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Libel suit against free NY newspaper dismissed

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  1. Libel and Privacy
A state court in New York dismissed a libel lawsuit last month against a free bi-weekly newspaper that published an…

A state court in New York dismissed a libel lawsuit last month against a free bi-weekly newspaper that published an anonymous letter alleging that a local developer was bribing officials.

The developer, Dean Gitter, sued the Phoenicia Times after the paper published a letter in March by an unnamed writer, The Daily Freeman reported. The letter alleged that Gitter, who has proposed building a large resort in the Catskills region, paid lobbyists to bribe officials.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Henry F. Zwack dismissed the suit, saying the letter-writer had merely proffered an opinion, and nothing in the letter was defamatory.

"The court finds that the letter is not actionable against defendants because the undisputed facts that plaintiff paid lobbying fees are not false or otherwise defamatory," Zwack wrote, "and the expressed opinion and personal surmise of the writer that plaintiff bribed government officials cannot (support) a defamation claim."