Message from Dick WatermanPosted Dec. 18, 1997, to the blues-l mailing list.
There has been periodical mention of my libel suit against author Stephen Calt and publisher Da Capo Books on Blues-L over the past several years.
I just wanted to tell you that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to overturn the lower court's decision finding in favor of Calt and Da Capo.
In Calt's book, "I'd Rather Be The Devil: Skip James and the Blues," my name and reputation are trashed including the phrase, "He was roundly accused of being a thief."
I sued for libel, claiming that such a statement could never be proved to be accurate.
In depositions, the Da Capo reprersentative said they could bring forth no witnesses to substantiate their words. Calt said that he only heard the accusation on a second hand basis and when he heard it, he personally "did not believe it to be true."
The defense was successful in having me legally defined as "a limited purpose or vortex public figure" with the libel standards significantly different.
I attempted to prove to the Appeal Court that Calt's admission that he did not believe the statement to be true constituted "reckless disregard for the truth" but the court did not agree.
It has taken me over three years and a significant amount of money to allow this legal process to run its course. I have some bitterness that the result was not in my favor because I feel that people who do not know me will believe what has been written, even though both the author and publisher admit that they do not believe their own words to be true.
This message is intended to inform the members of Blues-L as to the resolution of the legal matter. It is not intended to launch any thread and I hope that you would not show any knee jerk reaction to come to my defense.
I am sorry that we were not able to bring the matter into a court room, given the significant number of older black men and women who were eager to testify on my behalf.