Natalie Maines, Fellow Dixie Chicks Courted for Libel

Stepdad of boy killed in 1993 sues bandmates over comments made suggesting he had something to do with stepson's death

By Natalie Finn Dec 05, 2008 2:45 AMTags
Natalie MainesStephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Another Dixie Chicks cause, another angry reaction.

A man whose 8-year-old stepson was killed in 1993 has sued all three members of the country-pop group for defamation, singling out frontwoman Natalie Maines for her comments suggesting he played a role in the boy's death.

Maines, whose outspokenness has won her lifelong friends and mortal enemies alike, appeared last December at a rally in Little Rock, Ark., for the three men, tagged the "West Memphis Three" by their supporters, who were convicted as teenagers of killing the plaintiff's stepson, Steve Branch, and two other 8-year-old boys.

According to the six-page complaint filed Nov. 25 in Pulaski County Circuit Court, the "Not Ready to Make Nice" singer told the crowd that new DNA evidence from the crime scene implicated Steve's stepdad, Terry Hobbs, and that Hobbs' behavior following the boys' deaths was suspect.

Her comments resemble those written in a letter about the case posted on the Dixie Chicks' website and obtained by various media outlets, including People, the Huffington Post, and ABC News.

Maines' statements were "so extreme in degree as to be beyond the pale of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society," Hobbs' lawsuit states, per the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

"Defendant's repeated libelous publications concerning the involvement of the plaintiff in the murders of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore were not based on fact and, in fact, were false and reckless at the time of publication."

Hobbs is alleging defamation, libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress by outrageous conduct and false-light invasion of privacy. He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, claiming the Chicks caused him embarrassment, humiliation, "severe" psychological and emotional trauma, loss of income and injury to his reputation.

"I want people to know I haven't done nothing wrong," Hobbs told the Democrat-Gazette in February. "I want them to hear it from me."

"It shames you, something like this. That's the biggest thing I've had to deal with—shame."

A publicist for the Dixie Chicks didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In September, a Craighead County Circuit Court judge denied new trials for two of the three convicted men, ruling that the new forensic evidence didn't provide "reasonable probability" that the pair were innocent.