Cueto suit against newspapers, columnist dismissed

Amelia Flood Jul. 22, 2009, 8:20am



Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has dismissed a suit brought by a former St. Clair County lawyer against two newspapers, a columnist and other defendants. Crowder entered an order on July 17 dismissing without leave to amend the complaint filed by Amiel Cueto.

Cueto, who represented himself, sued seven defendants that he alleged conspired against him: St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan; the corporate parent of the Post-Dispatch; the Madison County Record; the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR); the Chamber of Commerce of the United States; and the attorneys and insurance company for the Record, ILR, and the Chamber.

Cueto's suit stemmed from a column by McClellan that centered on another case Cueto had pending in St. Clair County against the Record. The St. Clair suit was later dismissed. Cueto's appeal of that dismissal is pending.

Cueto claims that the publication of the McClellan column "Amiel Cueto has a gift, or maybe he doesn't," and acts by the other defendants connected to it, invaded his privacy by casting him in a false light, intimidated judges and witnesses in St. Clair County, and were part of a conspiracy to cast him in a false light and intimidate judges and witnesses.

Cueto was found guilty in the late 1990s on felony charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States. He was disbarred as a result of the conviction.

His Madison County suit sought compensatory damages in excess of $75,000 and punitive damages in excess of the same amount for each of the 11 counts.

Crowder dismissed Executive Risk Indemnity, the insurance company for the Record in the St. Clair County litigation, at the June hearing. However, she said she would allow Cueto to amend his complaint to add the insurer if he later developed evidence of its involvement in the alleged events giving rise to the suit.

In Crowder's July 17 order, the judge threw out Cueto's suit against all of the remaining defendants.

"While Mr. Cueto may feel insulted by the article, it does not constitute a basis for plaintiff's counts," Crowder wrote.

Crowder additionally denied Cueto leave to amend his complaint, finding that "plaintiff's claims cannot be pleaded in a way to cure the legal defects."

Joseph Martineau represented McClellan, the Post-Dispatch and Lee Enterprises at the June hearing.

Steven Pflaum and Russell Scott appeared at the hearing on behalf of the Record, ILR, the Chamber of Commerce and McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

Elizabeth Gere and Gary Meadows represented Executive Risk at the hearing.

The case is Madison County case number 08-L-775.

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