Alton Telegraph defamation case set for management Wednesday

Amelia Flood Jan. 26, 2010, 8:11am

A defamation of character suit against a local newspaper's owner and reporter is set for a case management conference Wednesday.

Freedom Communications Inc., the owner of the Alton Telegraph, and Telegraph reporter Linda Weller are being sued for $1.1 million in damages by plaintiff Charles Bonnell.

Bonnell, of Bunker Hill, claims that his reputation was damaged and his character defamed by an article Weller wrote in the Telegraph about an August 2008 fire.

The case has been stalled due to Freedom Communications' 2009 Chapter 11 filing.

The conference is set to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla is presiding.

According to the complaint, Weller reported on a house fire at 925 Wallace Street in Alton.

Weller allegedly quoted the Alton fire chief as stating that the fire was a "set fire." The complaint alleges she used euphemisms for arson.

The article went on to identify Major Construction Company and
Bonnell as the owners of the property.

Bonnell's complaint alleges that the article implied that he was guilty of arson.

Bonnell claims that he did not own the property and that Weller's citation of his ownership from the Madison County Assessor's Office was incomplete and incorrect.

Bonnell claims that after contacting the Telegraph, the paper refused to run a correction.

He alleges the article was published willfully and maliciously with the intent of defaming him.

His suit seeks $100,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Bonnell is represented by Bernard Ysursa of Belleville.

The defendants are represented by Thomas Stewart of St. Louis.

The case is Madison case number 09-L-751.

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