Snyder files libel suit, seeks 2 million

Snyder files libel suit, seeks 2 million
February 2, 2011, 11:29 pm
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 6:29 p.m. UPDATED Thursday, February 3, 12:42 a.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Staff writer
CSNwashington.com
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Redskins owner Dan Snyder filed suit late Wednesday against the weekly Washington City Paper and its parent company alleging the publication libeled and defamed him in articles beginning in 2009 and culminating with a story in mid November.

The suit was filed in New York state court, the home of Atalaya Capital Management, which owns City Paper, and is seeking 2 million in damages plus unknown punitive damages and court costs. He will reportedly donate any financial winnings to charity.

Earlier in the day, City Paper released a letter its parent company received from Redskins general counsel Dave Donovan dated Nov. 24 and the three-page missive was also included in the suit, which was emailed to reporters.

Donovan said a City Paper columnist named in the suit as Dave McKenna is on a smear campaign a bizarre vendetta, of Snyder.

Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation and defend himself and his wife against your papers concerted attempt at character assassination, Donovan wrote.

Atalaya and Creative Loafing, Inc., of Tampa, Fla., are named on the suit and have 30 days to answer to the complaint.

Snyder has owned the Redskins since 1999 and has a contentious relationship with the media.

Notwithstanding often harsh personal and professional criticism leveled against him, Mr. Snyder has never before brought an action against any media company for matters written or said about him, the complaint read. Mr. Snyder, however, will not accept or tolerate blatantly false andor misleading statements written about him and his wife as supposed fact

City Paper denies wrongdoing and linked a letter from Atalayas attorney, Curtis B. Krasik, who responded to Donovan in December, calling the letter replete with baseless characterizations, and called McKennas article a tongue-in-cheek opinion piece expressing fans frustration with your clients ownership of the Redskins.

In McKennas 4,500-word story, an A to Z encyclopedia of the owners many failings, he listed the usual complaints about Snyder, from raised parking and ticket prices and free-agent spending mistakes to his decision to have 130 trees on state-owned land torn down so Snyders Maryland home could have a view of the Potomac River.

Most of McKennas critical Snyder-related columns over the years have been related to his non-football business efforts.

In a letter to Atalaya six days after the A to Z column, Donovan warned of potential litigation if Snyder did not receive an apology. The Snyder camp carried through on that threat with the suit Wednesday.

The complaint said the suit is based on 50 columns in which Snyder was the subject of derision, ridicule, andor vilification.

Among the items in the complaint that Snyder claims are false:

That he got caught forging names as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications. In his letter, Donovan called this, probably the most obviously reckless and false statement Utterly false and completely without any basis in fact. McKennas column cited an investigation that resulted in a fine of Snyder Communications for switching customers telephone service.

That he used agent orange to destroy the federally-protected trees near his home.

That Snyder bragged his wealth came from diabetes and cancer victims.

That Snyder was tossed off the Six Flags board of directors.

In the Nov. 18 City Paper, Snyder was depicted in a cover photo illustration with horns, which the complaint calls anti-Semitic. Snyder is Jewish.

The complaint had four exhibits: The illustration of Snyder with horns, a second illustration from that issue, McKennas article and Donovans original letter.

Before the suit was filed, City Paper publisher Amy Austin told the Washington Post she stood by McKenna. We dont believe theres anything wrong with what we published. The facts are correct.

Donovans letter cited 10 items the Snyder camp believe are false.

The filed complaint and Donovans letter do not call for McKennas firing.

To prove defamation or libel has taken place, Snyders lawyers will have to prove that statements in the article are false, prove that those false statements caused harm to Snyder and prove that the false statements were made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement.

Dave McKenna's original story from the washingtoncitypaper.com
Paul Farhi's story from the washingtonpost.comRich Handler's take from RealRedskins.com