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Defense Lawyer Says Mob Figure ‘Libel-Proof’

May 12, 1987

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ Newspaper lawyers have asked the state Court of Appeals to rule that the reputation of a self-described mob enforcer was too bad to have been damaged by stories linking him to a reporter’s murder.

The request by lawyers for the Scotsdale Progress was made Monday in a $1 million defamation lawsuit filed in 1984 by Roy Romano against the Progress, Publisher Jonathan Marshall and reporter Don Devereux.

″Romano’s reputation was, as a matter of law, incapable of sustaining anything other than nominal damage, at best,″ the newspaper’s lawyers contend.

Attorneys for the newspaper asked the Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling of Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Riddel, who has refused to throw out the lawsuit and has set a July 13 trial date.

Don Bolles, an Arizona Republic reporter who had worked on organized crime stories, died in June 1976 after a bomb exploded under his car.

Romano contends that despite his criminal record, he was defamed by Progress articles that implied he placed the bomb beneath Bolles’ car and detonated it.

John Harvey Adamson, a Phoenix racing-dog owner, was convicted in 1980 of murdering Bolles. He is on death row awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on his conviction and death sentence.

Romano, 47, has acknowledged he acted as a muscleman and enforcer for Phoenix crime boss Joseph ″Buddy″ Tocco but denies any role in Bolles’ murder.

Lawyers for the Progress argue in court papers that Romano had the reputation of a killer and had bragged to several people of murdering Bolles.

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