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Absecon Woman Starts Website to 'Defend Free Speech'

A lawsuit against Barbara Brown was filed on June 18 in Atlantic County.

What was a verbal dispute between the "Save Absecon Committee" and the developers of Absecon Gardens is now being waged on a different platform: the Internet.

A member of the "Save Absecon Committee," Barbara Brown, is using a website to fight back against a libel and slander lawsuit that Anthony Cappuccio, the developer of Absecon Gardens, has filed against her.

Brown, on her stopslapp.com website, claims that the complaints filed against her are a "Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation" suit, also known as a "SLAPP" suit, which, the website states, "is used to silence and intimidate critics and stop them from exercising their first amendment right to Free Speech."

This dispute, which centers around the Absecon Gardens condominiums, has been going on for years.

After the Absecon Planning Board lifted an over-55 age requirement at the site of Absecon Gardens, some residents of Absecon formed the "Save Absecon Committee" and sued the planning board to maintain the restriction.

They later lost the suit and filed an appeal, which is still pending.

But after the appeal was filed, Cappuccio, who owns the design company that is building Absecon Gardens, hired Atlantic City attorney Louis Niedelman to file the suit against Brown.

In the suit, which was filed on June 18, 2012, Brown is accused of issuing "defamatory statements and information constituting libel and slander, thereby irrevocably damaging the reputation and character of plaintiff [Cappuccio]."

The complaint in the suit claims that Brown made false statements that "proximately caused the irrevocable damages to the character and reputation and community standing of plaintiff," but does not state what those false statements were, or when or where they were made, which, according to Brown's attorney, Seth Grossman, is "extremely abnormal for libel and slander."

Niedelman, however, said that he "does not file any lawsuits without having a legitimate, meritorious claim."

Grossman, in response to the lawsuit, sent a notice of frivolous litigation to Niedelman.

"This type of case," said Grossman, "Where people are afraid to do or say anything, goes against the first amendment."

Both Brown and Grossman said they are being careful about what they say, as it might be used in court.

"Win or lose, they've already in part achieved their mission," said Grossman.

Niedelman explained the suit in more concrete terms, saying, "We filed the suit, and the court system will take care of it from here on out."

Brown's website asks for people to "Please stand up for FREE SPEECH ! Please donate what you can to help offset legal fees as Barbara defends herself against this frivolous litigation."

The page has been shared by more than 600 people on Facebook.

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