Boone Co., IL. (ECWd) –
Boone County Judge Balogh heard arguments on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment against former Village of Poplar Grove Mayor Owen Costanza’s defamation lawsuit against a reporter for “The Rhubarb,” the current Mayor, and others.
Judge Balough read each and every statement contained on the “offending flyer” and Plaintiff essentially admitted each statement was true or substantially true, however, Plaintiff objected to where on the flyer the statements were placed claiming it led readers to infer something was criminal instead of civil.
Specific statements/questions from the Judge and attorneys during the Hearing:
- J: this was published and is in fact verifiably true
- J: cannot think of any more privileged speech than this (political campaign speech)
- J: these statements were not false and not malicious
- J: this is speech concerning a public person and/or a matter of public interest
- J: Costanza was found to have committed fraud by two separate states by providing false and fraudulent information to their Departments of Insurance – was fined $30,000 in one instance
- J: 90% of Plaintiff affidavit is not even properly an affidavit – it quotes caselaw and a Judge’s opinion and are not facts he is personally aware
- Plaintiff’s attorney claims “opinions are not protected anymore”
- J: Illinois Supreme Court has said that whether a statement can give rise to defamation is a question of law to be determined by a court (as opposed to a question of fact)
Judge will take this Hearing under advisement (pending any future settlement agreement) and scheduled a pretrial hearing for a possible settlement agreement for December 29, 2022, at 1:30 p.m.