statements made in the book.

Burgess also said the only documented evidence that Thoma submitted to support his motion and oppose Palin's was his own affidavit.

"The record is simply devoid of evidence concerning the alleged retaliation," Burgess wrote.

Thoma deferred comment to his attorney James W. McGowan, who Thoma said was traveling. McGowan did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.


By BECKY BOHRER
Associated Press