Hylla to hear summary judgment motion in Suburban Journals defamation suit

Amelia Flood Aug. 18, 2009, 4:45am


The owner of a Collinsville newspaper accused of defaming a man by placing his photo and description in an article entitled "Top 5 Most Wanted Criminals" is asking Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla for summary judgment in its favor.

Hylla will hear the motion filed by the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis LLC Friday at 9 a.m.

The Suburban Journals own the Collinsville Herald Journal, the paper accused of defaming plaintiff Gary Tedford. Tedford is seeking compensatory damages of $50,000 and costs and punitive damages of $5 million for what he alleges was the destruction of his good name by the weekly paper.

According to his 2007 suit, Tedford was falsely accused by an employee of Fairmount Park of deceptive practices, a felony. The employee allegedly reported Tedford to the Collinsville Police Department Oct. 13, 2000. A warrant was issued for Tedford's arrest by the Madison County State's Attorney a few days later.

Tedford claims he was never notified of the warrant.

On March 28, 2001, the Herald Journal ran an article entitled "Top 5 Most Wanted Criminals," a monthly feature. The March 28 story featured a mug shot of Tedford, his physical description and last known address.

The next day, Tedford was cashing a check at a grocery store when the clerk recognized him from the story and called the police. Tedford was arrested.

The suit claims the paper breached its duty of care and was negligent in failing to adequately investigate the relevant facts of the Oct. 13, 2000 complaint, falsely labeled the plaintiff as one of the "Top 5 Most Wanted Criminals" and that the printed words were libelous.

Tedford also contends the defendant, as owner of the paper, wantonly and willfully destroyed his reputation and good name by again running the article in April 2001 after he called the paper to advise it that he was not a criminal and that the allegations against him were false.

Tedford claims to have suffered shame, humiliation and great emotional distress.

Tedford was originally represented by Bob Perica of Alton. However, Perica moved to withdraw as Tedford's attorney, stating a lack of communication with his client and potential conflicts.

Tedford filed a motion pro se, terminating Perica as his attorney and asking for time to find a new one.

The Suburban Journals had filed a motion for summary judgment April 14.

Hylla will hear that motion at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The case had originally been assigned to Madison Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder.

The Suburban Journals is represented by Mark Lindmark of St. Louis.

Tedford is currently listed as representing himself, according to the case file.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-586.

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