Spider House Saga Goes to Court
Judge hears motion to dismiss defamation lawsuit
On Thursday, Feb. 21, Travis County District Judge Catherine Mauzy heard Jeremy Rogers' motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit brought against him by his former boss John Dorgan, co-owner of the Spider House Cafe and Ballroom. Though Mauzy has 30 days to rule, Dorgan has already lost some ground. His suit, filed in October 2018, accuses both his business partner Conrad Bejarano and Rogers of libel, stemming from Rogers and his wife Tiffany Paciga's allegations on Facebook in October 2017 that Dorgan had attempted to "sexually assault" Paciga in 2014. Bejarano, whose own motion to dismiss was denied on Wednesday, responded to the couple's post with his own, banning Dorgan from Spider House and single-handedly making him a silent partner in the business. Rogers' motion relies on the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which protects those who exercise their First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, regarding "a matter of public concern" – in this case, the #MeToo Movement. His counsel Neema Amini told the court Dorgan's case is "exactly" the type of situation the TCPA was created to address and asked for not only dismissal but financial sanctions against Dorgan and his alleged habit of filing civil suits to "conceal his history of egregious and unacceptable behavior." Dorgan's attorney Richard Alexander, who on Feb. 27 filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, argued that Rogers and Paciga's true motive was to shut Spider House down, referencing the October 2017 post, in which Rogers wrote that Spider House's "name being soiled and their customer base not trusting them is reward enough for us. We want their doors closed by the people ... not by the law." In response to Amini's sanctions request, Alexander noted that Dorgan is currently living in his hometown of El Paso with family and that with Spider House currently "operating in the red," Dorgan may "pursue bankruptcy" in the future. "I have no indication he's considering filing any more lawsuits."