Why Won’t the Media Report on Karen Velie’s Mental Instability and Abuse?
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.
Every time I read San Luis Obispo County media outlets like New Times or The Tribune fact-check or follow up on stories first reported by CalCoastNews, I notice they prefer to correct or clarify what was originally reported. But they mostly leave the snide up to the anonymous New Times “Shredder.” But every time they mock CCN, they never take into account the depths of CCN co-founder Karen Velie’s depravity.
Velie has undoubtedly become a prominent figure in a countywide conversation, being the “reporter” that’s exclusively reported on “scandals” that are either ridiculously overblown, embellished to the point that readers are unable to discern between clear fact or fiction, or the “scandal” they manufactured is completely bunk. Reminding readers that Karen Velie has a less-than-stellar accuracy record is one thing, but it’s another to constantly overlook her downright pathological and psychotic behavior.
And while it’s crucial to contextualize what she does by mentioning her $1.1 million libel lawsuit loss, it’s even more important to explain why she lost, why she refuses to take responsibility and what she’s done to people who have held her to account. If none of those factors are explained by them, the news media will further normalize Karen Velie.
I’m going to touch on something that happened recently. On Aug. 15, the “Shredder” wrote about the necessity of verifying CalCoastNews’ blog posts, “because you just never know which stories bend the truth and which contain actual facts.” Shredder added that Velie’s “extremely non-journalistic catchphrase” was, “Throw enough shit at the wall and eventually something’s true!” While the Shredder is known for being opinionated, the author doesn’t reveal the full story.
I wrote a comment under the Shredder column reminding readers that CalCoastNews lost a $1.1 million libel suit because they refused to make corrections. Then I received a response from an individual named “Peter Gerold” about a day later. As if “he” was speaking on the website’s behalf, “Gerold” replied, “CCN did not print a correction because there was nothing to correct.” Thought that comment was particularly odd. As someone who covered the 2017 trial that lead to an unanimous guilty verdict against CalCoastNews, I watched as Velie’s claims were examined and thoroughly debunked. I documented what happened during the trial here.
Essentially, the trial revealed how Velie relied on hearsay to substantiate her allegations. Velie refused to corroborate the hearsay she received and published the claims as fact. The most damning allegations Velie made were easily refuted by physical evidence or witness testimony. For instance, she claimed the person suing her was fired from his job in the mid-1990s for undisclosed reasons, but his then-employer testified that he wasn’t fired. Velie also claimed the plaintiff didn’t have the proper licensing to transport hazardous waste when he did.
Despite being exposed in court for publishing inaccurate claims and committing perjury on the stand, Velie insisted her reporting was accurate, but offered no evidence to show how. None of the “evidence” backing the claims she made came to light when she unsuccessfully appealed the lawsuit verdict. And not only that, CCN is backing an upcoming documentary that claims the lawsuit and trial was part of an elaborate conspiracy theory to “shut down” their website. CCN floated this conspiracy theory for several years, but provided no evidence.
Velie has accused me of playing a role in the conspiracy.
“Gerold” claimed I was a “paid shill.” Since 2013, Velie has accused me of being paid by SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill and others to criticize her reporting as part of an ongoing effort to “cripple” her website. This was her roundabout way of invalidating criticism. Despite the fact that I repeatedly went on the record to deny her allegation, Velie continued to push the false narrative without offering a shred of evidence.
In 2017, Velie subpoenaed me to testify in a deposition for the libel case based on her allegation. At the deposition, when I was asked by one of her attorneys if I was compensated by anyone to criticize the website and truthfully answered no, Velie’s body thrashed suddenly, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she started drooling while seated beside one of her attorneys. She literally couldn’t accept the truth.
“Gerold” claimed I “testified in open court and under oath that [I] once wrote “that [I] would throw bleach” in Velie’s daughter’s face. Again, this is another allegation Velie has exclusively made about me without evidence.
In 2017, Velie attempted to file a civil harassment order against me based on false pretenses. For the hearing, Velie submitted to the court a stack of my posts and comments, many of which commented on her mental state. She was clearly bothered by my assessment that she was mentally unstable. In one exhibit, Velie shared a screenshot showing one of my readers making obscene remarks about her daughter to which I replied, “Not enough bleach for the eyes.” I was referencing an Internet meme based on a reaction to someone else’s post containing undesirable online content.
At no point did I mention her daughter or indicate that I would throw bleach in her daughter’s eyes, but that didn’t stop her from claiming that I “admitted” to making the “threat” in court. This begged the question: Why would I admit to something I never wrote?
Despite her own evidence packet showing I never made those remarks, Velie wrote that I did in a CalCoastNews article. She personally knew her allegation about me was false prior to the article being published. And one year after her article was published, Velie embellished on top of her original lie, claiming in a Facebook post that I wrote about “wanting” to throw bleach in her daughter’s eyes. Now “Gerold” was repeating the exact same thing.
Velie’s false “bleach” allegation resulted in me receiving death threats immediately after her article was published.
I looked up to see if this “Peter Gerold” was a real person. “Gerold” claimed to be a retired law enforcement official residing in Cambria. According to property records, DMV records and an online people search, no one named “Peter Gerold” lived in Cambria. However, the account was linked to the real Peter Gerold, a Cape Coral, Florida resident who never lived or owned property on the Central Coast. The fake Facebook account, which also used a profile photo of a random Mexican tour guide, was impersonating a real person.
Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. Velie and her grown daughter, Summer Awbrey, are personally linked to a number of anonymous Facebook accounts that personally harassed and threatened me in addition to making false allegations exclusively made by Velie about me. Some of these allegations would later trickle into CalCoastNews articles and published as fact.
Velie’s recent attempt to cyber-stalk me reminded me of what happened two years ago. What started out as me taking a photo of Velie and asking her, “Why do you continue to publish allegations about me that you know are false?” turned into a harrowing, delusional tale.
According to Velie, I threatened her and her daughters before dramatically fleeing the courthouse with bailiffs chasing me. The one witness she claimed saw the whole thing didn’t back her story. At the hearing, she claimed I stalked her family by showing up at her driveway in an orange motorcycle — one I never actually owned or learned how to ride. Then she went after my father, claiming he appeared at her house at some unspecified date and time. Despite Velie claiming she filed “several police reports” on us, the judge couldn’t find any. Velie lied to the judge. Her request was tossed, but not before the judge admonished me for my “inappropriate” posts discussing her mental instability.
Velie’s harassment, threats, stalking and false allegations have given my family severe emotional distress for five years. Sadly, there are other victims of Velie’s relentless and ongoing abuse. I hope more come forward.
The media has been silent about Karen Velie’s abusive, predatory and pathological behavior. It doesn’t make any sense as to why they are, especially in the #MeToo era when public figures are being held accountable for similar behavior. On top of that, most of the harassment that Velie has inflicted on her perceived enemies is criminal in nature.
Had the media covered what she’s done to me and others, I probably wouldn’t have written my book. I was compelled by the mainstream media’s deafening silence to publish something that was definitive public record. While I’m satisfied with the book, I find it problematic that her rampant and ongoing misconduct is continuously swept under the rug by people who definitely know better.