I received the following in my inbox this morning. It was also posted as an open letter on Mr. Towner's website.
Dear Mr. Harris,
You indicate that I have stolen a mailing list from Utah Policy Daily. You also indicate I admitted to this theft. Just so we are both clear on this issue,
1) I have "stolen" nothing from Utah Policy Daily
2) I am prepared to take this issue to court to prove that I have stolen nothing from anyone.
3) You have slandered me and called me a Liar.
4) It should be obvious to you that I do not make idle threats when it comes to the Law.
5) I will give you 24 hours to post on every site you slandered me an apology and I will drop the issue. If not be prepared to be served.
Mark E. Towner
This was my response to him:
Dear Mr. Towner,
Until this point, there are dozens of online complaints about receiving unsolicited e-mails from you and you dropped over 100 subscribers after your most recent additional enrollments, not a good sign for a purported "opt-in" list. In addition to my own personal experience, this provides a strong case that many e-mail addresses must have been obtained from a 3rd party. If this is an act of retribution for your FeedBlitz account being terminated for violating their ToS requirement for only opt-in lists, I would advise you to reconsider your threat. (I noticed it was missing this morning and I am only presuming that many people opted to file complaints as I did.)
I'm not doing this for entertainment purposes. I'm doing this because all of the evidence points towards one conclusion: that the e-mail addresses have been obtained through methods that would be illegal were you sending commercial e-mail and would violate the ToS of pretty much every mailing list provider out there. I don't like spam. It wastes my time, clutters my inbox and has forces me to find increasingly cumbersome ways to curb it. (SpamAssassin on my mail server consumes considerable resources and while Spam Karma 2 does a great job with filtering comments, I still have to look through and manually flag some of them.) I'm willing to give you a chance to prove me wrong and will issue a retraction should be able to do so. I'll even sign a non-disclosure agreement to assure you that I will not publish, share or otherwise redistribute the contents of the e-mail address list(s), only aggregate data from said lists (i.e. X number from list Y).
Please let me know if you are willing to accept my offer. It will be immediately invalid should you pursue any legal action and the data I have requested would be requested in court anyway should it reach that point.
His answer? "See you in court."
I'm not prepared to back down on this considering the chilling effects this could have on Utah bloggers as a whole. I appreciate those of you who have offered your support and especially the offer of free legal representation should he follow through with his threats. At this time, I don't think I can offer any further comment on the episode until I see what happens next.
PS One point of clarification that he offered is that he shut down the FeedBlitz service on his own because of "security issues". How it is that seeing subscriber numbers comprises a "security issue" is well beyond me and the avoidance of transparency and verifiable numbers is quite simply disturbing.