By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Libel suit filed over Gloria Fox’s prison visit

Rep. Gloria Fox

The Boston Herald has been hit with a libel suit for the second time this year. The Boston Globe’s David Abel reports that the plaintiff is Joanna Marinova, who accompanied state Rep. Gloria Fox, D-Boston, to the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater last year.

The Herald published a front-page story on May 28 by Jessica Van Sack claiming 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.” The Herald cited “two prison sources,” both anonymous.

Marinova sued the Herald and WHDH-TV (Channel 7), which also ran the story, saying through her lawyer, David Rich, that the news organizations “blatantly ignored readily available facts that would have demonstrated the falsity of these assertions.”

According to Abel, the Herald declined to respond and no one at Channel 7 would return his calls.

As with a libel suit recently brought against the Herald by Tom Scholz of the band Boston, it makes sense to wait and see what’s in the Herald’s and Channel 7’s official response. In this case, though, Adam Reilly did some reporting last year for the Boston Phoenix that cast considerable doubt on (1) the Herald’s claim that Fox had falsely portrayed Marinova as her aide and (2) that Marinova and Jones had engaged in illicit sex during a prison visit.

Reilly, now a producer with “Greater Boston” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2), noted that Marinova had told the Globe that the so-called sexual contact for which Jones had been punished consisted of Jones touching her knee during a visit. And Reilly pointed to other sources, including Jones’ blog and an official report, that tend to support that version of events.

If the Herald’s and Channel 7’s reporting was wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean they committed libel. Even though it is Marinova who’s suing, it’s Fox’s involvement that made this a newsworthy story. A judge could rule that because Fox is a public official, Marinova must prove that the Herald and Channel 7 either knew their reporting was wrong or strongly suspected it, yet went ahead anyway — a legal standard known as “reckless disregard for the truth.”

On the other hand, a judge could rule that because Marinova herself is a private person, then she need only prove that the defendants acted negligently.

Looking down the road, I would imagine that Marinova will try to force the defendants to reveal their confidential sources as well.

Needless to say, this will be a very interesting case to watch.

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  1. Bob Gardner

    Reilly mentions that he was waiting to see if the Herald published a correction. Was there a correction?
    If neither the Herald nor Channel 7 did publish a correction after Reilly’s story appeared, either they have other information that they are relying on, or, it would seem to me, they are moving pretty close to the “reckless regard for the truth” standard.

  2. L.K. Collins

    Publication of a correction or retraction at this point would represent mitigation.

    The suit has been filed and necessarily will be heard on the facts of the initial article that was published.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Because you didn’t post under your full name.

  4. Oh, right Brain!

    I prefer to be open about everything, in contrast to certain elements of our Beloved Government. The only time I’ve hidden my identity was when I was Boston Bob, and boy is THAT quite the story, all the way to the High Court for a man who got ALL of this First Amendment Rights stripped away by Judges making Unconstitutional Rulings, totally. Harvard Citizen Media agreed with me on that:

    Take a look at the related blogs of the counsel involved, too rich for words was the whole thing.

    Anywhoozer, yah started blogging this case hard core, and I took Ms. Marinova over to Todd & Weld after we met at a radio show in which we were both guests at TOUCH FM. You can hear that interview and follow the development of primary (and secondary and tertiary) matters at these two links, including video exchange between His Excellency and me, in which he swore to “get to the bottom of this” because he does not want a “prison system shrouded in mystery.”

    Christopher King, J.D.

  5. What a totally reckless way for a major publication to behave. I have no doubt that the Herald will be openly disgraced by this when the facts are revealed. Dragging the names and reputations well resected leaders and pillars of the community through the mud in the name of “entertainment” is NOT responsible journalism.

    I am grateful for the courage of those who are stepping forward to combat the antics of sensationalism and misrepresentation purely in the name of profit.

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