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Proviso Probe

Friday, December 30, 2005

DEFAM, background: Manzo & Muhammad

The following is the text of the portion of the complaint that deals with Welch's previous lawsuits against Michael Manzo, Concerned Citizens of Melrose Park, Ken Leggin and Debbie Muhammad.
b. Welch and Roche have a Long History of Similar Activity

The lawsuits are not the first by Welch against political critics. In 2002, Chris Welch, along with four other members of the District 209 Board, brought suit against Michael Manzo and Concerned Citizens of Melrose Park, a nonprofit organization, arising from a newspaper advertisement published by Manzo and Concerned Citizens. See Complaint, Case No. 02 L 014620 (Nov. 19, 2002). The advertisement opposed the election of Ronald M. Serpico as Cook County Commissioner and criticized the District 209 Board’s political alliance with Serpico. Id.

Chris Welch alleged defamation and invasion of privacy, based on two statements in the advertisement: 1) “Serpico ‘bought’ Board member votes to sell bonds, forcing Westchester residences [sic] to pay more taxes for a school they don’t use”; and 2) “Serpico and his friends on Proviso High School District’s 209 Board have fired or demoted a number of employees without cause or merit.” Welch and his co-plaintiffs sought compensatory damages in excess of $5,000,000 per count, in addition to unspecified punitive damages. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 615 as legally insufficient. Despite the size of the damages award they sough, Chris Welch and his co-plaintiffs accepted, in settlement, a dismissal with prejudice in exchange for a letter of apology and $321. Agreed Order (July 30, 2003).

Earlier this year, Welch brought suit against Debbie Muhammad and Kenneth J. Leggin. See Complaint, Case No. 05 L 001813 (Feb. 15, 2005). Welch again charged defamation and invasion of privacy, based on statements that, among other things, Welch had been “fired by Bellwood School District 88 for allegedly committing forgery.” The statements were made by Debbie Muhammad on a radio program entitled “Viewpoints from the Other Side.” Chris Welch again sought compensatory damages in excess of $5,000,000 per count. This complaint, too, was legally insufficient on its face and was dismissed as to Leggin. See Motion to Dismiss; Order (May 19, 2005). Muhammad asserted the truth of her statements and had prepared to defend the suit on those grounds. However, Welch abandoned his claim against Muhammad, and it was dismissed for want of prosecution.

Both previous defamation suits brought by Chris Welch were attempts to silence and / or punish political critics. The Concerned Citizens suit arose our of a political newspaper advertisement; the Muhammad suit was brought against a political opponent and his supporter, and arose out of statements the defendants had made in the course of the campaign.

In this case, James J. Roche and Chris Welch filed complaints they knew to be false and meritless, simply to further their goal of putting Mr. Nyberg “out of business,” i.e., out of the business of criticizing Chris Welch during a campaign. They decided to drop their claims, rather than risk judgment on the merits, as soon as it was apparent that Mr. Nyberg would be defended. This is Welch’s and Roche’s third round of strikingly similar activity, their strategy of using lawsuits to silence critics so much a matter of course that they do not even bother to accurately check their facts of attach the correct exhibits. These lawsuits are frivolous and sanctionable.

This is what Pioneer Press (John Huston) wrote about the Concerned Citizen suit at the time.

And this is what Pioneer Press (John Huston) wrote about the Debbie Muhammad suit:
Just days before, on Feb. 15, Welch filed a lawsuit against Leggin and community member Debbie Muhammad for allegedly making defamatory statements to local newspapers and on a radio talk show.

"Everything I said was factual," Muhammad said. "It's frivolous. He just doesn't want anybody to mention (anything bad about) him during campaign time."

The lawsuit said Muhammad's statements on the radio, which eluded to Welch's record as a District 209 Board member and Bellwood School District 88 Board attorney, were false claims that he had committed crimes or participated in corruption and had "reduced (the) level of credibility and electability as a board member."

4 Comments:

  • Good post. Did you hear about Chris Welch's filing in the Dem primary against Karen Yarbrough?

    By Blogger Amy Allen, at 3:18 PM, December 30, 2005  

  • Great post, Carl. Can have have reprint permission?

    By Anonymous L. nicole Trottie, at 4:19 PM, December 30, 2005  

  • Carl, I'm glad you have the stamina to go after these phonys. The average person would not have the knowledge or direction to go after a attorney on a frivolus claim.
    By the way, Welch got a scholarship from the Fred Hampton fund for his education and what a waste. I know Fred would be ashamed of him today.

    What happened to fighting for justice, righteouness and the oppression of people of color? There is no need of this brand of oppression from him and others like him. The race is burdened enough.

    By Anonymous ab of Bellwood, at 4:25 PM, December 30, 2005  

  • Welch did file to run against Rep. Yarbrough in the Dem primary. Thanks for reading Proviso Probe, Amy.

    Amy keeps the blog Obiter Dictum. She devotes a couple sentences to Welch's challenge to Yarbrough.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 5:04 PM, December 31, 2005  

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