UPDATE (July 13, 2023, 9:15 p.m.):
KENOSHA — A Kenosha jury determined comments made in connection to a controversial Kenosha man did not rise to the level of defamation following a four-day trial in Kenosha County Circuit Court.
Kevin Mathewson filed the defamation suit claiming his reputation and standing in the community was damaged by comments made by Robert Raymond.
The jury delivered the verdict on Thursday after approximately six hours of deliberation.
The Racine County Eye will publish more information on the conclusion of the trial Friday.
ORIGINAL STORY (July 13, 2023, 1:47 p.m.):
KENOSHA — Raymond Roberts, the man at the center of a defamation lawsuit underway in Kenosha County Circuit Court, told the jury on Wednesday he believed what he said about Kevin Mathewson to be true.
However, Roberts also said it was his opinion Mathewson’s reputation was not damaged because “he has no reputation, in my opinion.”
Kevin Mathewson filed the defamation suit claiming his reputation and standing in the community was damaged by Roberts, who used social media to repeatedly describe Mathewson as a racist with white nationalist connections.
Mathewson also claims Roberts endangered his family by publishing his address, though no actual threat materialized, and further injured his standing at his children’s school by claiming Mathewson was training his children to be suicide bombers.
William Sulton, the defendant’s attorney, asked Roberts if he had ever said anything about Mathewson he did not believe to be true.
“Yes,” Roberts responded. “I said I think he’s a boiled potato that’s been baked and boiled again, but I don’t actually think that.”
The trial began Monday in Kenosha County Circuit Court. There is no dollar figure attached to the lawsuit.
A call to arms
Mathewson is the person who created the “Kenosha Guard” Facebook page that put out the call for armed citizens to respond to Kenosha following civil unrest in August 2020 over the shooting of Jacob Blake by Officer Rusten Sheskey.
One of the people who responded to Mathewson’s call to arms was then 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two people and injured a third.
He was later acquitted of homicide on grounds of self-defense.
Groups with white nationalist ties, such as the Boogaloo Boys, also responded to Mathewson’s call to arms, according to an email between the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement.
Approximately one month after the civil unrest, Mathewson began the Kenosha County Eye, which is not associated with the Racine County Eye.
Mathewson uses his controversial website to express his opinions and react to actions taken by the government and/or government employees. He describes himself as a “citizen journalist.”
He acknowledged from the stand his reporting includes his opinions but said it was labeled as such.
“I’m opinionated; it’s one of my faults,” he said and later admitted he’s not always nice about how he expresses his opinion.
Mathewson has been described as divisive in articles submitted for evidence.
Roberts pushes back
Robers, who is active in the community, described himself as a military veteran with special training in counterterrorism.
He said it was his opinion that people like Mathewson operate in the dark, “so the best thing we can do as a community is expose him to the light.”
Roberts said he was made aware by other people that Mathewson was writing about him on the Kenosha County Eye, but he does not read Mathewson’s articles – ever.
When asked about the content in the articles Mathewson was writing, Roberts responded, “I don’t care. It’s Kevin Mathewson. What do you expect?”
He said initially people did not know how to respond to the articles Mathewson was writing.
Roberts told the jury he decided to be “the initial lighthouse” – shining a light on what Mathewson was doing.
He and Mathewson have been interacting electronically for years, according to Roberts.
He told the jury when he saw Mathewson making comments on Facebook under a pseudonym, he would call him out. When asked how he knew it was Mathewson, Roberts said he recognized the patterns.
“Whenever I suspected (a comment) to be his fake account, I would engage that account, and I would say directly, ‘Kevin, we know it’s you. Be a man, speak like a man, and stop hiding.’”
During his testimony, Mathewson admitted to using pseudonyms on the internet.
Filing the lawsuit was not the first action Mathewson took against him. He said Mathewson also packaged up the articles he had written about Roberts and mailed them to his employer. Roberts was then called into HR, who expressed concern.
The defense challenged the assertion it was Mathewson who sent the articles since the package was sent using a pseudonym.
“Human deduction,” Roberts responded when asked how he came to believe Mathewson sent the package. “What moral human only sources from a small-town blog and sends it to people’s place of business? Who else would do that?”
If true, it was something Mathewson had done previously. Evidence was presented that Mathewson sent a letter to a public employee’s boss and all the board representatives alleging she was a drug user because her husband had overdosed, stressing from the stand he used the word “allegedly.”
Roberts said on another occasion Mathewson initiated a conversation by email, which he responded to, and Mathewson responded by sending the police to Roberts’ house.
In fact, Roberts said, the police have been to his house on a number of occasions on complaints from Mathewson. He said the police were always the same, so he suspected they were friends of Mathewson’s, who was someone to make a big deal of his connections in law enforcement, Roberts noted during his testimony.
Mathewson on the stand
Mathewson previously testified that his primary concern was for his family. He was particularly upset that Roberts made allusions to his children and suicide bombers.
The jury received the case late Wednesday. Jury deliberations continued on Thursday.
CORRECTION: Raymond Roberts was mistakenly identified as being a resident of Sturtevant. He is actually a resident of Somers.