LIMA — A Lima man seeking a monetary settlement from The Lima News and its parent company over the contents of a January 2019 editorial has voluntarily dismissed his civil lawsuit against the newspaper.
Leonard Bingham, 53, alleged he suffered harm to his reputation and suffered 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.” His civil suit was filed in Allen County less than two weeks after the editorial was published.
Bingham says the newspaper committed libel when it referred to him in the editorial as “a convicted drug dealer” who was “no Boy Scout.” He sought more than $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from the newspaper and its parent company, AIM Media Midwest.
The Lima man was serving as his own attorney in the case but earlier this year retained the services of a Cleveland-area law firm.
According to John Bussian, attorney for AIM Media Midwest, in Ohio a libel plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss a case one time before a jury is empaneled and may refile it within one year, without penalty. If a case is voluntarily dismissed a second time, it cannot be refiled.
A civil trial had been scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
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.”
The judge said Bingham “to this court’s knowledge from the evidence, has never been charged or convicted of selling marijuana.”
Bingham pleaded no contest in October 2019 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.