Tag Archives: Jessica Van Sack

Libel suit against Herald will proceed

Judge Raymond Brassard

A Superior Court judge recently refused to throw out a libel suit brought against the Boston Herald by a woman who claims the paper defamed her by falsely reporting she’d had sex with an inmate during a visit to the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater. The suit was filed in 2010, and I posted some background on the case at that time.

The plaintiff, Joanna Marinova, accompanied state Rep. Gloria Fox, D-Boston, on a visit to the prison in May 2009. The Herald published a front-page story on May 28 of that year by reporter Jessica Van Sack saying that Fox had snuck Marinova in to see her boyfriend, a convicted murderer named Darrell Jones, and that Marinova had been “previously bagged for engaging in ‘sexual acts’ with the killer con.”

Marinova says the story is false. According to prison records introduced as part of the lawsuit, Jones had been disciplined for kissing Marinova and rubbing her leg, but there was no suggestion the two had had sex.

According to a story in the current Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (sub. req.), the Herald’s lawyer, Elizabeth Ritvo, argued that the case should be dismissed because Marinova’s contention that the Herald had claimed she and Jones had sex was “a strange and tortured interpretation” of what the paper actually published.

But Judge Raymond Brassard disagreed, saying “it seems to me that not only a reasonable reader, but virtually any reader, even a First Amendment lawyer would read that and think this person was involved in some sort of sexual intercourse with this man at the prison. I don’t know how a reasonable person could think otherwise.”

Marinova’s lawyer is David Rich, who was part of the legal team that successfully sued the Herald on behalf of former judge Ernest Murphy several years ago. In an unrelated action, Tom Scholz, leader of the band Boston, is suing the Herald for libel over accusations that were made following the suicide of lead singer Brad Delp.

Marinova had also sued WHDH-TV (Channel 7), which broadcast a story similar to the Herald’s. Lawyers Weekly reports that the two sides have apparently reached a settlement.

The hearing that led Judge Brassard not to grant the Herald’s motion for summary judgment was held on Sept. 22. I have posted the document here.