Massachusetts Mayor Can Pursue Defamation Suit Against Local Paper, Judge Rules

Methuen Square
Methuen Square in Methuen, Massachusetts

A judge is allowing a defamation lawsuit brought by the mayor of Methuen, Massachusetts James Jajuga to go to trial against the publisher of a local monthly paper over comments made in a column published last March.

The judge denied publisher Tom Duggan of the Valley Patriot‘s motion to dismiss the suit, allowing the mayor to proceed with five claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The original complaint contested to 12 claims of defamation made in the column.

The mayor argued that the column titled “Paying Attention! With Tom Duggan: Jajuga’s Resume on Public Safety is a Fraud” published by Duggan “knowingly and recklessly” made false and defamatory statements. The judge agreed that five statements in the column are disputed issues of fact, while the remaining claims outlined in the initial lawsuit are non-actionable statements of opinion.

One such statement made in the column that Jajuga took issue with was that he he had a “fake police resume” and “was forced off the State Police because of heroin addiction and several other serious issues. That is a fact.”

An attorney representing the mayor told the Boston Herald that “The First Amendment does not protect fabrications for the purposes of inflicting harm on people.”

Boston Herald The Eagle-Tribune Complaint