Amiel Cueto takes aim at ICJL

Ann Knef Feb. 20, 2007, 8:18am

Amiel Cueto

Ed Murnane

Disbarred attorney and convicted felon Amiel Cueto claims his privacy was invaded and he was placed in a false light before the public by a political ad aimed at his brother, a circuit judge running for election in St. Clair County last November.

Cueto filed suit against the Illinois Civil Justice League and its political action committee JUSTPAC Feb. 12 in the courthouse where his brother, Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto, was recently elected to another six-year term.

Cueto claims he was put in a false light before the public because of this statement which appeared in print, and on television and radio: "Lloyd's brother, convicted felon Ameil (sic) Cueto, was once quoted to have said he had 15 of 17 judges from St. Clair County 'in his pocket'."

Ed Murnane, ICJL president, said he had not yet reviewed the complaint and declined comment.

His suit alleges that the statement was defamatory per se, "in that it accused Amiel Cueto of admitting and/or committing the crime of conspiracy to commit official misconduct."

Amiel Cueto served nearly six years in prison for blocking an investigation of the $48 million empire of client, gambling kingpin Thomas Venezia. He was disbarred in 2004.

Cueto also claims telephone calls to numerous homes conveyed the same "in his pocket" message in October or November 2006.

"The statement...would be highly offensive to a reasonable person," the complaint states.

Representing himself, Cueto is seeking $10,000 for each person to whom the statement was published, "and because the conduct by the defendant...was willful and wanton, the defendant...should be assessed punitive damages in the amount of nine times the compensatory/general damages awarded."

Lloyd Cueto, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Paul Evans, an O'Fallon attorney, in a controversial judicial election.

Rather than run for retention which would have required at least 60 percent of the vote, he instead ran for election which required just more than 50 percent of the vote. A law professor called the maneuver unconstitutional.

The campaign flyer, entitled "Why does Lloyd Cueto support a broken court system?" also noted that Lloyd Cueto "is bending the rules in his re-election, ignoring the constitutionally-suggested system of judicial retention that every other judge in St. Clair County is following."

The flyer also states, "His (Lloyd Cueto's) family has a long history of wielding tremendous political power and bending the rules."

The day after Lloyd Cueto was elected, Amiel Cueto filed suit against the Record newspaper claiming a column which opined that he "can still broker power" placed him in a false light before the public. Cueto also sued an individual who wrote a critical letter to the editor published by the Belleville News-Democrat.

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