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Levinson v. Time

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 6, 1980.

HARRY LEVINSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

TIME, INCORPORATED, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MYRON T. GOMBERG, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Harry Levinson (plaintiff) brought this action for libel against Time, Inc. (Time), National Broadcasting Co., Inc. (NBC), Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), David S. Jackson, Robert S. Walsh, and David Nelson (defendants). Jackson is the author of the allegedly libelous article which appeared in Time magazine. CBS and NBC are licensees of Chicago television stations. Walsh and Nelson respectively are station managers thereof. Defendants filed motions to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint for legal insufficiency. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 45.) The trial court entered judgment for defendants. Plaintiff has appealed.

• 1 In this situation, the well-pleaded allegations of the second amended complaint must be taken as true. (Johnston v. City of Bloomington (1979), 77 Ill.2d 108, 111, 395 N.E.2d 549.) Also facts contained in exhibits appended to the second amended complaint, "which constitute part of the complaint" are similarly accepted as true. (Soules v. General Motors Corp. (1980), 79 Ill.2d 282, 284, 402 N.E.2d 599.) The following is a summary of the important facts.

Plaintiff has "long conducted" a gem and jewelry business locally, nationally and world-wide. Plaintiff has "extensively advised and been consulted in" his field. He is not now and was never a "public officer or public figure."

On July 30, 1978, Time issued a press release summarizing an article slated by it for early publication, which contained allegedly libelous statements concerning plaintiff. Time also released the complete text of the article. The substance of the release and text was then aired on television in two broadcasts by CBS and three broadcasts by NBC. The article later appeared in Time magazine. The statements concerning plaintiff were "false, malicious, libelous, slanderous, and defamatory." They brought plaintiff into disrepute "and plaintiff's reputation, both as a citizen and as a jeweler, was thereby injured as was his standing in the community and in his business activities." All of this material appears from exhibits appended to plaintiff's second amended complaint.

All five broadcasts reported plaintiff's jewelry store was robbed of more than $1 million worth of goods. Plaintiff's "friend" was Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, a mob boss. According to the broadcasts, Accardo ordered the gang that robbed plaintiff to return the goods. The gang took the goods to Accardo's house. Deciding they had been shortchanged, some of the gang members later broke into Accardo's house and recovered the goods. Six men, believed to be a part of the burglary gang, were found assassinated.

In addition, one of the CBS broadcasts stated:

"Time magazine is reporting tonight that Chicago police think they have a link between Tony `Big Tuna' Accardo and jewelry store owner Harry Levinson — a link that could have led to the death of six burglars. * * *. Police said that Levinson was not cooperative in their investigation. The reason, according to Time is that Levinson had a friend on the other side of the enforcement business * * *. A police informant told Time that Levinson complained to `Big Tuna' who was sympathetic * * *."

The other CBS broadcast stated:

"There are new reports tonight tying a million-dollar jewelry heist and the owner of the store that was robbed in with a major crime syndicate figure and the murders of six thieves. Time magazine has published a story linking mob boss Tony Accardo and jewelry store owner Harry Levinson. When Levinson's near north jewelry store was robbed * * *, police said that Levinson was not particularly helpful. One detective said, `He's the most uncooperative victim I've ever seen.' Time magazine's article says the reason Levinson was of so little help was that he had a friend on the inside * * *. Levinson complained to Big Tuna. The article said Accardo sympathized * * *."

One of the NBC broadcasts reported, "It seems Mafia boss Anthony `Big Tuna' Accardo was a friend of the owner of the store that was robbed." The other two broadcasts stated, "the owner of Levinson's asked his friend, Anthony `Big Tuna' Accardo, for help in recovering his goods." Plaintiff alleged various photographs of plaintiff and his jewelry store accompanied these reports on television.

The article appearing in Time stated:

"[T]he gang * * * stole more than $1 million worth of jewelry, silver and furs.

After the police discovered the burglary, the store's owner, Harry Levinson did little to help their investigation. Griped a detective on the case: `He was the most uncooperative victim I've ever seen.' But Levinson happened to be acquainted with a prominent figure in a different sort of enforcement business, Big Tuna. Levinson complained, according to a police informant, about his misfortune. For reasons of his own, Big ...


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