HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The former editor and publisher of Florida’s now-defunct Jewish Star Times is suing Miami Herald Publishing Company for defamation.
Dwight Owen Schweitzer filed the $3 million lawsuit in Miami Dade circuit court last week. In a press release, he stated that The Miami Herald — which owned Jewish Star Times — published “false and misleading stories about me to shield them from criticism over the closing of the newspaper I had been heading for the previous two-and-a-half years.”
The first story, titled “Oy Vey,” detailed how Schweitzer kicked a woman whose occupation was listed in the police report as “hooker” and was arrested on charges of battery and possession of narcotic implements. The story was printed in December 2002, a month after the incident occurred, and without a comment from Schweitzer, who was in Taiwan at the time. Schweitzer alleges in his suit that the Herald had decided two months earlier to discontinue the Jewish weekly but had not yet announced this decision.
The Herald published a second story a week after the initial account and reported that the case against Schweitzer was dropped because the woman did not wish to testify. This second story also reported that Schweitzer’s paper was folding.
Schweitzer claims that he informed the Herald about the incident when it occurred in November 2002 and that the Herald’s editors already knew the case was not going to be pursued when the first story was written a month later. The timing of the two stories, Schweitzer told the Forward, “was designed to make it appear that the reason the paper was closing was because of me.”
In his lawsuit, Schweitzer claims that the woman involved in the assault was a paid police informant who was using his apartment to set up a drug bust, and that there were two different police reports about the incident — only one of which listed the woman’s occupation as “hooker.”
Before he headed Jewish Star Times, Schweitzer worked as a lawyer in Hartford, Conn., representing Ralph Nader in federal court in the 1970s. Alberto Ibarguen, the current publisher of the Herald, had worked with Schweitzer in his law offices in Hartford and eventually brought him on board to head the Herald’s Jewish weekly in Miami. In his complaint, Schweitzer asserts that Ibarguen published the articles about him “with the intent to cause severe emotional distress.” Ibarguen could not be reached for comment.
Schweitzer said that the articles have stigmatized him both personally and professionally. “It’s on the Internet and when I try to get jobs, no one returns my calls,” Schweitzer said. “It affected all aspects of my life.”
The Herald’s general counsel and vice president of public affairs, Robert Beatty, told the Forward: “We find the allegations made in the complaint terribly unfortunate and blatantly incorrect. We will defend these allegations vigorously.”