Hot-Shot Police Reporter Beats Defamation Suit
CourthouseNews.com by Adam Klasfeld - April 5, 2012
MANHATTAN (CN) - Leonard Levitt, one of the most probing and recognized critics of the New York City Police Department, did not imply that an officer was corrupt by reposting a review of his book, a federal judge ruled. In reviewing Levitt's 2009 book, "NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force," the New York Post paired its article with a picture of Port Authority police officer Francis Pisano. Pisano sued the tabloid, its owner News Corp., and four of its employees in 2009. Levitt was pulled into the fray by posting the review on his website, NYPDconfidential.com. News Corp., the Post and its employees eventually settled out of court, leaving Levitt to defend the charges without institutional backing, except for his representation by the New York Civil Liberties Union. On Wednesday, New York Supreme Court Justice Thomas Adams ruled that the republication did not amount to defamation. "A re-publisher of a work may rely on the research of the original publisher, absent proof that the re-publisher had or should have had substantial reasons to question either the accuracy of the article or the good faith of the reporter," Adams wrote, citing three related cases. Levitt said he was relieved to put the matter behind him. "For any ordinary person who did nothing wrong, being sued for $5 million dollars is disquieting to say the least," Levitt said in a statement. His NYCLU attorney Ken Norwick added that others who repost news articles should breathe easier. "This is a very important decision because it establishes the right of websites to reproduce content from other sources without running the risk of being sued for libel," Norwick said in a statement. The NYCLU's legal director echoed those sentiments. "In this day and age it's critically important that we stand up for our First Amendment rights online. No one should be afraid to re-post a story from a reputable source on his or her blog or website," Christopher Dunn said in a statement.