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Faced with court order, Everett newspaper to give up names of confidential sources in libel suit by mayor

The editor of the Everett Leader Herald has agreed to provide Mayor Carlo DeMaria with the names and contact info for the confidential sources it said it relied on for articles accusing him of corruption - articles over which DeMaria is now suing the newspaper and the city clerk for defamation.

In a recent filing in Middlesex Superior Court, editor Joshua Resnek also agreed to hand over "any notes of any conversations with those sources that have not yet been produced, emails and other communications with those sources and any documents related to those sources."

His decision came after the judge in the suit, James Budreau, ruled that DeMaria's right to a fair trial in his case outweighed the Leader Herald's First Amendment rights for 10 of the 12 people whom Resnek was seeking to withhold their names - and that Resnek and the paper also had to provide phone records from Jan. 1, 2021 on related to DeMaria coverage, any notes and documents related to the articles and even the number of times each of the articles about DeMaria in question have been viewed on the newspaper Web site.

DeMaria sued the paper and City Clerk Sergio Comelio last October, after the paper published what he calls "a series of utterly false articles" about him that accuse him of crimes related to a land deal DeMaria and Comelio were once involved in, including: $96,000 Forced Payment to Mayor by City Clerk Raises Questions About Extortion Plot and The $96,000 Disgrace - in which the Leader Herald called for DeMaria's prosecution.

DeMaria said the articles were based on made-up quotes from Comelio, whom he claims never actually talked to the Leader Herald - a claim the paper denies - and are part of a long-standing campaign by the Philbin family, which he says owns the paper, and which tangled with him decades ago over rooming houses it owned in Everett back when he was a city councilor on a campaign to improve conditions in local rooming houses.

The paper counters that while, yes, it has referred to DeMaria as "kickback Carlo," said he is "on the take," and referred to "DCF," or "DeMaria's Crime Family," it did not do so "in a defamatory manner," not when it's talking about a guy it says once showed up at its offices and threatened to put it out of business and who said in his 2021 re-election victory speech that he was "going after a lot of people."

The paper at first argued that it promised to withhold the names of people it talked to in researching the stories, some of them Everett municipal employees, because of their fear that DeMaria would seek to exact vengeance on them. Budreau said that while that is a legitimate concern, he had no evidence that DeMaria had actually done so in earlier instances.

He continued that state law does not allow for the withholding of names of people in defamation cases, but that court rulings do let judges balance the need of parties in the cases with the First Amendment need for the "free flow of information" that could be jeopardized if people with information on bad actors could not be free to talk to reporters. He then examined the involvement of all 12 of the Leader Herald's sources in the paper's preparation of articles and concluded that 10 of them did not warrant protection from having their names released.

Order compelling paper to hand over contact info for most sources (377k PDF).
Order compelling paper to hand over documents and phone logs (105k PDF).
Resnek agrees to hand over the information (85k PDF).
DeMaria's complaint (12.7M PDF).
Resnek's answer (928k PDF).
Resnek answer that includes DeMaria group chats (18.1M PDF).

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DeNiro in the movie version, although that's only because we lost Ray Liotta.

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