(CN) – The Hudson County Democratic Party did not libel a rival by mentioning a criminal record that had been expunged, a New Jersey appeals court ruled.
A plaintiff identified only as “G.D.” sued the Hudson County Democratic Party and others who circulated flyers discussing his 1993 conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
G.D. was sentenced to five years in prison but was released early. His record was later expunged.
The flyers were allegedly distributed to discredit Union City Mayor Bryan Stack, who was running for a seat on the state senate. They chided Stack for his association with G.D., whom they called a “drug dealer who went to jail for five years for selling coke near a public school.”
The flyers were printed in English and Spanish, and included G.D.’s photo next to the words that referred to him.
G.D. claimed that the defendants’ statements were libelous because of the expungement.
The defendants argued that the information in the flyers was true. After the trial court rejected motions from both sides, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division agreed with the defendants.
“These flyers are, as a matter of law, not defamatory because the information contained in them is true,” Judge Dorothea Wefing wrote. “It is undisputed that plaintiff was, in fact, arrested and convicted of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute it.
“In our judgment, plaintiff’s successful expungement of this record does not make defendants’ statements about that record ‘false,'” Wefing added.
“Because the flyers in question contain truthful information and are substantially accurate, they cannot serve as the basis for a claim for civil conspiracy. Defendants were entitled to the dismissal of plaintiff’s entire complaint against them.”