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Judge Robert McDonald found plaintiff Frank Borzellieri was a limited public figure whose 2012 defamation claim failed to satisfy the higher actual malice standard because the allegedly offending statements were "incapable of being objectively characterized as true or false." Judge McDonald elevated the plaintiff to limited public figure status because the controversial principal injected himself into a public controversy by writing racially divisive articles and books, according to an account by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site (www.rcfp.org).
Borzellieri was fired from his position as principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic School in 2012 after a series of articles written by the defendant raised questions about whether he was involved in a white supremacist group. The plaintiff didn't deny his views, which included that growing Hispanic and black populations would plunge America into a "New Dark Age." Rather, he claimed the Daily News defamed him by portraying him as a firebranding white supremacist. Apparently, that's worse than being a simple garden-variety white supremacist.
"Subjective characterizations of the plaintiff's behavior made in the articles are nonactionable opinion," Judge McDonald concluded. The case was Borzellieri v. Daily News LP et al (Case No. 11731/12).