By Seth Daniel
After having restrained itself for many months, Wynn Everett owner Steve Wynn said Wednesday that his company is fed up with the treatment its received in Boston and they were now going to do something about it – filing a one-count, 10-page libel suit in Suffolk Superior Court on Monday.
The suit became public late on Tuesday, and Wynn officials did not provide it to the media. The Patriot Bridge obtained the suit documents in person at Suffolk Superior Court.
The suit did not name a defendant, but instead identified the parties as ‘John Doe 1-20.’ It was filed locally by Joshua Solomon and Phillip Rakhunov of Boston, but it is driven by well-known Wynn libel attorney Barry Langberg of Santa Barbara, CA. Langberg has represented Wynn successfully in other previous libel cases, and authored a letter to the City of Boston earlier this year warning that the legal actions taken by the City could result in a libel suit. Apparently, the most recent lawsuit announced last week must have been the straw that broke the casino’s back.
“Although our commitment to Massachusetts is absolute and irrevocable, our tolerance for mean-spirited, libelous statements has exceeded any reasonable limit,” said Steve Wynn in a statement to the Patriot Bridge after it obtained the suit. “Someone knowingly disseminated sham subpoenas containing falsehoods – outright lies – designed to interfere with our license granted by the Gaming Commission and defame our reputation. We intend to identify the malicious individuals who did this and call them to account.
“No individual or company who presents themselves honestly in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by any measure of fair play, should be subjected to the defamatory political abuse that we have experienced, and it is our intention to finally deal with it,” he continued.
The libel suit seems to be centered on getting to the point where depositions, under oath, can be taken so that the person who leaked the suit to the press can be identified.
The suit centers around statements made in subpoenas contained in the supplemental City of Boston lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). The libel suit indicates that two described incidents within the suit were provided to the press, in this case the Boston Globe, before Wynn was even served notice of the lawsuit.
“Defendants caused certain ‘subpoenas’ to be delivered to the media, even before they were served on the persons named in the subpoenas,” read the suit. “The real purpose of these ‘subpoenas’ was to transmit to the media and cause to be published in the media, false and defamatory statements about Wynn and (Wynn President Matthew) Maddox. Defendants attempted to protect themselves from responsibility for the defamation by relying on the word ‘alleged.’ However, the law is clear that publishing false allegations purporting to rest on hearsay by relying on the word ‘alleged’ does not absolve the defendants from responsibility for publishing the falsehoods.”
The City of Boston, in a statement to the Patriot Bridge, said it was not responsible for leaking any information to the Globe.
“We have not seen the lawsuit, but the City did not provide these documents to press,” said Bonnie McGilpin in a statement from the office of Mayor Martin Walsh.
The suit identifies two incidents that were leaked to the Globe on or about June 30 this year.
The first was a well-publicized allegation in the Boston lawsuit that two private investigators working for Wynn obtained unauthorized access to the Attorney General’s “wiretap room” in the AG’s main office in Boston. The two investigators named have since issued affidavits swearing that the allegation is untrue, with one of them indicating he had never worked for Wynn, but had worked for Suffolk Downs – Wynn’s competitor in the licensing process.
The purpose of being in the “wiretap room,” according to the Boston lawsuit, was to gain knowledge of whether or not Revere developer and convicted felon Charlie Lightbody had an ownership or connection to the Everett casino land. As a felon, he could not profit from any land sale to the casino company. He had previously had an ownership interest, but had been bought out – though that situation is being sifted through right now in a Federal Court criminal case.
The “wiretap room” allegation was published first in the Boston Globe and picked up by many Boston media outlets. Those media reports surfaced – the suit read – before Wynn was even informed of the allegation.
The second identified incident was a report of a clandestine meeting in a trailer on the Everett casino site in early 2013, where the owners of the land allegedly told Maddox and Wynn Legal Counsel Kim Sinatra that Lightbody was an owner, “but they were working on getting him out.”
The libel suit read that Maddox and anyone else at Wynn never knew of Lightbody’s potential involvement until July 2013, when the MGC informed them of some potential problems.
Wynn’s libel suit indicated that both statements were false, and that Boston knew the statements were likely false, but caused them to be included in order to get them published and create negative press towards the Wynn casino project.
“The false statements tend to lower the estimation of Wynn and Maddox in the community and hold them up to scorn, hatred, ridicule and contempt, and tend to prejudice Wynn and Maddox in their business,” it read. “Wynn is informed and believes that at the time they caused the false statements to be published, defendants knew they had only unreliable hearsay information supporting the statements, while at the same time defendants had available to them reliable, firsthand information that the statements were false. Thus, defendants, with knowledge of falsity and with reckless disregard for truth, caused the false statements to be published.”
Wynn’s suit went on to allege that the defendants – who again, are as yet unnamed – were aware of at least one person with firsthand knowledge of the false statements and had confirmed them to be false. The suit seeks to prevail on the libel count, to be awarded compensatory damages in the maximum amount allowed by law, and to be reimbursed for attorney’s fees.