Aaron Ochs is the author of “Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized a Community & Those Who Dared to Fight It,” a nonfiction uncovering the defamatory, deceptive and criminal practices of online tabloid CalCoastNews. Click here to subscribe to his Patreon, check out exclusive news features and more.
In early January, out of nowhere, I got a call from a phone number that I vaguely recognized. Caller ID was unknown. I picked up my phone and answered. I could hear a conversation between two women, both their voices I recognize, but they sounded far away. Figured I must’ve been the recipient of a good ol’ fashioned pocket dial. I typed in the phone number on Google. The number belonged to freelance court reporter and former Grover Beach mayoral candidate Elizabeth Doukas. I heard about every third word except for one sentence: “Aaron [Ochs] isn’t going to be around anymore. Don’t worry.” Now I believe the call was intentional.
Doukas is one of the many cast of characters featured in Defamers. She was the court reporter hired by CalCoastNews to record depositions. In 2017, the website subpoenaed me to be deposed as a potential witness for their libel trial, which they ended up losing. Doukas was the presiding court reporter in my deposition. After CalCoastNews exaggerated and outright lied about a deposition I provided in good faith, I ordered a copy of my transcript from Doukas with the intent to release it for public consumption. Doukas never followed through with processing my order, effectively stonewalling its release.
In their Professional Code of Ethics, the National Court Reporters Association says a member shall “be fair and impartial toward each participant in all aspects of reported proceedings, and always offer to provide comparable services to all parties in a proceeding.” But on Facebook, Doukas — an ardent supporter of CalCoastNews — shared CalCoastNews’ misleading article about my deposition. The Professional Code of Ethics also states a member shall “be alert to situations that are conflicts of interest or that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Doukas is featured in an upcoming documentary by CalCoastNews that’s based entirely on a conspiracy theory peddled by the website that there was an elaborate “plot to bury [them].” It appears Doukas is more than a mere fan of the website.