Jack Anderson Cleared Of Libel In Case By Former Congressman
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson did not libel former U.S. Rep. Lionel Van Deerlin in a 1983 column alleging the California Democrat was linked to a Capitol Hill cocaine ring, a judge ruled Monday.
In a letter to attorneys which accompanied the ruling, U.S. District Judge Leland Nielsen said he found no malice in Anderson’s report.
Van Deerlin, who represented northern San Diego in Congress from 1962 to 1980, had sought $5.2 million in damages from Anderson.
″After going back over my notes and all the documents introduced into evidence in the above matter, I’m of the opinion that although some of the factual matters stated in the article at issue are false, there is no convincing proof of actual malice,″ Nielsen wrote. ″Therefore, judgment should be entered in favor of the defendant.″
Under libel laws, Van Deerlin, because he is a public figure, had to prove that Anderson had written a falsehood knowing that it was incorrect.
Nielsen had said at the end of the 21/2 -day non-jury trial in July that Van Deerlin was ″utterly blameless″ in the case. He labeled the April 27, 1983, report in Anderson’s ″Washington Merry-Go-Round″ column as ″absolutely false.″
″Congressman Van Deerlin is very, very disappointed,″ said Michael Aguirre, the attorney who represented Van Deerlin. ″Whether the congressman is going to appeal is only something he knows.″
Jerome Eggers, co-counsel for Anderson, said he was pleased that Anderson’s record of never losing a libel suit remained intact.
″I’m sure Mr. Anderson would have preferred a finding that the story was word for word true, but he stands by the article as published,″ Eggers said.
During the trial, Anderson testified that several informants identified Van Deerlin as a drug user and that his report was based on police and government documents. He said he printed Van Deerlin’s rebuttal to the allegations in his column.
″It’s very important, from Jack Anderson’s standpoint, not to be intimidated by these libel actions,″ Eggers said.