Judge Dismisses Gordon Lawsuit Against County Exec, WIBX’s Keeler
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit on Thursday filed by former political candidate Dave Gordon against Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, his then chief of staff Al Candido, Townsquare Media and WIBX's Bill Keeler.
Gordon, who lost to Picente in the race for County Executive last year, claimed his civil rights were violated and he was slandered when Keeler read from an arrest report that was previously sealed, regarding a domestic violence incident that occurred between Gordon and his then fiancé in 2017. The arrest was later dismissed when, according to the Oneida County District Attorney's office, she stopped cooperating with them. Gordon also claimed that Picente slandered him when he referenced the arrest during a May 15th press conference, as he disputed accusations made by Gordon which he called "junk" and "disgraceful."
In his decision to dismiss, State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte said, "Gordon's argument is wholly unavailing since the allegedly defamatory statements made by Keeler during his February 8th radio broadcast are immune from any civil liability under the long-standing, statutorily enshrined fair reporting privilege." Furthermore, "Keeler's statements were absolutely privileged under Civil Rights Law 74 as a fair and true report of Gordon's arrest record," he said.
Justice DelConte also wrote that Gordon's civil rights violation claim against Townsquare Media and Keeler was based on "speculation and conjecture" and was also dismissed. The Justice further cited case law that proves grounds for dismissal of the suit against Picente, because it protects public officials from civil lawsuits when statements are made while conducting official duties.
Meanwhile, as a result of accusations publicly made about Picente and a former staff member during and after the campaign, a related defamation case brought against Gordon by the former staffer is still pending in State Supreme Court and is currently in the discovery process.
Following the loss to Picente in the June Republican Party primary, Gordon publicly announced he was leaving the area and moving to South Carolina. In January, Candido announced his retirement from his position as Picente's chief of staff.
WIBX's Bill Keeler made a brief statement during his radio show, stating that "the judge's decision to dismiss the case is a victory for free speech and free press."
Gordon has 30 days to appeal the decision.