Lawsuit: Fairfield man withdraws defamation case for 'safety concerns'

Laura Karson

Laura Karson

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — A defamation case centered around a Facebook post has come to an end after Jason Gladstone, a New Canaan attorney and Fairfield resident, withdrew his lawsuit against a town official due to safety concerns, according to court documents.

According to the case details, Gladstone withdrew his lawsuit against Laura Karson, a member of Fairfield’s Democratic Town Committee and Representative Town Meeting, on June 30, just six days after the initial complaint was amended to provide more context and information. It is unclear why Gladstone expressed concern for his safety amid the lawsuit.

The suit stemmed from an email sent from Superintendent Mike Cummings to the Fairfield Public Schools community. According to a special motion to dismiss, Cummings said in the email that “in the wake of national demonstrations and conversations about racism” over the past summer, and with “acts of violence against Asian Americans” on the rise, he was reaffirming Fairfield Public Schools’ commitment to racial awareness and anti-racism.

“Fairfield Public Schools is committed to continuing to examine our own policies, practices, beliefs, and actions so that we can become aware of the hurt we may cause students, staff, and the community, when we are unmindful of our own inherent biases,” Cummings wrote, as quoted in Karson’s special motion to dismiss.

Gladstone responded to Cummings’ email, copying elected officials like Karson, suggesting the superintendent was out of line for his message, according to court documents.

“I am truly offended that you would insinuate that I am inherently racist or biased within your March 19, 2021 email,” Gladstone wrote in an email, which was also included in the special motion to dismiss.

On March 24, Karson sent an email to Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick to garner support for Cummings.

As quoted in the special motion to dismiss, she also expressed in the email to Kupchick that Gladstone “was outraged that Mr. Cummings insinuated he was inherently racist, which couldn’t be farther from the truth,” and “Mr. Gladstone and others on the email chain exhibited ‘white fragility,’ a discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.”

According to Karson’s special motion to dismiss, in an attempt to gain support for the superintendent, Karson posted a copy of her email to Kupchick in the Facebook group, “Fairfield Standing United,” which represents residents of Fairfield and New Haven counties that focus on advocacy of social and political issues on federal, state and local levels.

According to the special motion to dismiss, Gladstone on April 12 sent Karson a letter demanding a full retraction for allegedly defamatory statements in her Facebook post. Karson removed her original post and on April 21 posted a retraction, yet Karson was still served with Gladstone’s complaint on May 4.

Within the amended complaint, it states that Gladstone believed the statements in the Facebook post were untrue, false, defamatory and that Karson’s “malicious” conduct are the direct cause of his emotional distress.

According to the court documents, Gladstone “sustained and will continue to sustain pain” such as, nausea, a general feeling of malaise, headaches, anxiety, fear of injury, shame and guilt, as well as loss of sleep, appetite and focus.

Neither Gladstone or Karson’s attorney returned requests for comment on the withdrawal on Tuesday.

In Gladstone’s affidavit in support of his application for prejudgment remedy, Gladstone claims the allegedly defamatory statements have damaged him financially in the amount of $1 million. Judge Barry Stevens denied the application for prejudgment remedy on May 5.

The situation brought a lot of eyes to the incident, generating Facebook posts and emails in support of Karson.

According to an exhibit attached to the amended complaint, one Karson supporter simply titled “The Voice of Reason” sent Gladstone a letter on June 18 calling Gladstone “a poster-boy for white, male privilege.” The author continued to say initially suing for $1 million was “beneath contempt.”