In Sunny Isles Beach, Raanan Katz has a street and an official day named in his honor. His company, with its omnipresent "RK" basketball logo, seems to claim every other strip mall in North Miami-Dade. He's also a minority owner of the Miami Heat.
Yet Katz apparently believes he's not a "public figure" and thus can sue online critics at will. Katz makes that mind-bending argument in a June lawsuit filed against an anonymous blogger who runs rkassociatesusa.blogspot.com. He recently asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to force Google to give up the blogger's identity.
Marc Randazza, an attorney representing the blogger along with Miami lawyer Darren Spielman, calls the suit "garbage." Says Randazza: "The greatest threat to free speech isn't the government; it's rich guys like this with lawyers who won't tell them no and have money to burn."
Katz's attorney Todd Levine responds to Riptide: "You're being used as a pawn. They're using you to make Katz a public figure and to further spread the defamatory content on that blog."
Consider us used. John Doe, as the anonymous author is known in court, started the blog this past May to rail against Katz's firm.
Katz cuts a singular figure in Miami. Once an Israeli basketball star, he built a real estate empire in Boston before gobbling up a block of South Beach in 1984. Two years later, he bought into the expansion Heat franchise and has been a courtside regular since then.
In his blog, Doe accuses Katz of "ripoffs" and "law breaking," usually while linking to other stories or public court records. (Including New Times own piece about Katz's political donations to Isaac Feldman, a Sunny Isles would-be politico accused of running an elaborate "B-Girls" scam on SoBe tourists.)
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Katz's attorneys have already subpoenaed Google's records, but the order is on hold while Judge Cooke reviews the case.
In the meantime, Levine has strong words for anyone who would consider writing about Katz's lawsuit. "I'd ask you not to publish anything about this," he says. "Even pointing people toward that blog could constitute further defamation."
Sorry, buddy. As Randazza says, "If you don't like what people are saying about you, the best way to ensure that what they say gets broadcast far and wide is to file this kind of suit."