Orcutt v. MacDonald (Mar. 16, 2023, B319016) 2023 WL 2532025 [nonpublished opinion]

Rental property managers in San Luis Obispo received anonymous letters threatening to shoot them and their tenants if they rented properties to minorities.  The police identified a chief suspect, Richard Orcutt, and contacted one of Orcutt’s prior co-workers, city fire official John MacDonald.  MacDonald stated that in his opinion, the handwriting in the letters matched Orcutt’s handwriting, but asked not to be involved in further investigation or prosecution.  After Orcutt’s arrest, MacDonald testified at a preliminary hearing under subpoena.  Eventually, the District Attorney’s office dismissed the charges against Orcutt because an FBI analysis could not confirm the writing was Orcutt’s.  Orcutt then sued MacDonald for malicious prosecution.  The trial court granted MacDonald’s anti-SLAPP motion and dismissed the case.

Representing MacDonald on appeal, GMSR argued that the anti-SLAPP order should be affirmed on multiple, independent grounds.  Although any of those arguments would have been sufficient to affirm, the Court of Appeal agreed with GMSR on each alternative argument:  There was no evidence that MacDonald sought out the police.  There was no evidence that he had falsely reported facts (as opposed to giving his lay opinion).  Orcutt had not presented sufficient evidence that MacDonald lacked probable cause.  And there was no evidence of malice or improper purpose.

To read the Court of Appeal opinion, click HERE.