The suit, filed this week in state court in Gwinnett County, Georgia, seeks $250 million in damages. It alleges that MindSpring's shuttering of the site and its deletion of emails belonging to the Webmaster "was done as an evil act to intentionally injure, deter, and damage plaintiff in his Christian antiabortion efforts."
MindSpring spokesman Ed Hansen said company executives had not yet seen the complaint but added that the site, frequently referred to as the Nuremberg Files, "was terminated for one or more violations" of MindSpring's written customer agreements.
"We worked with this guy for a long time," Hansen said. "We are confident that he was well aware of the contents" of MindSpring customer agreements.
MindSpring's appropriate use policy, which customers must agree to before signing up, says: "Threats of bodily harm or destruction of property are always prohibited."
In a separate case, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones in February issued a permanent injunction forbidding defendants from publishing on the site so-called wanted posters featuring the names and personal information of more than 200 abortion providers and encouraging that they be "brought to justice," as the Web site advocated.
Plaintiff Planned Parenthood convinced the Oregon federal court that the site--which had crossed out the name of a New York abortion doctor who in October was killed in his kitchen by a sniper bullet--incited violence against the providers.
"I totally reject the defendants' attempts to justify their actions as an expression of opinion or as a legitimate and lawful exercise of free speech in order to dissuade the plaintiffs from engaging in providing abortion services," Jones wrote. His order came after a federal jury fined the defendants, the American Coalition of Life Activists and Advocates for Life Ministries, $107 million for "threatening" abortion protesters through the wanted posters.
Neal Horsley, the creator of the Nuremberg Files and the plaintiff in the Georgia case, was not named in the Oregon suit. His attorney, John Matteson of Atlanta, said he planned to sue a number of organizations for libel based on statements they have made about his client. One of the targets, Matteson said, would be the American Civil Liberties Union.
Horsley said he filed the suit because he is concerned about private companies such as MindSpring--which he said had no legal obligation to remove his site--censoring controversial speech. MindSpring "usurped the role of government and prevented me from having access to public services when I have broken no law and no one has charged me with breaking a law," he said in an interview.
Although MindSpring and another ISP shut down the Nuremberg Files following the Oregon decision, the site has been mirrored by overseas Web sites.