LIMA — An Allen County judge has issued a split ruling in a civil lawsuit that alleges libel, defamation and negligence on the part of The Lima News and its parent company. As a result of that ruling, a lawsuit filed by Lima resident Leonard Bingham against the newspaper now seems likely headed for a jury trial.
In his civil suit against The Lima News, Bingham alleges he suffered harm to his reputation as well as suffering financial loss as the result of a Jan. 13, 2019, editorial in The Lima News that stated he “preyed on others by selling cocaine and marijuana.”
Bingham says the newspaper committed libel when it referred to him in the editorial as “a convicted drug dealer” who was “no Boy Scout.” Bingham is seeking more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from the newspaper and its owner, AIM Media Midwest.
Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlrieser issued a ruling March 5 on a motion by the newspaper seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed, siding with The Lima News on some points but stopping short of halting the suit entirely.
Kohlrieser said summary judgment as sought by the newspaper would be “granted in part as to statements that Bingham was a drug dealer found guilty by a judge of preying on the community by selling cocaine.” But the judge also said the motion seeking dismissal of the suit “is not well taken and is denied in part as to the statement that Bingham was found guilty of a judge of selling marijuana.”
Kohlrieser also ruled that court documents contained in the ruling of a federal court judge in a prior case against Bingham, in which the Lima man is described as a dealer of crack cocaine and cocaine powder on the east side of Lima, had little bearing on the case at hand.
The judge said Bingham “to this court’s knowledge from the evidence, has never been charged or convicted of selling marijuana.”
Similarly, Kohlrieser wrote that “reasonable minds could conclude that the report that a judge found (Bingham) guilty of selling marijuana was not a substantially accurate report of the record” and could be found to be false.
Bingham pleaded no contest in October of last year to charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana and for the illegal manufacture of drugs, along with one count of having a weapon under disability and possession of marijuana. He was found guilty by the court of all charges against him. He is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.