The defendant in a defamation suit over allegations made in a dispute over variances for a Belleville bar and cyber cafe has filed a counter claim in the case.

A copy of the counter claim filed by Maureen Morris, the president of Citizens Reviving Historic Belleville Inc. (CRHBI), was not available in the case file.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young allowed Morris to file the complaint instantly Feb. 16.

The plaintiffs in the suit, Elizabeth Yarber and Michael Lieb, were given 30 days to respond.

Yarber and Lieb sued Morris and CRHBI alleging defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy for placing them in a false light.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $50,000, costs and punitive damages.

Yarber and Lieb claim that Morris, who headed the Belleville historic group, spread false rumors about them and their business when the pair sought variances for their business.

Yarber, owner of the Brick Street Tavern, claims that Morris spread rumors about her alleged past as a topless dancer, insinuated that her business was a criminal front and "embarked on a campaign of untruths," when she wanted to extend her bar's hours.

Lieb alleges that Morris told neighbors that his planned cyber cafe was also a criminal front. He claims that Morris told people he had been run out of Edwardsville, had several failed business ventures and allegedly said he intended to sell pornography.

The plaintiffs claim that as a result of the statements, neither were granted the variances by Belleville zoning officials.
Morris and CRHBI deny the allegations.

Morris was originally represented by Melroy Hutnick of Belleville.

He filed to withdraw from the 2008 suit in August 2009, claiming he could no longer represent Morris.

Morris is now represented by Thomas Maag of Edwardsville.

CRHBI is represented by Ted Dennis of Belleville.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jarrod Beasley of Belleville.

The case is St. Clair case number 08-L-490.

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