My question involves defamation in the state of: Texas
Libel in Texas has a one year statute of limitations and that year has expired on March 30, 2017. Criminal harassment has a two year statute of limitations.
Problem: I became aware in April 2017 of some malicious and false statements that were made about me in a private message board in an online forum. How is it private? It is where the seven members of the Board of Directors and two employees of a nonprofit corporation communicate and is not visible to anyone else. One can visit the message board and never know it exists; threads and communication in this private forum cannot be seen by anyone who is not a Director or is not one of the two employees of the corporation.
How I came to see what was written about me: I was duly elected to the Board of Directors in late 2016, and seated on the Board in December, 2016. I was, however, not granted access to the private Board of Directors area of the message board until very late January 2017 because I had yet to sign a document that I felt might be illegal. Once I was re-assured the document was legal, I signed it and was granted access to this private and hidden area for the Board of Directors. Then, while conducting research on prior corporation business, I found a thread about me that was written by another Director of the corporation. She stated I posted pornography on the Internet and also stated several other things that are untrue. She heavily suggested that the model in the picture might not be of legal age of consent. The thread goes for several pages, with all the Directors at the time chiming in. At one point, it is stated that I engage in child pornography. Her posting cost me my position within the corporation as a sub-contractor, and also damaged my reputation among some of the membership of this corporation who was told these lies by this person.
I have spoken to several lawyers about this, including a district judge friend of mine. Most seem of the opinion that because the forum where this posting was made is hidden and private, I could not have known about it until I was granted access to the forum in early 2017. According to this group, the one year clock started ticking when I was granted access to this private area. One lawyer disagreed, however, and stated that if I was granted access to this private area on, say, January 30, 2017, and the post was made on March 30, 2016, I still had time under the first year's window. Maybe, but there are many, many threads in this private forum and I had no real cause to look for anything, which is why it was not found until April of 2017.
Still another lawyer suggested I skip over the civil libel suit altogether and file a criminal complaint with the local police for harassment, which is a class B misdemeanor in Texas, and has two year statute of limitations. In his opinion, I would have damages more readily seen and provable (since it's hard to put a price on a damaged reputation as it's non-economic). I suppose I could, but I'm not 100% sure that I have a harassment case here under the statute I have found. But maybe I do?
I do not take being called a child pornographer lightly, though, so maybe that is a path I can go down? But, but before I go that path, I am still curious about the defamation statute of limitations with regard to a private posting that would never have been seen by me until I was granted access to the private message board.
By the way, after reading the thread, I feel that these Directors had an agenda to remove me from my position and were looking for an excuse to do it. Texas is a right to work state, so they did not even need a reason, but interestingly, they made up pornography and child pornography. I can assure you that if I were to assert that someone was involved in child pornography, I would file a report with the police and launch a criminal investigation. They did not do that nor did they seem very concerned with that aspect at all. Instead, it appears to have been little more than a conspiracy to have me dismissed from my position with the corporation.