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Grisanzio v. Rockford Newspapers

OPINION FILED APRIL 26, 1985.

VITO GRISANZIO, D/B/A CAPRI RESTAURANT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ROCKFORD NEWSPAPERS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. John C. Layng, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LINDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Vito Grisanzio, d/b/a the Capri Restaurant, in Rockford, brought an action for defamation against defendants Rockford Newspapers, Inc., Gannett News Service, Inc., Tom Schafer and Dave Daley in the circuit court of Winnebago County. Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, pars. 2-615, 2-619) was denied. However, the trial court found that its order involved a question of law as to which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation, and we allow the appeal. (87 Ill.2d R. 308.) The question served to us by the trial court is whether an article published by defendants is libelous per se of the plaintiff. We hold it is not and reverse the order of the circuit court.

The article complained of by plaintiff was written by Tom Schafer, under whose name appears "Gannett News Service," and was printed on pages 1A, 6A, and 7A of the March 4, 1984, edition of the Sunday Register Star in Rockford. On page 1A the headlines of two articles by Schafer were entitled respectively,

"THE MOB IN ROCKFORD

Local underworld is simple network with roots planted in time of economic needs"

and,

"THE `HAND' IN BUSINESS

Mob kingpins are landlords to local legitimate enterprise."

On pages 6A and 7A, the articles which began on page 1A are continued under these headlines respectively:

"THE MOB IN ROCKFORD

A Special Report of Business."

The exhibit attached to plaintiff's complaint containing photocopies of the articles apparently reflects only a part of what appears on pages 6A and 7A but appears sufficient for the purpose of our disposition.

Plaintiff's allegations of libel per se specified in his complaint are that the articles damaged plaintiff in that they: (1) charged plaintiff with the commission of a crime; (2) induced the reader to reasonably believe a crime was committed by plaintiff; (3) impeached plaintiff's reputation for honesty and integrity; and/or (4) prejudiced or injured plaintiff in his business or trade. The article forming the basis of plaintiff's complaint follows. The specific assertions in the article upon which plaintiff bases his allegations of defamation are underscored. Further, the paragraphs are serially numbered in brackets for the convenience of the reader.

"THE `HAND' IN BUSINESS

MOB KINGPINS ARE ...


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