SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A St. Joseph County Judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against RNM’s Clifton French by “activist” and convicted felon Vernado Malone, after Malone refused to provide his electronic devices for the discovery process. Malone, who has multiple federal fraud convictions, requested the dismissal during a status hearing yesterday when he realized he was going to have to surrender those devices to a forensic specialist for a couple of hours to provide evidence for RNM’s defense against his frivolous and illiterate lawsuit.
Last year, RNM uncovered a scheme in which Malone was taking nude pictures of the recently deceased at a local funeral home, then sharing those photographs with the public. Malone is the founder of a non-profit called Justice for Michiana, which claims to assist families of homicide victims with funeral arrangements. Since RNM’s report, the Indiana Attorney General has opened an investigation into Malone and his partner, Alford’s Mortuary. Two families of homicide victims have also filed lawsuits against Malone and Alford’s Mortuary. RNM also uncovered an incident in which Malone attempted to pressure a single mother-in-need into sexual acts in order to receive help from his organization. RNM has also been investigating claims that Malone was pressuring minors to engage in sex acts.
Malone argued to the judge that he didn’t want pictures of children and dead bodies to come out during the discovery process before requesting his case be dismissed. However, Malone’s lawsuit explicitly cites the photographs of dead bodies and claims that he his a potential child molestor, meaning all of those pictures would be part of the case. His lawsuit can be viewed below.
Malone also requested the electronic devices from RNM’s journalist for forensic review and requested his device be surrendered to what appeared to be a pawn shop for the process. RNM’s attorney agreed to a forensic review with a credentialed expert, not a pawn shop. Malone then suggested he could do the review of the device himself. That was also denied.
Despite the defamation case being dismissed, Malone still sought a protection order against the journalist to prevent RNM from continuing to investigate and write stories about him. RNM’s attorney still requested access to Malone’s electronic devices in order to defend against Malone’s false and frivolous claims, although the scope of the forensic discovery would have been much more narrow. A judge ordered Malone to deliver those devices by 5:00pm on Wednesday. Even with the court’s order and his own agreement in court, Malone refused to provide those devices to the forensic expert.
RNM’s legal team now plans to file a Rule to Show Cause against Malone to hold him in contempt. We are also asking all legal action be dismissed with prejudice and all attorney’s fees be paid by Malone himself.
You can read the court’s order in its entirety below.
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