Jury Finds California Bosses Not Guilty of Defamation for Accusing Rival Union of Corruption

A California jury decided Aug. 21 that three members of the L.A. Sheriffs Prof’l Ass’n were unaware that an e-mail they sent deputies last fall accusing a rival union of corruption was false. LASPA vice-president Scott Mckenzie and his union were sued for defamation in March by the Ass’n for L.A. Sheriffs Deputies, which sought $1.1 million in compensation.  ALADS claimed its reputation was damaged by the e-mail, which alleged that ALADS was under FBI investigation for a list of offenses ranging from racketeering to bribery of public officials. ALADS also named LASPA president Alex Villanueva and deputy Steven Miller as parties in the suit.

The jury found that Mckenzie and Villanueva did publish false and defamatory information about ALADS in the e-mail, but did not know it was incorrect at the time the message was transmitted. The FBI was investigating ALADS at the time, but it was not engaged in an “extensive investigation” as the e-mail alleged, the defendants’ attorney Gregory Emerson told the jury.

ALADS attorney Michael Glassman said “it was important for ALADS to have a jury finding that showed the statements contained in the e-mail concerning the FBI investigation were false and defamatory.” [City News Serv. 8/21/01]