Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Md. Appeals Court Says No Libel by Baltimore Weekly in Murder Series

Baltimore City PaperImage via WikipediaThe Maryland  Court of Appeals has upheld a summary judgment ruling for the Baltimore weekly City Paper in Piscatelli v. Smith et al. (Case No. C07009530V01), finding the weekly's reporter Van Smith did not defame Redwood Trust nightclub owner Nicholas Piscatelli in a series of articles concerning the 2003 slaying of club employees Sean Wisniewski and Jason Convertino.

According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, Piscatelli sued Smith and City Paper based on two articles that appeared, respectively, on December 6, 2006 (Late Discovery) and June 20, 2007 (The Lonely Killer), that described the killings as "mysterious" and included allegations by Convertino's mother, Pamela Morgan, suggesting the plaintiff may have been implicated in her son's murder. The Sun article reported that Anthony Miller was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2007 for killing Convertino and Wisniewski.

The Maryland Appeals Court upheld the summary judgment ruling in the defendants' favor by the Baltimore City Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals, finding that Piscatelli had not proved City Paper's reporting was inaccurate and unfair.

"We shall conclude," the Court of Appeals opinion stated, "utlimately that the manner in which Respondent published those statements placed them within  the protective embrace of the fair reporting and fair comment privileges, and consequently, Piscatelli's claims were not actionable."

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