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3 dropped from state legislator's lawsuit
By Lucy Morgan, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2008
A judge in Charlotte County has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by state Rep. Paige V. Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, against the Florida Home Builders Association, lobbyist Richard Gentry and Kim Leebove, a secretary for Public Concepts, a Palm Beach political consulting firm.
The court found no evidence that could lead a jury to find that campaign literature published during the 2004 election was done with actual malice, according to a decision released Thursday by Judge Donald E. Pellecchia. Gentry, the builders group and Leebove never saw the literature before it was sent out, the judge determined.
The builders group helped finance the campaign literature prepared by Public Concepts owner Randy Nielsen and approved by Tallahassee lawyer John French. Brochures mailed to voters said Kreegel had been arrested on criminal mischief charges; in fact, though he was charged with criminal mischief, he was never taken into custody.
The judge said Kreegel's 2005 lawsuit can prevail only if he can prove that the literature was false and published with actual malice or reckless disregard of whether it was false .
French, Nielsen and Public Concepts remain as defendants in the lawsuit, which has not been scheduled for trial. West Palm Beach lawyer Martin said he plans to seek the dismissal of the lawsuit against the remaining defendants.