Five Bullets, One Gun, and The Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood

October 21, 2022

THE HOLLY prevails over lawsuit, proves City and law enforcement issues demand answers

Yesterday in Denver, the two men who spent the last six months suing The Holly book and THE HOLLY documentary voluntarily withdrew their case, with prejudice, meaning they can’t sue us again for this project. They were offered no concessions, at all, because we were ready to go to trial with an abundance of physical evidence. Instead, earlier this week it became stunningly clear—by their lawyers’ own admission—that their clients, Pernell Hines and Sheria Hicks, had never even seen the film they were suing us over. Incredibly that is not a typo.

Our side came to believe that in fact they hadn’t even read the book either. We don’t know. But it seems to be since so many of the things in their complaint appear neither in the book nor the film.

As I said months ago, online and in public, there was an error related to Hines, on page 359 of the first edition of the hardcover in the Epilogue. That error was corrected more than a year ago, and is discussed in another blog post here. That was done on our own, about a year before we were ever contacted by these people, whom I know and interviewed during my eight years of investigative reporting. I very much regret that error. But it has no bearing on the findings of the book or film, which I and my team stand by. (The corrected paperback is now out.)

This voluntary withdrawal of this case ends a six-month fiasco that was nothing but an obvious attempt to smear, intimidate, undermine and suppress the eight-year investigation I did—precisely because of its truthful and highly problematic findings that some people don’t want the public to see or understsand. In fact, I heard about this lawsuit not by being served papers but during an interview with Michael Roberts of Westword. These men went to the media with their list of false claims months before deciding to try to serve papers to us, which they eventually did. But when it became apparent that their claims had no bearing in fact, perhaps because they actually were going based on the hearsay of others or some other reason, they dropped the case entirely. Before doing so, they were warned multiple times by our side that if they continued, we would file the anti-SLAPP motion, a statue specifically written to dissuade frivolous cases like this that hope to undermine our democracy by preventing reporting that is in the public interest to come out. Given that our own leaders in this city, and the some of our media, were telling us erroneous things about these men and their work, this is especially important here. In fact, according to my lawyers, including first amendment expert Steve Zansberg, this case was exactly the kind of case the anti-SLAPP statute was written to fight.

THE HOLLY has now survived yet another barrage of falsehoods. Why is this book and film the target of so many lies? Why have so many of the claims been spread by people working with taxpayer money? Why have people who hold themselves up as “activists” threatened my life over it and made false claim after false claim about it. Ask yourself: Are these people who they say they are? Why would they make up so many falsehoods? Please read the book and see the film for yourself and you will understand why.

I also need to point out­—to Denver voters, the American public and the media—that by prevailing in this case the City of Denver, the Denver police, federal law enforcement and several Denver media outlets are now on notice. Will they still pretend that these men are not gang members? Will they issue a correction or explanation? Why have they been paid with our taxpayer money as “anti-gang” workers?

*Please note: There is a national conversation going on right now about whether active gang members should be able to work for law enforcement and on anti-gang efforts. If you don’t know how you feel about this, please read the book, please see the film.

**Additionally, this victory in this lawsuit shows further problems in the Denver media coverage of our most vulnerable communities. Why do these men get identified as “former” gang members. We need to demand a higher standard from our media reporting if we as citizens are supposed to be able to participate in our democractic process. Instead the media has been helping perpetuate false narratives about our most vulnerable communities.

Many of you know that our team’s mantra has become the Battle for Truth. I’m happy to say today that the Battle For Truth Continues!

Here is a Denver Post story from today about the lawsuit.

The paperwork showing their voluntary withdrawal of the lawsuit and the judge’s order are here:

Defamation Case Dismissed

More on this to come.