NEW YORK (AP/WCBS 880/CBS 2) – A federal jury has awarded $8 million to a weekly Westchester newspaper. It claimed the mayor of Yonkers wrongly confiscated copies of the paper after it ran articles critical of him.
The lawsuit said news racks and copies of The Westchester Guardian were illegally seized by city employees in 2007.
“They went out and confiscated the news racks, they destroyed many of the news racks — all because of the content,” the paper’s publisher Sam Zherka said.
The jury on Wednesday also found that the paper did not defame Mayor Philip Amicone when it reported on the eve of the 2007 mayoral election that he visited strip clubs.
CBS 2’s Lou Young reported that Amicone was especially upset about an article saying he skipped out on a lap dance at a Manhattan strip club partly owned by Zherka. When the paper sued the mayor for confiscating copies of the paper, he countersued for defamation and lost on both counts.
“He knows he was at the VIP club and he knows he got a dance from a girl named Sassy and he knows he didn’t give her the twenty dollars,” Zherka said.
Amicone’s spokesman, David Simpson, says the mayor is disappointed with the verdict and said city employees believed the award was far too high. Simpson also said Amicone had never been to a strip club.
“We are completely shocked by the jury’s verdict. It took us by surprise in every respect,” Simpson said.
Amicone didn’t speak with CBS 2 about the issue Thursday, but said he would when city attorneys decided how to structure their appeal of the decision.
The paper hailed the verdict as a victory for First Amendment rights.
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