Although no one legally needs a reason to fire a consultant, it’s another matter entirely to allegedly defame that consultant to other potential clients. According to a recent defamation lawsuit, that’s allegedly what happened after Tim Semmerling was fired from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Military Commissions.
Semmerling, who lives in Illinois, opened his own mitigation services practice in 2010, called The Mercury Endeavor LLC, which specializes in working with Arabs, Muslims, and the military.
Semmerling said he was contacted in June of 2011 by Cheryl Bormann, another Illinois resident who is a qualified lead counsel attorney for death penalty litigation. At the time, Bormann was working as a defense attorney for a member of al-Qaeda who was being held at Guantanamo Bay while facing charges pertaining to the terrorist attack that happened on September 11, 2001.
According to the complaint, Bormann allegedly offered to hire Semmerling as the client’s mitigation specialist and instructed him to not accept any offers from other defense teams.
Semmerling said he started working for the client in October of 2011 when he traveled to Washington to meet with Bormann and the rest of the capital defense team. In July 2012, he made another trip to Washington for an interview with agents of the CIA so he could get the security clearance required to serve his new client. According to the complaint, Bormann and Michael Schwartz, a U.S. Air Force officer who was acting as an attorney on assignment at the Military Commissions Defense Organization, allegedly told Semmerling to be open and honest with the CIA operatives, and so when they asked questions about his personal life, Semmerling allegedly did not hold back from talking about his long-term, romantic relationship with another man.
Around the same time, Bormann allegedly asked Semmerling if he was gay, although she claimed not to have any problems with his sexual orientation. But in a meeting that included Bormann, Semmerling, and Schwartz in January of 2013, Bormann allegedly stressed that defense attorneys should not reveal to al-Qaeda members if they were Jewish, homosexual, or veterans of wars that had been fought in either Afghanistan and/or Iraq.
Semmerling alleges he complied with these instructions by referring to his partner as his business partner in discussions with the client and hiding photographs of his partner for a meeting that was held in his home in May of 2014.
Despite these efforts, Baker allegedly ordered Semmerling to a meeting in his office in October 2015. Although it was in Baker’s office, only Bormann and Schwartz were there and they allegedly informed Semmerling that Baker had told them to order Semmerling to leave.
Afterward, Semmerling alleges he received communications from several other members of the defense team that Schwartz, Bormann, Baker, and others, had been working to destroy Semmerling’s reputation and his work by telling the client that Semmerling was homosexual and that he was pursuing a romantic relationship with the client.
All this was despite the fact that, the day before Semmerling was allegedly told to leave, Schwartz had allegedly been told by the client that Semmerling was, not only a responsible member of the team, but in fact the only one who completed the work asked of him, and the client had specifically asked to retain Semmerling and for him to report directly to the client.
As if that weren’t enough, the complaint alleges that the defendants’ claimed personal vendetta against Semmerling has led them to work to make sure he never works on another capital or military defense case. Since the fall of 2015, Semmerling claims other government agencies have been deterred from working with him and he alleges it is, not only the fault of the defendants but that it was their intention.
Semmerling is seeking $10 million in damages.
Our Rolling Meadows, IL libel, and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases including cases representing a high profile athlete against a well known radio shock jock, a consumer sued by a large car dealer in federal court for negative internet reviews and videos, one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired, a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois.
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