Defaming Mayor Didn’t Cause $30K in Damage

     (CN) – A Texas mayor cannot collect $30,000 from a woman who accused him of lying, stealing, killing and dealing drugs, a state appeals court ruled.
     Norberto Salinas, the mayor of Mission, Texas, had filed defamation claims against Maria Ester Salinas, a community activist who was concerned about possible contamination at the former Hayes-Sammons pesticide plant.
     Ester addressed the city council and the mayor at an August 2005 meeting, stating in part: “You know what? Justice Day will come, and some of you will be judged for the way you have stolen and lied and killed.”
     After the mayor sued Ester for defamation, she made similar statements on a local Telemundo program in 2008. “So, we have to go fight in court because the mayor in La Joya told me that Norberto Salinas went to talk to him to say that they were going to kill me,” Ester said.
     The mayor added that comment to his lawsuit, as well an allegation that Ester called him a politically corrupt drug dealer.
     A judge in Hidalgo County found that all three statements were defamatory and ordered Ester to pay the mayor $30,000 for his mental anguish from the council meeting and drug dealer statements, with none for the TV statement.
     The Corpus Christ-based 13th District Texas Court of Appeals reversed Thursday.
     “No ordinary listener would have perceived Ester’s remarks at the 2005 city council meeting as having charged Norberto with committing crimes,” Justice Dori Contreras Garza wrote for a three-member panel.
     While Garza found that the drug-dealer comment did accuse the mayor of a crime, she stated that the mayor did not prove mental anguish.
     “We find no evidence that Norberto suffered a high degree of mental pain and distress beyond mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger, especially in light of Norberto’s admission that he ‘has been able to deal with (the embarrassment) very well,” Garza wrote.

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