Hells Angel sues Surrey blogger for defamation

VANCOUVER — A member of the Hells Angels has filed a defamation lawsuit and is seeking a court injunction against a Surrey blogger who purports to out gangsters.

Damiano Dipopolo, who is employed as a longshoreman, says a series of articles written last month by a man who runs an anonymous blog called “gangstersout” is damaging to his reputation and character and could result in him being fired from his job.

In the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Dipopolo turns the tables on the blogger, identifying him as Dennis Watson, and says the articles falsely allege he is involved in a criminal organization, is involved in a drug trafficking ring and has infiltrated the union that represents the longshoremen for illegal purposes.

“To be clear, I have never been convicted or charged of a criminal offence,” says an affidavit filed by Dipopolo. “I make an honest living. I have gotten a few traffic violations but that is it. Mr. Watson’s allegations are incredibly defamatory to me and hurt my character.”

One of the articles also implies that he would threaten or actually commit violence against Watson or his daughter, he says.

“It is a very serious allegation that needs to be defended against because it could have criminal repercussions.”

The affidavit says that Dipopolo has never met Watson, spoken to him on the phone or traded emails with him.

“First and foremost, I am a family man. I have a loving common-law wife and six children with a seventh on the way. Above all else, my family is of utmost importance to me.”

Dipopolo adds he coaches Little League, attends a Catholic church, is a member of the Italian community and contributes to charity. He’s been a longshoreman since May 2012.

“I became a longshoreman as it was good pay, a great pension and stable employment. It also required relatively little in the way of training or education. I have a family that I need to support and this job allows me to do so.”

The matter started with an article Watson wrote on his blog May 9, a followup to an article on organized crime and the port of Vancouver written by Vancouver Sun reporter Kim Bolan, says the affidavit.

The May 9 blog stated that Dipopolo was the president of the Kelowna Hells Angels and that during his tenure, the Kelowna Hells Angels collectively were charged in a large drug trafficking ring and convicted of operating a huge stolen car ring in Kelowna, says the affidavit.

Dipopolo has been described in a B.C. Supreme Court judgment as a Hells Angel, but says: “The collective group has never been charged in a large drug trafficking ring nor convicted of a huge stolen car ring.”

Dipopolo says that he had his lawyer send Watson a “cease and desist” letter, but the letter “seemed to make the situation worse” and resulted in another article being published.

The plaintiff’s defamation suit is seeking general, special, aggravated and punitive damages. It also seeks an injunction restraining Watson from publishing any further defamatory posts and an order requiring the defendant to remove the defamatory material.

In a brief phone conversation, Watson repeated some of the comments he’d made on his blog on Friday and Saturday in response the lawsuit.

He said the claims being made by Dipopolo were “completely unrealistic.”

Watson said he wanted to be in court on Tuesday for a hearing in the case but could not do so for work-related reasons.

“I want a chance at a fair trial.”

He objected to being named in The Province’s story, citing concerns for the safety of him and his daughter, and said he was worried he’d lose his job if he was identified.

In the post on his blog on Friday, he said he needed more time to respond to the lawsuit and didn’t think a B.C. court had jurisdiction since the server of his website is in the United States.

“I have defended my right to free speech in a U.S. court while residing and posting from Canada. You’re not the first.”

But Watson added that since Dipopolo raised a legal concern, he was removing two posts, from May 9 and May 16, “under duress.”

But two other posts will remain on the blog, he added.

Watson said he objected to his real name and home address being placed on the record in the lawsuit since he gets death threats on a daily basis.

In the Saturday blog post, Watson said he had looked over the lawsuit again and called it “bizarre.”

“I want to file a counter claim for costs and damages since my daughter has been traumatized by this application but can’t because they are proceeding when I can’t get there.”

kfraser@theprovince.com

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