OTTAWA - The co-owner of two trendy ByWard Market eateries was convicted of libel Thursday for sending lewd e-mails and setting up a fake sex site profile dishing dirt on a diner who posted negative reviews online.
Kinki and Mambo restaurants co-owner Marisol Simoes, 42, was convicted of two counts of the rarely laid charge of defamatory libel against customer Elayna Katz.
"Ms. Katz enjoys freedom of speech as do all people in this country," Judge Diane Lahaie said, adding what Simoes did was "not just inappropriate but criminal."
Lahaie concluded Simoes was the only one with motive and opportunity - the profile was posted using her password-protected account -- and that the "venomous" material included striking similarities to a letter she wrote.
Katz testified that two years of "harassment" followed a bad meal at Mambo in May 2009, putting her on an "emotional roller-coaster."
"I am open to anything -- couples, threesomes and group sex," read the e-mail purportedly signed by Katz and sent a year later to her bosses at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. "Am especially into transsexuals and transgenders (being one myself ). I am ... a tiger in the bedroom."
The same words were in a profile along with Katz's wedding picture posted a few days later on an "adult" site under "men seeking men."
None of it was true.
Katz testified that when she ate at Mambo, service was slow, the waitress was rude and she was handed a dish laced with olives even though she'd explained she can't eat them.
Katz said she went to Kinki to tell Simoes what had happened, but she wasn't there and didn't respond to three calls -- although Lahaie believed a restaurant manager's testimony there were more.
After Katz posted a review on restaurantthing.com, there was a spate of posts soon after using her name and address, and calling her crazy.
Katz demanded the site operators take them down. It also shut down reviews of Kinki and Mambo, and posted a letter from Simoes complaining of a "vendetta" against the restaurants.
Simoes' lawyer had argued that the culprit could be either the manager -- who felt harassed by Katz's calls -- or her husband and business partner.
But Lahaie said she believed their denials.
"When you're in the business of owning a restaurant and serving the public, people have a right to express their opinions," Katz said after the verdict.
A sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 8.