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Meyers v. The Telegraph

July 12, 2002

KIRK MYERS AND JOAN E. MYERS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE TELEGRAPH AND THOMAS WRAUSMANN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 01-L-136 Honorable George J. Moran, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Maag

Released for publication.

KIRK MYERS AND JOAN E. MYERS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE TELEGRAPH AND THOMAS WRAUSMANN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 01-L-136 Honorable George J. Moran, Judge, presiding.

Karen D. Burkart, Thomas W. Burkart, Burkart Law Offices, 130 West State Street, P.O. Box 447, Hamel, IL 62046 for Attorneys Appellants

Theodore J. MacDonald, Jr., Thomas Scott Stewart, Burroughs, Hepler, Broom, McDonald, Hebrank & True, Two Mark Twain Plaza, Suite 300, 103 West Vandalia Street, Edwardsville, IL 62025; Corby Anderson, John Bussian, Smith, Helms, Mulliss & Moore, L.L.P., 2800 Two Hanover Square, Raleigh, NC 27611 Attorneys for Appellees

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Maag

Kirk Myers and Joan E. Myers (collectively plaintiffs) brought this action against The Telegraph newspaper and Thomas Wrausmann, a reporter (collectively defendants), for damages arising from the publication of two articles indicating that Kirk Myers pleaded guilty to a felony and that he received probation. The complaint alleges defamation, reckless infliction of emotional distress, and false light. The circuit court dismissed plaintiffs' complaint. Plaintiffs appealed and are raising issues regarding the sufficiency of the pleadings.

The relevant facts are as follows. On May 1, 2000, an information was filed charging Kirk Myers with unlawful possession of cannabis, a Class B misdemeanor (720 ILCS 550/4(b) (West 2000)), unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), a Class 4 felony (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2000)), and unlawful possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (cocaine), a Class 2 felony (720 ILCS 570/401(d) (West 2000)). Kirk Myers pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of cannabis on November 27, 2000. The felony charges were dismissed. He was placed on conditional discharge and fined $500.

On November 30, 2000, The Telegraph published a front-page newspaper article in its "Quad County Edition," authored by Wrausmann, The Telegraph's Jerseyville bureau chief, that stated as follows:

"The owner of Harris' Tavern in rural Godfrey has pleaded guilty to felony possession of marijuana in Jersey County Circuit Court, officials said Wednesday.

Kirk P. Myers, 51, of Edwardsville, received six months['] probation and must pay a $500 fine, court officials said.

Conditions of his probation include not violating any penal statutes and ordinances and keeping the Jersey County Circuit Clerk's office advised of his residence, officials said." (Emphasis added.)

On December 9, 2000, The Telegraph published a newspaper article on page A3, also authored by Wrausmann, about plaintiff Kirk Myers. The ...


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