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Judge freezes Everett newspaper owner's and editor's property in libel case by mayor

A Middlesex Superior Court judge has ruled that Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria has such a strong likelihood of winning a libel suit against a local newspaper that he is freezing property belonging to one of the paper's owners and its editor in anticipation of as much of $850,000 in damages.

In his order, first reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Judge William Bloomer ruled that DeMaria "has demonstrated a likelihood that he will recover judgment, including interest and costs" in his suit against Everett Leader Herald owners Andrew and Matthew Philbin and publisher Joshua Resnek on charges they libeled him in a series of articles accusing him of corruption and sexually assaulting a city worker.

Bloomer specifically ordered a "writ of attachment" for a commercial building at 67 Chelsea St. in Everett that Matthew Philbin - Andrew's son - owns and Resnek's home in Lynn. Philbin purchased the Chelsea Street property for $2.2 million just last month, according to Southern Middlesex Registry of Deeds records.

Bloomer said he felt it necessary to effectively put the properties under court supervision because the paper's insurer, in a separate case, is seeking a judgment that it does not have to pay for any settlement. "The court cannot conclude that the contest liability coverage will be available to satisfy a judgment" should DeMaria win, Bloomer wrote. The paper's insurer says it wants out because "conduct by an insured that is committed intentionally, purposefully, fraudulently, maliciously, and/or knowingly so as to harm another person is excluded under the terms of the Policy."

DeMaria sued the paper and City Clerk Sergio Comelio in October, 2021 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 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 has countered 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."

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My understanding is that libel suits are pretty difficult to win.

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Except when they are as blatant as this case

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A public figure (such as an elected official) can win a defamation suit if they can prove (convince a court) that the person who said those things about them knew hey were lying, or didn't know or care if the accusation was true.

"Didn't care" goes to state of mind and is hard to prove, but the defendant saying something like "I made it all up" would mean that he knew they were false.

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Unless Mr. Flynt should have suffer the wrath of Jerry Fowell for detailing his imagined dalliance with his own mother in an outhouse.

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The standard set by Sullivan makes it really really really near totally impossible for a public employee to win a defamation suit. You have a huge burden to overcome just to get to trial (think a company telling you they will interview you but you have to climb mount Everest first), the fact that the judge has gone so far as to freeze certain assets means that either the Judge screwed up right out of the gate or the newspaper really fucked up here. Like they would have just had to plain make stuff up for the sole purpose of harming the mayor and both parts of that would have to have been proven in court.

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Resnek made stuff up, a TON of bad, bad stuff, and already testified under oath that he made all that stuff up. It's all in the Boston Magazine article Adam linked to.

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I'd be interested in Adam Gaffin's personal take on this one, if he's willing to share it.

From the description above, it does sound like the paper is editorializing in ways that wouldn't be protected. Although if they actually have proof the of the $96k payment, that's a strong defense.

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The 3rd link is to a Boston Magazine article, pretty long but explains the whole thing front to back. About Resnek during his deposition, "Under oath, he confessed that his body of reporting on the mayor was as likely to be fiction as fact. He admitted that he’d published lies." "Resnek also confessed that he had made up all the quotes attributed to Cornelio in his explosive September articles about the Corey Street deal. Every single one of them."

There was no check.

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For the summary

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