Matt Riddle cancelled restraining order petition against rape accuser 36 hours before court date
The court records tell a story that does not reflect well on his credibility.
|David Bixenspan||Sep 16, 2020||4|
Matt Riddle in WWE. (Photo: WWE.com)
Content Warning: While this article does not include descriptions of the specifics of the sexual assault allegation that underpins this case, it does describe allegations of stalking and retaliatory legal action against a sexual assault accuser. In addition, the linked legal documents do contain a description of the alleged assault. If any of the above is potentially triggering or otherwise upsetting to you, then please proceed with caution.
Update/Correction (September 16 at 7:04 p.m. ET): After being hipped to the right keywords—the obvious ones weren’t bringing anything up—I did find tweets talking about Samantha Tavel/Candy Cartwright having tweeted and then deleted the untouched screenshot of the text messages from Lisa Riddle that included her phone number. But those replies appear to mainly be concerned with the full screenshot having a “remove ads” button at the bottom, with some of those objecting to the tweet alleging it was proof that she was using an app to fabricate the screenshots. (With Riddle alleging that she was using “burner” phone, it’s more likely a secondary phone number app.)
That said, the rest of the Tavel side still matches up with what her attorney argued, in that the tweet submitted as an exhibit as proof of Tavel tweeting the phone number appears to be the tweet where the phone number was already redacted. (There’s also no evidence it was specifically an effort to dox Lisa Riddle.) I regret the error and hope this rectifies it.
At some point in the last few days, the website for the Orange County Court in Florida, which has jurisdiction over the metro Orlando area, started returning search results for a case that had been whispered about for weeks. That was an attempt by Matt Riddle to get a restraining order against Candy Cartwright, real name Samantha Tavel, who accused him of sexually assaulting her during what had been a consensual affair. According to the clerk’s office, in this type of case, data will only appear online once the respondent has been served with the petition or the case has been dismissed. What the court record reveals is a very questionable complaint from Riddle, written by lawyer Daniel J. Rose, that was soundly taken apart by Tavel’s lawyer, Allison Lovelady, leading to Riddle and Rose requesting a voluntary dismissal last Monday (September 7, 2020).
Despite having widely publicized their claim that Rose had drafted a previous attempt to get a restraining order against Tavel and never sent it—a claim echoed in Riddle’s petition—Riddle and Rose have never mentioned this actual case publicly. Going through the records from the case helps explain the likely reasons for this.
Note: I’ve compiled the key court records into one file in chronological order, as given the nature of the case, both sides filed things that could easily be taken out of context in the wrong hands. Also, all of my redactions are black boxes added using Document Cloud’s redaction tool, and they should not be confused with Riddle and Rose’s redactions in their exhibits, which appear to have been done by hand with a small piece of paper on top of the image.
In running through the petition form’s checklist, Riddle alleged that Tavel (with her ring name included as an alias) had:
“Previously threatened, harassed, stalked, cyberstalked, or physically abused the Petitioner.”
“Threatened to harm Petitioner or family members or individuals closely associated with Petitioner.”
“Used, or threatened to use, against Petitioner any weapons such as guns or knives.”
“Destroyed personal property, including, but not limited to, telephones or other communication equipment, clothing, or other items belonging to Petitioner.”
In the section where the petitioner is given the space to fill in addresses to bar Tavel from, only the WWE Performance Center was named, something that would come up again later when she got a lawyer and responded. (Tavel’s lawyer would argue that this was the only place Riddle was trying to bar her from going to and was thus an illustration of the true intentions behind the petition.) Riddle would then attach a separate statement of facts, including exhibits, to the petition, which lays out his allegations in more detail.
The short version is this: He claims that he met Tavel in 2016, their affair began on November 6, 2017, he tried to break it off in June 2018 but they kept going, and he then attempted a definitive breakup in July 2019, with Tavel having “systematically stalked, cyberstalked, and harassed myself and my wife” since July 9, 2019. At that point, he alleges that he blocked her on social media and changed his phone number, only for her to text him from a burner phone saying “that if I did not leave my wife for her that I would be sorry and she would ruin my career.” Days later, he says, he and Rose contemplated filing for a restraining order, only to contact WWE and “inform them of the situation.”
The petition doesn’t allege anything else happened until an unnamed day in February 2020, when Riddle says he “Ms. Tavel showed up from New York to Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida where I was working and made a scene and had to be escorted out of the building.” As is apparent from the previous paragraph, Riddle and Rose supplied exact dates whenever possible; not supplying such a date here feels like a red flag. There are at most four days (one for each NXT TV shoot) where this could have even theoretically happened, and one of those NXT TV days (February 12th) didn’t even have Riddle appearing at Full Sail. In addition, as of this writing, an email to Full Sail’s public relations contact requesting comment on if this happened has not been returned. No further incidents are named until Tavel’s June 19th tweet thread accusing him of sexual assault, which Riddle throws in with the larger pattern of alleged behavior he’s alleging, claiming that “this went viral and caused myself and my family substantial emotional distress.”
That’s curious enough, but the next claim in the statement of facts is where the seams in Riddle’s narrative become too obvious to ignore. “Ms. Tavel then posted my home address and my wife’s phone number on [T]witter,” he wrote. “This caused my wife to receive numerous crank calls and death threats (which are recorded and can be brought to trial).” The alleged tweet is attached to the petition as Exhibit 4, featuring a crude printout of a tweet from Tavel showing text messages she received from Riddle’s wife, Lisa, as well as one of the replies, which included a screenshot from one of many “people finder” websites that showed the Riddles’ last two addresses. In the exhibit, the top of the screenshot, the space that would show Lisa Riddle’s phone number is covered by a piece of paper with “Lisa Riddle Cell Phone #” written on it by hand. The actual tweet (archived here) is still up, though and shows that Tavel redacted Lisa’s phone number when she tweeted the screenshot. As for the Riddles’ home address, no evidence was presented of Tavel tweeting it. The reply that had it, which was from a random fan, is still up, but I’m not linking it for obvious reasons.
In Tavel’s motion to dismiss the petition, her lawyer, Allison Lovelady, refers to that particular exhibit as “deceptively redacted screenshots of messages from Petitioner and his wife from Respondent.” (Lovelady added in a footnote that “[t]his tweet is publicly available and demonstrates that Respondent redacted Petitioner’s wife’s phone number” and “also demonstrates that Respondent never publicized Petitioner’s address.”) Lovelady also attached a sworn declaration from her associate, James Slater, attesting to the authenticity of various things that Tavel actually tweeted, including the redacted screenshot of the texts from Lisa Riddle.
Riddle’s lawyer, for his part, would attempt to address this in his response to Lovelady’s motion, itself a rambling narrative bearing little resemblance to a standard courtroom pleading like Lovelady’s. This excerpt has not been edited at all, with all grammar, spacing, and verbiage being true to the original:
8. The Respondent then falsely claims the exhibits are fabricated. This is frivolous, the Respondent did post the Petitioner’s wife’s phone number on twitter through a message she received on one of her numerous burner phones and then a couple of hours later deleted the tweet and reposted it with a redacted copy.
9. Respondent’s counsel then affirms under oath that the tweet in question did not have the phone number of the petitioner’s wife. What he did not research is his client posted the unredacted number prior to her deletion and resending of the message which he should know anything posted on social media is permanent and deletion does nothing.
10. The phone number tweet while deleted was copied by many social media websites and as a result Petitioner’s wife received numerous death threats and hate messages from people.
There are a few big problems with the claims about the tweet in that response:
It strains credulity to suggest that anyone would have gone to the effort of redacting the tweet printout—much less in that particular way—in a court document that included both the Riddles’ address and Matt’s phone number.
The printout in the exhibit shows a comparable number of replies, retweets, and likes to what the live version of the tweet with the redacted number shows two months later.
The random fan’s reply with the screenshot showing the Riddle’s last two home addresses is a reply to the tweet with the redacted phone number. If that printout is supposed to show both the Riddles’ address and Lisa Riddle’s phone number being tweeted—set aside that Tavel wasn’t who tweeted the address for a moment—then it completely fails on that front. Unless you want to believe that the same fan, seeing that Tavel deleted the alleged unredacted screenshot, deleted their reply before reposting it as a reply to the “second tweet” with the reposted, redacted screenshot.
In spite of Rose’s claim that Tavel had tweeted the screenshot without redacting Lisa Riddle’s phone number and that it was widely shared after the fact, presumably as a screenshot of the tweet, I can’t find any proof of this online whatsoever. No chatter on Twitter, no broken Tweet embeds in news articles, no references to Tavel “doxing” Lisa Riddle.
Correction: See above update for the amendment of this part of the story; I don’t want to delete the original text, but since Substack doesn’t have a strikethrough option, I’m putting the part that’s been amended in italics. There just isn’t any evidence that Samantha “Candy Cartwright” Tavel ever tweeted a screenshot showing Lisa Riddle’s phone number (again, see above update/correction notice), much less her and Matt’s address, with all of the available evidence pointing in the opposite direction. It can only weaken a case where the judge refused to grant the restraining order without a hearing. Anyway, if we set aside the argument over the provenance of those tweets, the rest of Lovelady’s dismissal argument largely boils down to:
Riddle didn’t offer any support for what the petition claimed about threats, destruction of property, and/or use of weapons.
The exhibits contradicting the allegations; not just the tweet issue, but also the text messages supplied by Riddle showing no evidence of the threats he claimed Tavel made to ruin Riddle’s career if he didn’t leave Lisa for her, not to mention any other clear evidence of stalking.
That Riddle’s petition was a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and should be quickly dismissed as such, with Riddle having to pay Tavel’s legal fees.
“Petitioner’s request to enjoin Respondent—a wrestler—from attending the World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) Performance Center, see Pet. § IV ¶ 2(b), but not from his personal residence or any location frequented by Petitioner or his family, is similarly telling that this is an merely an attempt to harm, harrass [sic], and silence Respondent, not protect Petitioner or his family.”
Rose’s response—quoted earlier with regards to the phone number tweet issue—is hard to follow, and doesn’t include any exhibits or point to any witnesses to back up its claims, with one exception: It claims that Dylan Kaplan, Matt Riddle’s personal assistant, can testify that “has shown up to events where the petitioner has performed and followed him.” (That’s a vague, nonspecific claim in and of itself; it doesn’t say that she showed up “uninvited” or anything like that.) Rose, meanwhile, appears unaware of what Riddle checked off on his petition, trying to disarm Lovelady’s arguments about allegations of threats and violence by asserting that “this is a cyberstalking petition” and pivoting to Tavel’s alleged threats and “encourage[ment of] third parties to harass him on social media and outside social media.”
Then he brings up Daria “Sonya Deville” Berenato’s ongoing stalking case because “it shows the extent people will go to harm others” and also accuses, without explanation, Tavel of being behind the leak of nude photos of Riddle last year. That leak predated the the Riddle/Tavel breakup by several months and occurred simultaneous to a leak of similar photos of Daniel “Dash Wilder/Cash Wheeler” Wheeler. (That’s without even getting into how hackers are usually responsible for that kind of celebrity leak, not former partners.)
Rose filed that response for Riddle on August 31st, the day after Tavel’s allegations were obliquely worked into Riddle’s storyline feud with Baron Corbin at the WWE Payback event. One week later, at 9:48 p.m local time on Labor Day—just over 36 hours before a hearing was scheduled to hear the motion to dismiss—he filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, dropping the case entirely. If they had proceeded to the hearing, a successful motion to dismiss on anti-SLAPP grounds could have resulted in Riddle having to pay legal fees and court costs to Tavel. At least for now, that’s where the story ends.
Anyone affected by domestic abuse and needing support can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Those unable to speak safely should visit TheHotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.