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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 9, 2005

Judge ends street preacher's suit against Stonewall

Columbus--A street preacher�s lawsuit against Stonewall Columbus, its former director and a volunteer ended August 25 when the judge dismissed the case.

The defamation suit was brought in June 2002 by Charles Spingola in connection with the 2001 Columbus Pride parade.

Spingola regularly attends the annual Pride events to �protest the perverted homosexual agenda,� taunt parade participants, and be taunted by them. That year, he doused a rainbow flag with lamp oil and set it alight amid a crowd of parade spectators, the media and Andrea Critchet, the Stonewall volunteer who headed parade security.

Spingola was immediately arrested and charged with violating the city�s law against open burning without a permit. That charge was later dismissed on constitutional grounds.

However, Critchet claimed that Spingola splashed the flammable liquid on her before lighting the flag, telling her she would burn in hell. Based on this, the city prosecutor added charges of assault and aggravated menacing.

A jury found Spingola not guilty of those charges.

Spingola�s suit claimed that the media broadcast reports drawn from then-Stonewall director Jeff Redfield�s statements to them, which were based on statements Critchet made to police that Spingola said were false and harmed his reputation.

He sought at least $25,000 compensatory damages and $25,000 punitive damages from Stonewall, Redfield, seven media outlets, the city of Columbus, City Attorney Janet E. Jackson and her spokesperson Scott Varner, for allegedly publishing �false and malicious� statements about him.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer L. Brunner, at the request of Spingola�s attorney Thomas Condit of Milford, split the defendants into two separate cases.

The first included Stonewall and Redfield, with Critchet added later. This is the suit dismissed August 25 when Brunner granted Stonewall�s motion for summary judgment.

The second included Sinclair Media, WSYX Channel 6, Outlet Broadcasting, Inc., WCMH Channel 4, newscasters Tram Mai and Leslie Siegel, city attorney Jackson and spokesperson Varner, and the city of Columbus.

In that suit, Spingola claims that news of his jury vindication was �grossly underreported, or not reported at all� by the same reporters who �so eagerly reported the false charges in the first place.�

A few days before the Stonewall ruling, Brunner dismissed the claims against Jackson, Varner and the city, but the ones against the media outlets are still pending.

Condit said he will appeal both rulings all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court if necessary.�����

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