Businessman Wins $3.5 Million in Defamation Suit Against Pa. Newspaper

November 1, 2006

A judge awarded $3.5 million in damages to a businessman and one of his companies in a defamation lawsuit against The Citizens’ Voice, a newspaper in Wilkes-Barre.

Thomas A. Joseph alleged he and his business interests, including Acumark Inc., were defamed in a series of articles in which the newspaper used anonymous sources linking him to illegal activity.

Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella awarded $2 million to Joseph from The Citizens’ Voice, The Scranton Times L.P., The Times Partner, and former Citizens’ Voice reporter Ed Lewis. The judge also awarded Acumark, a direct-mail marketing company, $1.5 million from the same four defendants.

The judge ruled against Joseph on his claims for punitive damages. He also ruled against separate claims for damages by two of Joseph’s other businesses, Airport Limousine and Taxi Service Inc. and Airport Taxi Limousine and Courier Service of Lehigh Valley.

The Citizens’ Voice said its stories were accurate and that no proof was offered to show they were false.

“We are very disappointed in the verdict,” Publisher Scott Lynett said. . “We do not believe the facts of the case in any way support this verdict and we intend to appeal.”

Attorney W. Thomas McGough Jr., lead attorney for the newspaper and others named in the suit, said he would be filing legal documents to challenge the ruling within 10 days.

McGough also had argued that Joseph “put himself in the line of fire” through his friendship with reputed mobster William D’Elia, who was indicted earlier this year on federal charges.

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