St. Clair County Associate Judge Brian Babka took under advisement plaintiff Amiel Cueto's motion for summary judgment in a suit he brought against Thomas Muskopf.

Cueto sued Muskopf in November 2006 over a letter to the editor that appeared in the Belleville News-Democrat on Nov. 9, 2005. Cueto claims the letter placed him in a false light before the public.

At a hearing Tuesday, Babka encouraged Muskopf, who has been representing himself, to hire an attorney.

Muskopf said he had done all he could do to find a lawyer but none of the "dozen" law firms he contacted would take his case.

Cueto argued that he should be awarded summary judgment because Muskopf failed to answer a request to admit facts pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 216.

"Your failure to respond means you admitted (the facts)," Cueto said.

Cueto asked Muskopf to admit, among other things, information pertaining to his medical history.

Muskopf argued that he didn't answer Cueto's request because his medical information was of a personal matter "that no one should have access to" and which "had no bearing on the case."

He said an "average citizen is not required" to give medical records to a "disbarred attorney and convicted felon."

"This is a frivolous lawsuit," Muskopf said. "He's suing me for half a billion dollars."

Cueto's complaint alleges that Muskopf's letter to the editor contained two statements that placed him in a false light. For each statement, the complaint seeks $10,000 for each person to whom the statement was published.

Cueto's complaint also seeks punitive damages of nine times the amount of compensatory damages.

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, the paper's daily circulation is 53,387.

Cueto said he was not seeking half a billion dollars. He said he was asking for "six figures." He told the judge, "You know how to award damages."

He said Babka might award "$1 or $1 million."

Babka said he would try to rule within 30 days.

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