Appeal from the 157th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2017-83349
consists of Justices Keyes, Higley, and Landau.
BETH LANDAU, JUSTICE
Harris County Assistant Chief Deputy Constable Clint
Greenwood was gunned down in a courthouse parking lot, the
murder made headlines. According to appellant Eric Baumgart,
a television broadcast and related web article published by
appellees Phillip Douglas Archer; KPRC-TV Channel 2; Graham
Media Group, Houston, Inc.; Graham Media Group; and Graham
Holdings Company (collectively, "Graham Media")
falsely suggested to the public that he was "the
sued Graham Media for defamation. Graham Media moved for and
obtained dismissal of Baumgart's claims and an award of
attorney's fees under the Texas Citizens Participation
Act (TCPA or the "Act"). See Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 27.001-.011. Baumgart
appeals on numerous grounds, contending that (1) the TCPA
does not protect Graham Media's defamatory speech; (2) he
made a prima facie showing of defamation; (3) the trial
court's refusal to allow discovery before dismissing his
claims violated Texas's due-process guarantee of open
courts; (4) a jury trial on the reasonableness of Graham
Media's attorney's fees was constitutionally
required; and (5) the TCPA operates, on its face and
as-applied, as an unconstitutional restraint on a
plaintiff's speech. We affirm.
was a reserve officer with the Liberty County Constable's
Office and an investigator with the Harris County Public
Defender's Office when he was charged with crimes-acting
as a private security guard without the appropriate license
and tampering with a governmental record. Baumgart pleaded
not guilty, a jury convicted him on all charges, and all but
one charge was affirmed on appellate review. See Baumgart
v. State, 512 S.W.3d 335, 349 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017)
(licensing violations); Baumgart v. State, No.
01-14-00320-CR, 2015 WL 5634246, at *3-4 (Tex. App.-Houston
[1st Dist.] July 27, 2016, pet. ref'd) (tampering with
governmental record). Baumgart began serving a
90-day sentence in January 2017. Baumgart was still
incarcerated at the time Assistant Chief Deputy Greenwood was
shot and killed outside a courthouse in Baytown, Texas.
alleges that he served time in jail because of
Greenwood's vendetta against him. According to Baumgart,
the vendetta began when Baumgart helped draft a federal civil
rights complaint against Harris County. And the complaint
provoked Greenwood, who then served as an assistant district
attorney in the police integrity unit, not only to prosecute
retaliatory criminal charges against Baumgart, but also, to
pressure the public defender to end his employment.
he was incarcerated, Baumgart submitted a request under the
Texas Public Information Act, see Tex. Gov't
Code §§ 552.001 et seq., for
Greenwood's "employee time records" for the
month of December 2016. Greenwood perceived this as a threat
and asked that his records not be released. In an email
regarding Baumgart's public-records request, Greenwood
told a Harris County attorney that Baumgart "poses a
real threat to my, and my family's[, ] safety."
Greenwood's records were not released.
Douglas Archer, a Graham Media journalist working for the
Houston NBC affiliate known as KPRC, learned of
Baumgart's public-records request during his
investigation of Greenwood's murder. Archer interviewed
Baumgart the day after Greenwood died, and asked about
Baumgart's fraught relationship with Greenwood, whether
the men perceived one another as a safety threat, and
same day, KPRC ran a television news story and related
article, both of which KPRC published on its website, about
Greenwood's murder and the documented hostility between
Baumgart and Greenwood. Archer was the reporter. The web
article-entitled "Slain deputy constable feared former
officer he had investigated, source says"-read in its
Five days before he was slain, Clint Greenwood told officials
in the county attorney's office that he believed a man
he'd helped send to jail was a threat to him and his
The man he was talking about is currently a prisoner in the
Harris County Jail, Eric Baumgart, a former investigator for
the Harris County Public Defender's Office and a reserve
officer with the Liberty County police agency.
Greenwood helped convict him of tampering with a government
document and with providing private security services without
a license in 2014.
Baumgart, 47, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years
of probation. He began serving his sentence in January.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon at the jail, Baumgart said
county detectives searched his belongings on Monday,
following Greenwood's death, but he says they still
haven't spoken to him.
Last January, a source close to the murder investigation said
Baumgart submitted a freedom of information request from jail
asking for Greenwood's pay records.
Greenwood was contacted by the county attorney's office,
and asked that the records not be released.
Greenwood sent another email on March 30 saying he believed
Baumgart was a threat to him and his family, according to the
On Tuesday, Baumgart attributed that statement to what he
calls a vendetta Greenwood waged against him after Baumgart
helped a friend file a civil rights lawsuit against the
county in 2012.
He says Greenwood ruined his career and put him in jail. He
said he considered Greenwood a threat to him.
During the election last fall, Baumgart ran an ad accusing
Greenwood's boss at the time, District Attorney Devon
Anderson, of corruption - naming ...