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Suchomel v. Suburban Life Newspapers

JUNE 6, 1967.

GEORGE SUCHOMEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

SUBURBAN LIFE NEWSPAPERS, INC., AND KARL BELL, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. NICHOLAS J. BUA, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE BRYANT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment against plaintiff granted on defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's libel action. Plaintiff, George Suchomel's theory on this appeal is that it was error for the trial court to allow the motion for summary judgment because the article complained of was not privileged and was libelous per se. In the alternative, the plaintiff urges that any privilege the publication may have had was lost because of the existence of malice on the part of the defendants.

The alleged libelous publication is a newspaper headline, subheadline and article which appeared on December 14, 1963, in defendants' newspaper. The headline stated, "City Policeman Accused of Burglary"; the subheadline read, "Countryside Sergeant Denies Charges Brought Before City Council." The remainder of the article is as follows:

"By Karl Bell

"For the second time in three months Countryside's police force was placed into the limelight Wednesday when, after a city council meeting, a resident read a statement reportedly received from an area woman who contended, among other things, that Sgt. George Suchomel had twice within the past year, and while on duty made break-ins in the trailer court which is in the city.

"According to the statement read by Robert J. Brinkman, 5339 Kensington, the woman, a divorcee and mother of two, also charges that the two often spent `from one to seven hours' together when the sergeant was supposed to be on night shift and they spent time drinking liquor in the squad car.

"Sgt. Suchomel denied all the charges.

"Brinkman refused to identify the writer, although requested by Mayor Melvin F. Eggert. Brinkman stated that her identity has been known to the mayor and to Police Chief John Girard for weeks.

"IN THE STATEMENT read by Brinkman, the letter writer claims that the sergeant, in uniform and using the squad car, would pick her up and then they would drive to a tavern where he would buy liquor which they would share as they sat in the police car.

"The woman contends, according to Brinkman, that Sgt. Suchomel would ignore radio calls and often would lie about the location of the squad car.

"Also stated was that several times the sergeant fired his weapon into the air `for no apparent reason' and that he had twice broken into residences in the trailer court in Countryside.

"The letter writer also was quoted as stating that she had informed the sheriff's police about the sergeant's activities and that she later denied them under pressure to do so by the sergeant.

"Sgt. Suchomel has denied the allegations.

"He told The Suburban Life yesterday `I was not at the meeting so I can't say I heard the actual statement read by Mr. Brinkman, but I've heard what was read and, except for the fact that I know the woman who I think Mr. Brinkman is ...


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