Billionaire Jeff Greene‘s libel suit against the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald newspapers is still on after a court-ordered mediation in the case didn’t result in a settlement.
Times attorney Alison Steele, a partner in the St. Petersburg law firm of Rahdert, Steele, Reynolds & Driscoll, told FloridaPolitics.com on Tuesday that Steele also has filed an amended complaint in his lawsuit.
The new filing “amplified his allegations of a joint venture by the Times and Herald to derail Greene’s Senate candidacy,” she said in an email. A call to L. Lin Wood, Greene’s Atlanta-based lawyer, was not returned.
Greene, a 60-year-old real estate developer from Palm Beach, ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, now a presidential candidate.
Greene has claimed that the newspapers derailed his Senate campaign their reporting alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht. Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary.
According to a New York Times account, one story insinuated that former boxer Mike Tyson, best man at Greene’s wedding, had used drugs on the yacht. The Times later ran a rare front-page clarification, with Tyson saying he did not use drugs on Greene’s yacht.
A Miami-Dade circuit judge had dismissed the suit in 2012, saying Greene couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.
Here, Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.
But an appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit last year, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.
Meantime, Steele said the Herald has moved for summary judgment, a ruling by a judge before trial that one side is entitled to win based on the facts and the law. A hearing on that motion has not yet been scheduled, Steele said.
Moreover, the Times withdrew a motion to dismiss on grounds of “technical errors in the amended complaint” and instead will file an answer next week, Steele said.
Depositions were held for reporter Kris Hundley, political editor Adam Smith, news librarian Caryn Baird and others, Steele added, but not yet for Greene. Also, a trial date still has not been set.