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Dates set for hearings in Schumacher civil lawsuits

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated with a clarification regarding Councilwoman Cori Schumacher’s claims against resident Tony Bona. 

CARLSBAD — The case between Councilwoman Cori Schumacher and three men involving accusations of harassment and anti-SLAPP claims was again continued on Feb. 5.

A second judge in the case recused himself and now presiding is Judge Cynthia Freeland. During a Feb. 5 hearing, Freeland scheduled three hearings for the case of Schumacher against Carlsbad residents Larry Posner and Anthony Bona, plus former Carlsbad resident Noel Breen.

Schumacher filed a civil harassment restraining order (CHRO) in September 2020 against the three men alleging harassment and stalking, while Bona and Breen countered by filing the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) claims several weeks later.

Posner’s case was dismissed in October 2020 and he is seeking attorney’s fees. Bona and Breen are also seeking attorney’s fees, but a ruling from Freeland on the current cases must first be ordered.

Freeland scheduled the anti-SLAPP hearing for March 4, followed by Posner’s hearing on March 12 and the hearing for the restraining order on March 17. Also, Breen has filed a cross-complaint, to which Bryan Pease, one of Schumacher’s attorneys, objected.

The cross-complaint names the City of Carlsbad, Schumacher’s wife, Maria Cerda, and Schumacher’s campaign. Breen’s attorney, Scott Talkov, said in the complaint that Schumacher acted in her capacity as an elected official to suppress free speech, thus violating the First Amendment rights of his client, who writes a political blog and has been a loud and harsh critic of Schumacher.

Bona’s attorney, Erik Jenkins, has also claimed Schumacher is attempting to silence his client through the courts and violating his First Amendment rights. Bona, who goes by the online persona “Regular Guy in Carlsbad,” has a YouTube channel, which he speaks about the state of the council and is also a vocal and staunch critic of Schumacher.

Pease’s objection to the Breen cross-complaint will be argued during the March 4 hearing; he took issue with the naming of Schumacher’s wife and campaign. Pease has also filed several motions to strike legal replies from Breen and Bona.

“He (Talkov) peppered the court with paperwork … and it was late and over the page limit,” Pease said. “The cross-complaint named the city along with her campaign and spouse. That seems like harassment.”

In total, the three men are requesting to recoup legal fees of at least $30,000, although the total is likely more since the case was continued on Dec. 15 after the first judge recused herself.

Schumacher’s original filing states a number of “veiled threats” against her, including more recent threats by Bona “to force me to leave my home and stalking, after over a year of consistent, increasingly obsessive and distressing activity directed at me and those who publicly associate with me.”

Schumacher’s report, meanwhile, stated Bona had submitted a public records request to the City of Carlsbad seeking the councilwoman’s phone number, but the city denied the request.

Schumacher also claims Bona told residents to surveil the councilwoman in a social media post, but Bona denies the allegation.

Specifically, Schumacher’s legal filing includes a screenshot of Bona’s Facebook post on Aug. 30, 2020, which features an image of a popular children’s book character.

“Remember the game ‘Where’s Waldo?’ I loved that game,” Bona wrote. “As a kid, it was fun entertainment. Nowadays with high-tech surveillance (and neighbors who hate your ass), it’s an easier game to play. Over the next couple months we will play the game, ‘Where’s Cori?'”

According to Bona, the post was referencing rumors about Schumacher’s residence and whether she lived in District 1.

Also, Schumacher has lined up a number of witnesses for the restraining order case, several of whom have submitted statements to the court alleging further harassment by Breen. Breen has denied those allegations and his wife, Linda Breen, said the online discourse has turned after she ran for the District 1 seat on the City Council in 2018.