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Suicide Blame May Have Defamed Boston Rocker

(CN) - The ex-wife of Boston lead singer Brad Delp may be liable for blaming the rocker's suicide on guitarist Tom Scholz, a Massachusetts appeals court ruled.

Scholz sued Micki Delp in Suffolk Superior Court just after Brad Delp's suicide in 2007.

Stricken by her ex-husband's suicide, Micki Delp had allegedly told the group's publicist "that she was out to get [Scholz]" and that she was "f----ing sick of [Scholz]."

The publicist, Gail Parenteau, added in an affidavit that Micki said that "she was going to make sure to ruin [Scholz]," that "Brad's death was [Scholz's] fault," and "that she was hell-bent on doing everything in her power to make sure that people knew that Brad's suicide had to do with his unhappiness with [Scholz]."

Three years later, Scholz also sued the Boston Herald and two columnists. He claimed columnists Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa used quotes from Micki Delp in an article titled "Pal's Snub Made Delp Do It," published one week after the suicide.

Scholz said Micki Delp had told the columnists that Brad Delp "was driven to despair" by "a dysfunctional professional life that ultimately led to the sensitive frontman's suicide."

The lawsuits were consolidated, and Judge John Cratsley ultimately granted Micki Delp summary judgment, ruling Fee and Raposa were responsible for any "defamatory connotation" as to Scholz's alleged role in Delp's suicide.

"While the article as a whole could be read by some to contain a defamatory meaning as to Scholz because of the possible leap or inference a reader might make that turmoil in Brad's professional life, possibly caused by Scholz, played a role in Brad's suicide, none of the statements attributed to Micki make that connection, either explicitly or implicitly," Cratsley wrote.

Scholz was dealt a second blow in March, when Judge Frances McIntyre tossed his claims against the Boston Herald.

McIntyre found that the "insinuated" opinions of the columnists warranted dismissal of the claims.

"Suicide is a tragedy for many reasons, one being the lingering question of why? with which the survivors must grapple," McIntyre wrote (emphasis in original). "No one ever knows what actually motivated the person - in that last tortured moment - to end his life. Here, the defendants published the opinions of others and insinuated their own as to why Brad Delp killed himself."

A three-judge panel of the Massachusetts Appeals Court revived Scholz's claims against Micki Delp on Tuesday, ruling there was a "genuine dispute" between Micki, who contested the quotes, and the columnists.

"Micki was acutely aware that Scholz managed and had oversight of the band, and that this was known in the music business industry," Judge Judd Carhart wrote for the panel. "Micki was also aware that Brad's suicide would be the subject of local and national news. Although Micki denies making some of the statements that formed the basis of the March 16, 2007, article, the Boston Herald writers contend that Micki was accurately quoted. Thus, a genuine question of fact arises from this record why the article was published and what portion, if any, of the article's statements are attributable to Micki."

"Further, Micki concedes that the article could be construed as blaming Scholz for Brad's death," the ruling continues. "There was evidence that some Boston fans also construed the article in the same way. ... We conclude that Scholz has presented sufficient evidence to sufficient evidence to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact whether Micki is responsible for the defamatory connotation of the March 16, 2007, article."

Scholz, an M.I.T.-educated engineer, and Brad Delp founded Boston in the 1970s.

Hits like "More Than a Feeling" brought the band iconic status, but the band nevertheless "suffered a fractious break-up," according to the ruling.

Scholz kept the name of the band, continued touring with Delp and grew estranged from the two original members who quit. Delp maintained a "professional relationship," but stayed friendly with the two who had quit, the court found.

Brad and Micki Delp, who were married for 16, divorced in 1996.

"The two rarely saw each other after the divorce, but maintained contact about matters regarding their children," the 11-page ruling states.

Delp left behind several suicide notes, including one to Micki.

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