Nashua newspaper did not defame prisoner, Supreme Court rules
The court said The Telegraph and its reporter, Andrew Wolfe, did not libel prisoner Paul Sanguedolce, 39, formerly of Sanford, Maine, and concluded the "untrue statement that the plaintiff testified against his criminal associate cannot be reasonably construed as defamatory."
However, the case is not over yet because the court also ruled Sanguedolce may be able to make a negligence claim against the newspaper and referred the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
Sanguedolce, 39, pleaded guilty in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Southern District, to burglary in connection with a March 2008 home invasion in which an elderly man was tied up and robbed. He was sentenced to 3 to 8 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord. His minimum sentence is up on Aug. 3 although his maximum sentence ends on Aug. 2, 2018.
Wolfe, in an April 21, 2011, article about Sanguedolce's co-defendant Peter Gibbs, wrote that Sanguedolce "testified against" Gibbs at his trial. Sanguedolce did not testify against him, according to the Supreme Court. The newspaper subsequently ran a correction.
Sanguedolce argued that Telegraph readers could find that he, in testifying against Gibbs, had acted as a "rat," "tattletale," "snitch," or had committed perjury or "cut a deal" in exchange for leniency. He contended society often associates informants with disloyalty, betrayal and self-interest, and relies on a body of commentary highlighting that informants are often derided and loathed by society for those attributes.
The court said there may be some elements in our society, prisoners in particular, who would look unkindly on those who willingly cooperate with the authorities in apprehending or convicting a criminal.
"The prevailing view among law-abiding citizens, however, is that such conduct reflects good moral character, respect for the rule of law, a willingness to place the interests of truth, justice, and the social order above one's own self interest or petty loyalties," the court said.
Citing Connelly vs. McKay (Sup. Ct 1941), the court said, "To hold otherwise would be contrary to the public interest in that it would penalize the law-abiding citizen and give comfort to the law violator."
READER COMMENTS: 12
- Another View -- Cass R. Sunstein: The hidden tax you pay when you wait - 1
- John Stossel: Incumbents almost always win - 0
- George Will: In Georgia, a capitalist struggles - 2
- Jonah Goldberg -- Cure for gridlock: Take hard votes - 1
- Another View -- Marco Rubio: Brown will stop the Obama agenda, put us on a better course - 6
- Another View - Sean O'Kane: Jeanne Shaheen is a friend of NH's tourism industry - 7
- Charles Arlinghaus: How the cult of celebrity destroys our political culture - 3
- Pat Buchanan: How do terror networks win their Western recruits? - 0
- Another View -- Marilinda Garcia: Rep. Ann Kuster has not been a help to NH senior citizens - 8
READER COMMENTS: 0
- John Habib's City Sports: St. Thomas coach: I owe Central - 0
- Armed burglar from Derry sentenced to prison - 0
- 'Bingo hunting' police use random license plate checks to make arrest - 0
- Bedford police investigating burglary at Verizon Wireless store - 0
- Police: Manchester man charged with endangering child after going 101 mph - 0
- FairPoint customer concerned about blocked emails - 0
- Plaistow narrows field in search for its new police chief - 0
- Man faces robbery, assault charges after extradition from NY - 0
- Hershey Bears shut out Monarchs - 0
Hockey brought them together; Hooksett ice rink will serve as NH couple's 'church' for wedding
NH Audubon's Rare Bird Alert
Dartmouth women skaters beat Union
Armed burglar from Derry sentenced to prison
Hershey Bears shut out Monarchs