Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Lawsuit against Enquirer dismissed

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Hamilton County judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit against The Cincinnati Enquirer that accused the paper of defaming a former Cincinnati police officer by saying a person arrested for illegally carrying a firearm was his son.

The newspaper incorrectly identified Deangelo Williams, a South Fairmount man arrested in September, as the son of Clarence D. Williams III.

Clarence Williams is a former Cincinnati police officer and past president of the Sentinels, a black officers organization.

Deangelo Williams, 24, is not the son of Clarence Williams, who is now a police chief in Florida.

Clarence Williams's lawsuit accused the newspaper of actual malice and contended the Enquirer worked with police department employees to subvert Issue 5, an amendment to the city charter that allows city officials to conduct nationwide searches for Cincinnati's police and fire chiefs and other top officials.

Voters passed Issue 5 in November 2001.

"These individuals, along with Chief of Police Tom Streicher, are against Issue 5 and they do not want to see African-American officers rise to the level of assistant chief or chief of police for the city of Cincinnati," the lawsuit alleged.

It also stated Clarence Williams, now police chief for Riviera Beach, Fla., would be an excellent candidate to take the place of retired Lt. Col. Ron Twitty as an assistant police chief. And it accused the newspaper of "a custom and policy of presenting African-American males in a negative light.''

The Enquirer published a correction of the misidentification.

The plaintiffs were Clarence Williams; his son, Clarence D. Williams IV; Carolyn Williams, a Cincinnati police sergeant and the mother of Clarence Williams IV; and Evelyn J. Williams, grandmother of Clarence Williams IV.

Attorneys for the Enquirer filed a motion for dismissal, which Common Pleas Judge Marc R. Schweikert granted Monday.

In his decision, Schweikert said the description of someone as a relative of a criminal or associated with a criminal is not defamatory. He also pointed out that the article was about Deangelo Williams.

"I understand the Enquirer is big and powerful paper," said attorney Ken Lawson, who represented the Williams family. "But we are dealing with the lives of people and their reputation. And in a court of law everyone should stand on equal footing."

He plans to appeal the decision.

John C. Greiner, the Enquirer's attorney, said he feels strongly about the paper's position and is confident the case will not be overturned.

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com

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