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DeWeese complaint

| Friday, June 27, 2003

State House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese filed a more specific complaint against a Uniontown newspaper Thursday in a lawsuit stating the paper purposely and repeatedly defamed his character.

The Waynesburg Democrat sued the Uniontown Herald-Standard in November, claiming the paper's repeated publication of claims he had broken a promise to open state House leadership accounts to public inspection were false and had injured his reputation.

DeWeese initially asked for $10 million in damages against the Herald-Standard; its owner, Calkins Media Inc.; Editor Michael Ellis, and five John Does to be named later.

But Fayette County Judge Steve P. Leskinen suppressed the monetary demand and ordered DeWeese's attorney to file a more specific complaint.

The revamped complaint quotes extensively from an interview the legislator had with the Herald-Standard's editorial board.

According to DeWeese, the newspaper's staff purposely misstated his words when they wrote editorial captions to accompany a cartoon of DeWeese that was published for nearly a year in 2001.

The suit states that DeWeese did not promise to release details of the $12 million House leadership account, which is not a public record under state law. The captions under the cartoon suggested that DeWeese did promise to release the details.

DeWeese hired noted Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague, who has extensive experience with libel and defamation cases involving public figures -- including himself.

The former Philadelphia district attorney won a then-record libel judgment of $34 million against the Philadelphia Inquirer as a result of a series of 1973 stories that suggested he took part in a conspiracy to prevent a friend's son from being charged in a homicide. That suit has since been settled under confidential terms.

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