Attorney Claims Philly Inquirer Defamed Him

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A suburban attorney claims in court that he “enjoyed an unblemished reputation” for decades, until the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page article falsely claiming he had been accused of impropriety in his post at the state convention center.
     Thomas Riley Jr. accuses Philadelphia Media, its reporter/editor Tom Infield, and Journal Register Property of slander and libel, in the Court of Common Pleas.
     Riley, a founding member of Riley, Riper, Hollin & Colagreco, which has offices in Pennsylvania and Delaware, says he has “never been subjected to disciplinary action during his more than 48 years of active legal practice.”
     During his time as the unpaid chairman of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority Board, Riley says, he oversaw a $786 million expansion that was completed on time and on budget.
     But that did not stop the Inquirer from publishing a front-page, above-the-fold article falsely stating that the Convention Center’s former CFO had accused him of directing hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret legal fees to his law firm, Riley says in his complaint.
     Riley claims he “has never directed even $1.00 of fees for legal services from the Convention Center to his law firm.”
     He says the story at issue referred to a federal lawsuit the former CFO filed over her termination.
     “A plain reading of … [that] complaint shows that it is the fanciful ramblings of a disgruntled and discharged employee seeking to make outlandish allegations to cover her own wrongful conduct,” Riley says in his complaint.
     Rambling and fanciful or not, the former CFO’s lawsuit does not state that Riley directed money to his own firm, Riley says in his complaint.
     He claims that Philadelphia Media, then-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “falsely, maliciously, wickedly and illegally” published the piece on Oct. 29, 2011, falsely claiming that the former CFO had accused him of steering “secret legal fees” to his firm.
     When Riley demanded a retraction, and that the retraction “be as equally prominent as the defamatory article,” “Infield acknowledged the false, inaccurate and defamatory nature of the story he wrote that was published by The Inquirer,” and “further acknowledged that he and The Inquirer ‘blew it,'” Riley says in his complaint.
     The complaint continues: “Infield acknowledged to Mr. Riley that Mr. Riley was a person of ‘integrity’ and that the story published by The Inquirer was defamatory and untrue.
     “Infield recognized that he and The Inquirer recklessly disregarded journalistic and publishing standards in investigating, writing, editing and publishing the defamatory story about Mr. Riley.
     “Infield assured Mr. Riley that he and The Inquirer would retract the story and publish and unqualified retraction and full apology for their wanton and reckless conduct.”
     However, Riley claims, “Instead of publishing a retraction of its defamatory article about Mr. Riley, and an apology for having defamed him as it had intentionally undertaken to do, on November 3, 2011, The Inquirer published a nondescript and inconspicuous statement on page of Section A, Clearing the Record.”
     Riley claims, “the alleged retraction was hesitant and ambiguous and failed to clearly and unequivocally state that Mr. Riley had done nothing illegal, criminal or wrong.”
     Riley also objects that the day’s “Clearing the Record” feature included “retractions” about the location of deer culling and “the fact that a founding member of the Pink Floyd 70’s rock group would be performing in a musical-theatrical production.”
     Despite his repeated requests for an “unqualified retraction,” the paper has failed to do so, Riley says.
     He seeks punitive damages. He is represented by Joe Tucker Jr.

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