Plaza de Panama. The fake media profiles appeared in March 2016, months after San Diego elected officials announced their intention to rekindle the Plaza de Panama project.
  • Plaza de Panama. The fake media profiles appeared in March 2016, months after San Diego elected officials announced their intention to rekindle the Plaza de Panama project.
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Gordon Kovtun is not a “sissy.” And, he is not a “bottom boy.”

Despite what it says on the Wordpress.com profile with his name on it, “gay porn” is not his sole interest.

Gordon Kovtun. Kovtun’s attorneys, according to the lawsuit, suspect they have uncovered who the creators of the fake profiles are.

Gordon Kovtun. Kovtun’s attorneys, according to the lawsuit, suspect they have uncovered who the creators of the fake profiles are.

Also, those nude pictures of him are not real. He took no part in the all-male porn scene posted to his Facebook and numerous other social media sites. The profiles are fakes created, according to his attorneys, to destroy Kovtun’s reputation.

No, Kovtun is a civil engineer, married to a woman, and father of three. He owns the KCM Group, a construction-management firm located in Pacific Beach. In 2011 KCM Group was selected to oversee a controversial proposal aimed at removing vehicles from Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama.

Plaza de Panama from California Tower.

Plaza de Panama from California Tower.

The fake media profiles appeared in March 2016, months after San Diego elected officials announced their intention to rekindle the highly contentious Plaza de Panama project.

And as construction is set to begin early next year, Kovtun and his attorneys are issuing subpoenas to large media companies in hopes of unmasking the anonymous internet-users responsible for launching the fake profiles.

Plaza de Panama

Tasked with removing vehicles from Balboa Park’s center plaza, the Plaza de Panama Committee formed in 2010. With financial backing from billionaire Irwin Jacobs and support from the park’s museums, the committee proposed building a bridge from the east end of the historic Cabrillo Bridge on Balboa’s Park west entrance, bypassing the Plaza de Panama, and diverting traffic south to a newly constructed, 797-space subterranean parking garage. The project is expected to cost $79 million, $30 million of which will come from private donors, including Jacobs, while the remainder will be paid for with city-issued bonds.

The proposal, however, did not have unanimous support. Environmental and historical organizations criticized the plan. They objected to building a bypass road off the Cabrillo Bridge. The fight grew contentious. Looking to stop the project, historic preservation group Save Our Heritage Organisation filed a lawsuit in 2011, citing environmental impacts.

With the project in legal limbo, in 2013, former mayor Bob Filner opted for a less intrusive plan. He eliminated all parking in the plaza and rerouted traffic. Yet support for the Plaza de Panama proposal remained. After Filner left office, the city’s elected officials and Jacobs’s committee announced their intentions to revive the project. In 2015, after a near-three-year-long legal battle, Save Our Heritage Organisation lost the case. Not long after, the city was back at work reviving the proposal. In July 2016, San Diego city councilmembers approved the funding plan. Meanwhile, Save Our Heritage Organisation has filed a new legal challenge, claiming the city is using outdated environmental studies.

Who are you calling a sissy?

While city officials waited for staff to finalize the plan, in March 2016, anonymous internet-users went online to attack Gordon Kovtun, whose company would oversee construction. While at high school, according to a November 2016 lawsuit, Kovtun’s teenage son and his friends discovered his dad’s fake internet profiles.

The first appeared on blogging platform medium.com. The profile picture showed Kovtun’s face superimposed in front of an all-male orgy. To the right of the picture, next to the naked men was a yellow star with “Gordon Kovtun” printed inside of it. Accompanying the photograph was a message that read, “Gordon Kovtun sissy bottom boy here for your pleasure :-).”

Another post on medium.com included a doctored photograph of Kovtun in the nude, with another portrait of his face covering the genitalia.

Kovtun soon discovered an entirely new fake profile, this time on YouTube.com. The profile included the picture of Kovtun superimposed over the all-male sex scene as well as one with Kovtun’s face pasted over two men having sex. Kovtun’s bio read, “Gordon Kovtun, Gay lover!”

Similar profiles on Blogger.com and Facebook appeared, both showing the same pictures and similar statements.

But Kovtun’s attorneys, according to the lawsuit, suspect they have uncovered who the creators of the fake profiles are. They point to two commenters in a September 19, 2016, Union-Tribune article who suggested that Kovtun was unqualified to lead the overhaul. One commenter, Erik Hanson, a member of Save Our Heritage Organisation, surmised that Jacobs gave the contract to Kovtun because Kovtun did work on his La Jolla house.

Reads the lawsuit, “Plaintiffs are informed and believe… that Defendants published the following false and defamatory statements:”

Those statements read, “[Kovtun] had never done a civic project before, was inserted in his position due to social contacts and longtime family relations with the [Union-Tribune].”

Hanson, however, says the attorneys are grasping at straws.

“The accusation is ridiculous,” Hanson said in a June 10 phone call. “I’m considering a lawsuit myself, against them, associating me publicly with these accusations.”

Hanson doesn’t hide his opposition to the project. But, he says, he isn’t one to create fake profiles to defeat it. “I would think of something better to do than post something on some random websites. It’s just weird to me. It offends me because it’s just not anything that I would do. Plus, I don’t believe being gay is slanderous or is an attack on someone’s so-called reputation.”

The courts and internet anonymity

Attorneys for Kovtun would not comment on the case, except to say that they were close to revealing the identities of those who created the fake profiles. To do so, according to court documents, Kovtun’s attorneys have turned to the media companies to obtain IP addresses and email addresses used to launch the profiles.

But companies such as Facebook, Wordpress, and other social media platforms have policies in place to protect the anonymity of its users.

In response, the courts have attempted to balance First Amendment rights with protecting against defamation. “So-called ‘cybertorts’ have been on the rise in recent years — revenge porn, sextortion, online harassment, cyberbullying, and online defamation,” says media defense attorney Ashley Kissinger, an expert in the field. “There is always some lag time between the appearance of new social problems and the ability of law and technology to overcome them. That’s true here, too, but it’s not cause for panic. State legislatures have been actively passing laws aimed at these issues, and media companies are exploring technological responses. I feel confident that we have the means to solve these problems and the social will to do so. Overall, the internet has overwhelmingly had more positive impact than negative on our society. We should always bear that in mind when attacking online problems.”

In Kovtun’s case, companies such as Automattic, the company that hosts Wordpress.com, has so far refused to share information with Kovtun’s attorney until a court order is issued.

“…While I understand that your view is the order would be easily obtained, we still need to have that in place,” wrote an associate attorney for Wordpress in a May 2017 email to Kovtun’s attorneys. “The thing of it is that we take the privacy of our users very, very seriously. It’s sacrosanct to us as a technology company holding personal information. And that means having all the necessary items in place before we provide information — an order allowing this sort of discovery, having the subpoena issue out of the correct court.”

Kovtun’s attorney ran into similar obstacles when attempting to obtain the IP address from Charter Communications, the parent company of Time Warner. Cable companies are prohibited from revealing “personally identifiable information” of their subscribers.

Kovtun’s attorneys filed for a court order to compel discovery.

On May 10, San Diego Superior Court judge Randa Trapp agreed, ordering Automattic and Time Warner “to uncover the identities of the persons or entities responsible for the allegedly defamatory statements at issue.”

As for the suggestion that a member of Save Our Heritage Organisation created the fake profiles, the organization’s executive director Bruce Coons says if true it was not done on their behalf.

“Save Our Heritage Organisation has no involvement in this and is not aware of the mentioned fake profiles or their owners. Only the executive director, the president and their direct assignees are authorized to speak on behalf of Save Our Heritage Organisation and its statements are a matter of record. We do not condone any such activities.”

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Comments

WillnSS June 22, 2017 @ 8:29 a.m.

Although I disagree with Hanson's positions, often, he is more creative then this.

Any way what is wrong with having done some adult entertainment in the past? This is San Diego there is more Gay porn produced here then in the SFV. I know a couple of well recognized gay porn "Stars" that i.d. as str8 and have gone on to have families, heck One has a successful CPA firm in a large coastal city.

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ErikHanson June 22, 2017 @ 10:52 a.m.

Thanks for your words of support, I guess. Of course it was not me doing the fake profiles and such. I'm confidant enough of my opinion to use my real name, I'm 58 years old and didn't even act like a 14 year old when I was 14. Note: I've seen screenshots of the fake accounts and gay porn stuff and, as far as I can see, none of it even mentions Mr Kovtun's business, profession, or any projects, especially including the Balboa Park project. It could be anyone with any grudge or any prankster known or unknown to him. Anybody that knows my writings knows that I will work that proposed project into any thread possible, even with a slim connection. Even if these Internet creations are real, there is nothing to suggest that they were written in regards to that project. I didn't do these porn things, and I will certainly not be discovered as the author with any ISP search. I'd also like to hear why they are dealing with Time-Warner/Spectrum, when any mediocre intern could have found out that I'm in Cox territory in about 5 minutes work.

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Fred Williams June 24, 2017 @ 12:38 a.m.

This smells rotten, like a fishing expedition, looking to cut off the heads off those who dare speak against the wealthy and well-connected.

I'll assert with 100% confidence that Erik Hanson is NOT the author of these juvenile prank sites. No reasonable person would name him as a suspect.

Yet the lawyers on the payroll of the oligarchs who want to permanently deface the city's crown jewel bandy him about, effectively punishing him for exercising his civic duty to publicly oppose bad policy.

I am also confident that the entire suspects list is exclusively populated by opponents to this project.

So these half-bright legal goons are goose-stepping to the courts to flim-flam fig-leafs for law enforcement to get microscopic on any who dare speak up about a bridge and parking project.

It's not enough to use sock-puppets, buy-off politicians, hire former journalists to soft serve smarm. These tricksters have got a new rabbit to pull out of their black top hats.

The billionaire class, and their minions, can mysteriously encounter and be deeply injured by prank sites, perhaps created by their own puerile minded associates, which any reasonable person would laugh off and ignore (seems you had to go out of your way to find them, almost like someone knew where to look).

Abracadabra, hocus-pocus, there's a reason to dig into the online records of critics of the magic money boy's pet project.

Erik, though I've never met you, we've interacted in comments for years. Having also dared criticize the San Diego oligarchs, I could easily find myself in your shoes, publicly framed, named as a suspect, facing the prospect of investigation on the basis of this stinky fish story.

Have you contacted the Institute for Justice?

http://ij.org/

Their lawyers and volunteers may be interested in representing your interests...

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