Judge Fines 67 Year Old Woman $1,000 for Submitting a Negative Yelp! Review

John Vibes | The Anti-Media

Staten Island, New York — 67-year-old Emily Fanelli of Staten Island was fined $1,000 for leaving a negative Yelp review for a business owner that she says gave her terrible service.

According to Fanelli, the owner of a local floor refinishing business called “Mr. Sandless” destroyed her home and did not provide the service he promised her.

After being entirely unsatisfied with the experience, she decided to leave negative reviews for the company because after all, that is what reviews are for: to warn other customers about potentially unpleasant situations

Writing on Yelp! Fanelli said:

“This guy mat the owner is a scam do not use him you will regret doing business with this company I’m going to court he is a scam customer please beware he will destroy your floors he is nothing by a liar he robs customers, and promises you everything if you want s— then go with him if you like nice work find another he is A SCAM LIAR BULL—-ER.”

Staten Island Civil Court Judge Philip Straniere decided that since she used the terms “scam” and “con artist,” she was guilty of libel, ruling she owed $1,000 to Matt Gardiner, the owner of the Mr. Sandless.

Fanelli responded to the ruling in an interview with the Daily News, saying, “People do reviews all the time. I shouldn’t have to pay anything. It’s freedom of speech.”

However, Judge Straniere said that her rights to free speech went out the window when she used the word “scam.”

“Terms such as ‘scam,’ ‘con artist,’ and ‘robs’ imply actions approaching criminal wrongdoing rather than someone who failed to live up to the terms of a contract. They were personal in their invective and were designed to impugn his integrity and business practices with the intent to damage his business reputation,” Straniere said.

A spokesperson for Yelp expressed disapproval of the lawsuit, saying:

“Consumers have the right to express their opinions about truthful experiences online. Because of the First Amendment, it is rare that we hear about consumers being sued for exercising their right to free speech. We frequently find that a better course of action, rather than suing your customers, is publicly responding to a critical review in the same forum.”

Fanelli is planning to file an appeal against the lawsuit immediately.

Just before leaving the court, she told the judge, “I’m not letting him get away with it. I’m a fighter. I’ll fight you tooth and nail.”

Published by John Vibes at The Anti-Media


John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter-culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work, he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.

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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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  • John Lehmann

    f k the judge

  • Curtis Corse

    I thought in order to prove libel, the “victim” had to show that he had suffered actual loss as a result of someone’s comments. There are plenty of good, reputable contractors out there. There are also more than a few contractors who are con-artists. I had friend hire someone to replace the roof on his house. After giving the contractor around $10,000, he worked for one day removing sections of the old roof and left my friend’s house open to the elements. The contractor never showed up again, refused to return my friend’s phone calls and obviously never honored his end of the contract. Last I knew, my friend was having a hell of a time getting the contractor served with court papers because he doesn’t seem to have a permanent address. Either that or he has several people lying for him about where he lives.

    People should be free to post negative reviews about companies like I just described without fear of reprisal. It sounds like Matt Gardiner is one of those people who deserve a negative review. It’s just too bad that he suffered butt hurt as a result. Had he done the work he was hired to do and honored his contract, there would have been no need for a negative review. I applaud Emily Fanelli’s actions, although I would have been far more tactful and at least attempted to write it so that it didn’t sound like a pissed off 14 year old wrote it. I hope she takes the contractor to court and makes that bastard pay. He thinks his butt hurts now. Just wait until how shitty his company is becomes a matter of public record. Perhaps then the judge that fined Ms. Fanelli will see the error of his ways.

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      • Randy Bobandy

        Is anal extra?

    • Tom Lowe

      The judge is flat wrong because under CIVIL law, this guy’s operation can legally be called a scam, ripoff, or whatever the lady wants to call it. The judge clearly has his head in his backside in being unable to discern the difference between criminal law and civil law, not to mention a complete lack of understanding of contract law. Anyone who does not fulfill a contract has COMMITTED A SCAM, period.

      • Mike S

        Sounds like she has a good case against the judge then! Good, I hope she wins.

  • ParishM

    it’s not libel or slander if it’s true !

  • Joey Galleno

    This judge is a fucking SCAM artist, yes he is a scam ! Fuck you in the ass Judge Philip Straniere you POS scammer thief, con artist, robber !

    • Curtis Corse

      Careful now, he might get butt hurt and fine you too. 🙂

      • Byron Stephens

        Joey would have to leave his review of the judge on YELP! to get his attention. * (1 star)

  • Max

    What’s the full name & home address of this [so-called] Judge? Let people know who this civil public servant is and where, so they can write him to voice there agreement or disagreement with his decision…. what is his home address??

    • Mike S

      You don’t want to mess with judges, that’s a battle you will almost assuredly not win. If you do I hope you have a very competent legal team and a lot of money.

  • Sophisticated Redneck

    So, does this mean if someone is accused of a crime and found not guilty they can then sue the prosecution for libel and slander? After all, the accusation would be spoken and written!

  • Michael Sicken II

    Lets not forget that Judges feel that they are above the law to a degree worst than cops.

    • Mike S

      They are almost always above most laws.

  • Gregory Alan of Johnson

    Where’s the contract between her and the “judge”? Merely showing up for a hearing on the matter does not constitute contract. The “judge” needs schooling on the English language and should be removed from the bench (bank) ASAP!

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    • freetobeme

      Sadly I don’t think anyone on this site and hopefully even just ten people would get it as to what you were saying…. People go look up David E. Robinson’s books with these kinds of issues.

  • AtomicMetroid

    I bet this “judge” is like judge Judy

    • Mike S

      I can’t stand judge judy, I can’t understand why any male would ever go before her. She is an obvious extreme sexist, she is arrogant, condescending, openly insulting, regularly interrupts and talks over people, she is quite crass and rude. I despise her for being such a terrible role model for young women.

      • AtomicMetroid

        I agree. She is a witch and an embarrassment to the US judicial system

  • trimmer

    That floor contractor must be related to the judge. That is the only way to explain the $1,000 fine against the lady. Unless the judge is cuck koo…

  • Defiant

    Remember when courts PROTECTED the Constitutional Rights? Especially the rights of the innocent? And enforced laws instead of trying to write them, on the Bench?

  • Synickel

    If true justice were to be done, this judge would be fined for his retarded sentence.

  • walcon

    “I feel as though I have been scammed” is what she should have said.

  • Gus Mueller

    The judge is an asshole. Come and get me.

  • Tom Lowe

    I had to hire an eviction attorney and went to Yelp for reviews. I found one with glowing reviews and went with him. I found his services, knowledge of local legal details, ability, and skill to be significantly ‘less than adequate’. I went back to Yelp one day to re-read his reviews, and found that Yelp had hidden two other reviews including one which was very negative, and three reviews had been completely removed. Based on my experience with the attorney, I had to conclude that the removed posts must have contained anger, profanity and/or threats. The point is: Yelp is just no good because it manipulates the review process to the point where it is utterly useless, manipulatory and outright dangerous to one’s self interests. My advice is: DO NOT USE YELP FOR ANY REASON.

    • Mike S

      I posted a review that yelp hid, I wrote to them and they said it was because of some sort of spam filter, I told them I thought that was bull****, I have had an acc’t there for years, I have posted other reviews, I think yelp is playing some games and lying to us about them.

  • Mike S

    Yelp should test for these keywords before accepting submissions, and require people to remove the words for their own protection. This would be very easy for them to do.

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